What is Religion?


Religion is a complex, changeable, and encompassing social institution that involves a range of beliefs and practices by its adherents. It has been studied by many disciplines, including religion, sociology, psychology and anthropology.

Religious Studies

A field of study that uses cross-cultural and interdisciplinary methods to investigate the nature, development and functioning of religions throughout history. It also examines the role of religion in society and the effects of religion on human behavior, health and social attitudes (Emerson, Monahan & Mirola, 2011).

The Study of Religion

Research in Religious Studies encompasses a variety of fields, including anthropology, linguistics, philosophy, sociology, psychology and history. It has been a growing discipline, especially since the early 1900s when scholars began to focus on religion as a major component of human culture and society.

Sociological perspectives on religion aim to understand the functions that religion serves and how it can reinforce and perpetuate inequality. They also look at the ways that religion influences political decisions in society (Emerson, Monahan et al., 2011).

Anthropological approaches to religion tend to look at the ways that different groups of people interact with each other and with God. These include the conflict perspective and the symbolic interactionist perspective, as well as a range of other perspectives.

Definitions of Religion

One of the first requisites in the study of religion is a rudimentary definition. By requiring in such a definition the belief in a Supreme Deity or judgment after death, or idolatry and so on, a very large number of tribes may be excluded from the category of’religion’, but this has the fault of identifying religion rather with particular developments than with the deeper motive which underlies them.