What Is Religion?


Religion is a way for humans to value life and find meaning in their lives. It is what people believe in, live by and at times die for. Religion provides a foundation for a moral order and supplies answers to fundamental questions about the meaning of life.

Most religions believe in a God or supernatural being. They have holy texts and celebrations that occur throughout the year. In addition, they have their own place of worship where they pray. Religions also believe in a heaven and hell.

While many scholars have offered definitions of religion, the most commonly used one is that of Emile Durkheim (1812-1912). He regarded it as the “collective unconscious” of a society and said that it is made up of all the beliefs and practices that unite a community into a moral whole, regardless whether they involve belief in any unique reality or not. His approach is often criticized for ignoring the fact that human existence is a multifaceted and complex phenomenon, or that there are different forms of human existence in different societies.

In contrast, stipulative definitions tend to emphasize a particular ideological and passive image of humans, namely, that of the “religious” person as a passive transmitter of charisma or legitimacy for a certain social viewpoint. These definitions, which are usually influenced by one of the three classic philosophical theories of truth (the true, the beautiful and the good), can be criticized for assuming that there is no other possible basis for human knowledge other than a special kind of revelation.

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