Understanding the Concept of Religion

Religion is one of the most pervasive and influential aspects of human culture. It involves beliefs, practices, and values based on supernatural and ethical principles, and it is a fundamental part of many people’s lives and cultures.

The word’religion’ is used today to refer to a wide variety of social formations, from the world religions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism to local religions such as those practiced by Native Americans or the Cherokee. Some of the world’s religions are monotheistic, others polytheistic. The concept of religion is often categorized by the number of gods believed in, whether there are any afterlife beliefs or explicit metaphysics, and whether it includes belief in disembodied spirits or cosmological orders. This sorting of the various religions by their characteristics is often referred to as a ‘polythetic’ approach to the study of religion. Such a categorization allows for the discovery of patterns among the different religions, and it can help us understand how different religious phenomena are related to each other.

Almost all religions share some of the same fundamental ideas, including the belief that a mysterious, supernatural Being or Beings govern and control the universe. These forces are inscrutable, and human beings cannot always understand or utilize them for their weal or woe. There is, therefore, a deep need in most religions for Divine assistance. This Divine Being is usually conceived as an all-powerful and all-wise deity who is omnipresent in the forces of nature but distinct from them, a God, Allah, or Allahasasi. Many religions also attribute ethical qualities to these forces of nature, and they may define a code of conduct for the conduct of human beings and the use of the natural environment.

Religions protect the means to attain some of the most important goals that human beings can conceive of, ranging from a wiser, more fruitful, charitable, and successful way of living, to the ultimate goal of rebirth and redemption. Similarly, they provide maps of time and space that make life as a project less daunting.

How these ideas and goals are translated into life as a whole is extremely varied, but it involves an effort to communicate the religion’s story to the human heart and mind. Religions thus vary in terms of how they organize themselves to do this (mystery religions and missionary religions, for example), their disciplinary structure (monks, priests, bishops, rabbis, imams, shamans, and the like), and their methods for communicating the message: oral and written, verbal and nonverbal, ritual and experiential, narrative or mythical, doctrinal and philosophical, ethical and legal, and material (art, architecture, and sacred places). This translation is known as’religiosity’.