The Definition of Religion


Religion is a term used to describe all sorts of faiths and spiritual practices. The scholarly study of religion typically focuses on how these beliefs and practices can help people to deal with their lives, problems and the meaning of their existence. It is often difficult to define religion because there are many different ways that people believe and practice their faiths. There are many different theories about the origins of religion, but all of them are based on the fact that people have always believed in something supernatural.

Some scholars have treated religion as a social genus, which is present in every culture and is a necessary part of human life. Emile Durkheim and Paul Tillich are two scholars who have taken this view of religion. Durkheim’s definition of religion turns on the function of creating solidarity, while Tillich’s turns on a more axiological function, that of providing orientation for life.

Others think that religious beliefs and practices originated out of a need to satisfy human curiosity about the world around us, fear of death or uncontrollable forces, and hope for immortality or life after death. Anthropologists, scientists who study human cultures, have argued that humans are naturally curious and have a need to make sense of the world in which they live. Neuroscientists, scientists who study the brain and nervous system, have suggested that there may be circuitry in the human brain that enables the experience of religion.