What Is Religion?


Religion is the belief that a mysterious, supernatural Being (or beings) controls human lives and can direct them for good or ill. This belief is often based on man’s helplessness in the face of natural forces which his feeble intellect and emotions are barely able to comprehend, giving rise to a deep sense of dependence and need of Divine aid.

In its most general sense, religion consists of the whole complex of inherited beliefs and practices a social group holds to be true; i.e., a belief system that includes a set of myths and symbols; sacred places, objects and actions; scripture or holy writings; laws and rituals governing social and domestic life; and speculations on the nature of the Deity, souls, retribution and future life. Its earliest meaning seems to have been a concept of worship, but it gradually came to be used for a broad range of societal activities as well.

Today, most scholars accept the notion that religion is a social construct; that is, it is not an objective reality, but rather a category that people impose on each other in order to organize their lives and give them meaning. However, there are a number of critics who argue that this constructivist view misses the mark. They claim that the concept of religion is actually a construct that originated in Europe and is an artifact of European colonialism, and that it has been misappropriated to describe anything that happens outside of its sphere of influence.

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