The Concept of Religion

Religion is a major aspect of people’s lives in most cultures. It answers fundamental questions about life and the universe and shapes moral conduct and other aspects of people’s social lives. It is also one of the main forces in the world, exerting influence over politics locally and globally.

The definitions of “religion” have varied over time and place, and the differences between them have often been emphasized. Some scholars define religion in terms of belief in a distinctive kind of reality, while others emphasize a particular set of beliefs or practices, for example, those of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.

A number of scholars have attempted to solve this problem by defining religion more generally, as a category of social formations that share certain properties. This approach has been criticized for reducing the importance of religious beliefs, but it also has its merits.

The concept of religion is so important to people that it should be understood clearly by the professions, psychotherapists, and others who work with this two-thirds of the world’s population. A more precise and useful definition of religion than is currently given has long been in demand, especially in the fields of sociology, ethnology, psychology and philosophy of religion. Catherine Albanese (1981) and Ninian Smart (1996) have reworked the traditional three-sided model of true, beautiful, good with a fourth dimension, for example, adding in “the material culture and physical habits”. This adds an aspect that has been neglected in many theories and can help explain the persistence of religion in spite of the general decline of belief in the world.