What is Religion?
The term religion comes from the Latin word ‘religare’ which means to bind. In the world today, there are different forms of religious groups and followings that have unique beliefs and practices depending on their history. It is estimated that there are thousands of religions in the world, including the mainstream religious groups and others that are not known. One of the common characteristics of religious groups is that they all believe in the existence of a supreme being. However, there are those who don’t believe in religion. For such people, religion only assumes the existence of a supreme being while there is no substantive evidence to support the said belief. According to Norris & Inglehart, through the practice of atheism, atheists believe that religion is just a fallacy that might have developed in the past and passed on from generation to generation through the various teachings in culture (2011).
For enthusiasts, the reason people are afraid to question religious teachings is because of the fear of repercussions that are likely to occur due to such disbelief. Under this context, religion was assumed to be a creation of scholarly studies in the past with philosophers trying to establish how religion came into being. The major question is what religion is all about and what entails the aspects of it. For most people, there is a thin line between culture and religion. This explains why different cultures have their specific religion and beliefs. However, there are various contentious issues that have never been solved over the years. One thing that would totally shift the paradigm and, in extension, the balance of nature, is if it turned out that no supreme beings the religions are based upon exist. Such a situation would totally erode the gains made in the religious world today and also lead to mass confusion among the staunch religious followers.
However, some of the religious beliefs are so strong that they cannot be influenced by any emerging trend regarding their faith. “Most of the common definition of religion excludes some fundamental facts about religion and offering an adequate explanation of what religion is” (Hood et al., 2009). From a general perspective, religion is commonly defined as the belief in God. This belief, however, is considered as vague as it excludes some of the ideas that characterize some religious followings such as atheism. If religion was to be solely defined as the belief in God, what would the other religious groups that either believe in a different supreme being and those of atheism be referred to as?
This tendency of generalization is what often causes some misconception that is associated with how religion is defined. Then what is the worldview of religion and how is it defined in different places around the world? There are arguments that religion is not hard to define, but rather it is the people themselves who often create the confusion regarding its definition. According to Heelas (2005), one of the greatest challenges is how to define religion without excluding any religious beliefs or followings in the word today. However, there is a conventional way of defining religion which incorporates the primary fundamentals of religion. The following are the fundamentals of religion; The belief in a supernatural being.
A clear distinction of what is regarded as the moral way of doing things in accordance with the different religious beliefs and practices. Various rituals that are commonly attributed to the religious groups from different parts of the world. Religious groups have various rituals that characterize the specific religion and establish a code of conduct in which members are supposed to operate. A specific way of communicating with God is done through prayers. However, distinct religious groups have a specific way of praying and other practices that accompany prayers. Different religious feelings that are often experienced whenever the practice is taking place.
In some religious groups, members engage in incarnations and a sense of adoration. In other groups, however, there is always the aspect of guilt and repentance during religious sermons. From this approach, the worldview related to religion and what religion entails becomes clear. In most cases, it is believed that religion and religious groups in extensions are very different. This explains why there is no single approach as to what entails religious practices. However, there is a common characteristic of religion that can be used to generalize the practice from a worldview perspective.
In the world today, religion continues to shape the life of the people, whereby the religious followings and teachings provide a guideline on how people are supposed to live and interact with each other and with God. The mainstream religious groups attract millions of followers, which is an indication of just how strong religious faith is. In addition, there are thousands of religious followings that are not captured in the mainstream studies of religion but continue to exist with their distinct religious practices. Religion can, therefore, be universally defined as a compilation of religious systems that share a common belief and focus on the unique characteristics of the members of religious faith.
Heelas, P., Woodhead, L., Seel, B., Tusting, K., & Szerszynski, B. (2005). The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion is Giving Way to Spirituality. Blackwell. Hood Jr, R. W., Hill, P. C., & Spilka, B. (2009). Psychology of religion: An empirical approach. Guilford Press. Norris, P., & Inglehart, R. (2011). Sacred and secular: Religion and politics worldwide. Cambridge University Press.