The Concept of Religion

Religion is a societal taxon that encompasses a wide variety of social practices, belief systems and cultural traditions. Its most famous examples include Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. The concept of Religion was first introduced into the anthropological literature by the French sociologist Émile Durkheim in the early 1900s.

Durkheim used the term to refer to a social structure that is organized around a group of believers who share similar beliefs and values. In his view, Religion provides a framework for moral beliefs and behaviors and creates a sense of community. It also helps individuals connect to their ancestors and the natural world. Research suggests that Religion may even encourage healthy behaviors. For example, people who attend religious services regularly seem to be healthier than those who don’t. The reason for this may have more to do with other factors such as social connection and a general feeling of well-being than it does with Religion itself.

Today, the most common approach to the concept of Religion is a realist one that takes the form of a list of properties that a member of a religion must exhibit in order to be considered religious. This is sometimes referred to as an open polythetic definition. However, there are other approaches that take the classical view that a concept has a single essence and identify it as polythetic to avoid this error. The problem with these polythetic identifications is that they tend to exhibit the same ethnocentric bias as monothetic definitions.