What Is Religion?

Religion is the human response to that which they consider holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine or worth especial reverence. This is a broad and contested concept, reflecting the fact that human responses are diverse. It has been defined as a way of life, an attitude, an orientation, a belief and/or a system of morals. It is also a social phenomenon that is not always present in all cultures (and may even be absent from some of them), and scholars often suggest that the term be used with caution. Despite this, many scholars use it as an analytical tool that helps to explain and understand human society.

There are a number of different approaches to religion, both substantive and functional. For example, Durkheim’s definition focuses on the function of religion as a source of solidarity. Others such as Bellah take a more ‘formal’ approach, seeing religious beliefs as a way of organising a person’s values. Still others (such as Tillich) have adopted a functionalist approach, viewing religion as whatever dominant concern serves to provide an orientation for a person’s life.

Many people find that religion offers community, structure and moral guidance in their lives. It can help them to cope with the stresses of life, including death, sickness and unemployment. In addition, it can help them to understand that they are part of a bigger universe and that their loved ones in the afterlife are waiting for them. It can also provide hope that they will be rewarded for their good deeds in the next life.

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