The Study of Religion


Religion is a phenomena in which people value things so highly that they are willing to live by and die for them. These values include belief in and obedience to a supreme being, moral rules for ordering human life, and answers to fundamental questions of great significance.

Religion encompasses a wide range of beliefs, experiences, and practices that can vary dramatically between cultures. Because of this, scholars often argue about whether certain phenomena should be included or excluded from the category of “religion.”

One of the most controversial aspects of the study of religion is the definition of what counts as a religion. Some scholars, such as Durkheim, define it functionally as whatever beliefs and practices generate social cohesion or provide orientation in life. This definition implies that there is a kind of universal religiosity shared by all humans, but others have argued that it is impossible to define religion in this way.

Most scholars agree that a religion is more than just a set of beliefs, but the nature of these beliefs and the way they are expressed and transmitted are very different between cultures. For this reason, some scholars have argued that it is better to understand religion as an institution than as a set of beliefs. Some have also criticized the idea that religion is something imposed from outside, because it ignores the ways in which people naturally form their own beliefs.

In addition, many of the most important activities that are traditionally considered to be religious, such as worship, prayer, and morality, can occur both inside and outside religions. For example, the ethics of a culture may be partly determined by its religious traditions. The philosophy of religion has a long history and has been influential in a variety of fields, including anthropology, sociology, and psychology.

The existence of religions and their influence on the lives of their adherents is a vital factor in any society. Despite this, the study of religion is a relatively new discipline and has only recently become an official part of the academic curriculum in most universities.

It is important to remember that, although there are similarities between religions, each religion is unique and should be studied in its own right. This article offers a brief history of the development of the study of religion and discusses some of the major issues in the field. Lastly, the article suggests that some key concepts are essential to understanding religion and provides definitions for these terms: angel; demon; god; heaven; hell; immortality; miracle; morality; myth; Satan; sin; temple; sacrament; spirit; telos; Trinity; vengeance; virgin birth; worldview; and zen. For further reading, see agnosticism; atheism; buddhism; Christianity; Hinduism; Islam; monotheism; polytheism; and theism.