What Is Religion?
Religion is a belief or system of beliefs that are widely held by groups of people. It is typically centered on the idea of a deity or god(s) and includes rituals, festivals and teachings that help followers show their devotion to their chosen god(s).
In its Latin form, religio, the concept of religion evoked scrupulous devotion, and early usage was likely to have been more about a way of living than a set of beliefs. But by the early modern era, the semantic range had grown and shifted considerably. Today, a wide range of perspectives can be classified as religion, from the very broad to the very narrow.
Some scholars have tried to impose a sense of thing-hood on the term, arguing that only those phenomena that have a clear religious character qualify as religions (e.g., a belief in the supernatural). Others have embraced functional definitions, claiming that if one views religion as a sort of human universal that appears in every culture, it will naturally encompass beliefs and practices that are specific to a particular cultural development.
But even these approaches have problems. A functional definition of religion plays down the cognitive and emphasizes the conative, whereas a substantive view tries to identify something in which there is always some degree of cognition. Moreover, there are some who deny that anything is a religion at all, claiming that any belief in disembodied spirits or cosmological orders simply does not exist.