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A religion is an organized approach to human spirituality which usually encompasses a set of narratives, symbols, beliefs and practices, often with a supernatural or transcendent quality, that give meaning to the practitioner's experiences of life through reference to a higher power, God or gods, or ultimate truth.[1] It may be expressed through prayer, ritual, meditation, music and art, among other things. It may focus on specific supernatural, metaphysical, and moral claims about reality (the cosmos and human nature) which may yield a set of religious laws, ethics, and a particular lifestyle. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and religious experience.

The term "religion" refers to both the personal practices related to communal faith and to group rituals and communication stemming from shared conviction. "Religion" is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system,"[2] but it is more socially defined than personal convictions, and it entails specific behaviors, respectively.

The development of religion has taken many forms in various cultures. It considers psychological and social roots, along with origins and historical development.

In the frame of western religious thought,[3] religions present a common quality, the "hallmark of patriarchal religious thought": the division of the world in two comprehensive domains, one sacred, the other profane.[4] Religion is often described as a communal system for the coherence of belief focusing on a system of thought, unseen being, person, or object, that is considered to be supernatural, sacred, divine, or of the highest truth. Moral codes, practices, values, institutions, tradition, rituals, and scriptures are often traditionally associated with the core belief, and these may have some overlap with concepts in secular philosophy. Religion is also often described as a "way of life" or a life stance.


o        Abrahamic Religions

§         Judaism

§         Christianity

§         Islam

§         The Baha’i Faith

§         Smaller Abrahamic groups

o        Indian Religions

§         Hinduism

§         Sikhism

§         Jainism

§         New Indian religions and Hindu reform movements

o        Buddhism

§         Theravada Buddhism

§         Mahayana Buddhism

§         Vajrayana Buddhism, sometimes considered a form of Mahayana

§         New Buddhist sects

o        Yazdanism

o        Religious movements centered in the United States

§         Latter day Saints

§         Christian evangelicalism

§         Unitarian Universalism

o        Folk religion

§          African traditional religion

§          Folk religions of the Americas

§         Australian Aboriginal culture

§         Chinese folk religion

§         Traditional Korean religion

§         Traditional Japanese religion

§         Shinshūkyō

o        Development of religion

o        Middle Ages

o        Modern period

o        Religion and science

o        Religion, metaphysics, and cosmology

o        Mysticism and esotericism

o        Spirituality

o        Myth

o        Cosmology

o        Wikimedia Commons

o        Wikiquote

o        Other external links



The English word religion has been in use since the 13th century, loaned from Anglo-French religiun (11th century), ultimately from the Latin religio, "reverence for God or the gods, careful pondering of divine things, piety, the res divinae".[5]

The ultimate origins of Latin religiō are obscure. It is usually accepted to derive from ligare "bind, connect"; probably from a prefixed re-ligare, i.e. re (again) + ligare or "to reconnect." This interpretation is favoured by modern scholars such as Tom Harpur and Joseph Campbell, but was made prominent by St. Augustine, following the interpretation of Lactantius. Another possibility is derivation from a reduplicated *le-ligare. A historical interpretation due to Cicero on the other hand connects lego "read", i.e. re (again) + lego in the sense of "choose", "go over again" or "consider carefully".[6]

Definitions of religion

Further information: Sociology of ReligionTranscendenceTheismSacred (comparative religion)Religion and mythology, and Myth and ritual

Religious scholars generally agree that writing a single definition that applies to all religions is difficult or even impossible, because all people examine religion with some kind of critical eye, and the term is therefore fraught with ideological consequences for anyone who might want to construct a universal definition. Talal Asad writes that "there cannot be a universal definition of religion ... because that definition is itself the historical product of discursive processes"[7]; Thomas A. Tweed, while defending the idea of religion in general, writes that "it would be foolish to set up an abstract definition of religion's essence, and then proceed to defend that definition from all comers."[8]

The earliest definition of religion is from Johnson's Dictionary, which simply calls it "a system of faith and worship". Friedrich Schleiermacher in the late 18th century defined religion as das schlechthinnige Abhängigkeitsgefühl, commonly translated as "a feeling of absolute dependence".[9] His contemporary Hegel disagreed thoroughly, defining religion as "the Divine Spirit becoming conscious of Himself through the finite spirit."[10] Clifford Geertz's definition of religion as a "cultural system" was dominant for most of the 20th century and continues to be widely accepted today.

Sociologists and anthropologists tend to see religion as an abstract set of ideas, values, or experiences developed as part of a cultural matrix. For example, in Lindbeck's Nature of Doctrine, religion does not refer to belief in "God" or a transcendent Absolute. Instead, Lindbeck defines religion as, "a kind of cultural and/or linguistic framework or medium that shapes the entirety of life and thought… it is similar to an idiom that makes possible the description of realities, the formulation of beliefs, and the experiencing of inner attitudes, feelings, and sentiments.”[11] According to this definition, religion refers to one's primary worldview and how this dictates one's thoughts and actions. Thus religion is considered by some sources to extend to causes, principles, or activities believed in with zeal or conscientious devotion concerning points or matters of ethics or conscience, and not necessarily including belief in the supernatural.[12]

Specific religious movements

Main article: Major religious groups

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the academic practice of comparative religion divided religious belief into philosophically-defined categories called "world religions." However, some recent scholarship has argued that not all types of religion are necessarily separated by mutually exclusive philosophies, and furthermore that the utility of ascribing a practice to a certain philosophy, or even calling a given practice religious, rather than cultural, political, or social in nature, is limited.[13][14][15] The list of religious movements given here is an attempt to summarize the most important regional and philosophical influences, but it is by no means a complete description of every religious community.

Sociological classifications of religious movements suggest that within any given religious group, a community can resemble various types of structures, including "churches", "denominations", "sects", "cults", and "institutions".

Religion and superstition

Further information: SuperstitionMagical thinking, and Magic and religion

While superstitions and magical thinking refer to nonscientific causal reasoning, applied to specific things or actions, a religion is a more complex system about general or ultimate things, involving morality, history and community. Because religions may include and exploit certain superstitions or make use of magical thinking, while mixing them with broader considerations, the division between superstition and religious faith is hard to specify and subjective. Religious believers have often seen other religions as superstition.[19] Likewise, some atheists, agnostics, deists, and skeptics regard religious belief as superstition. Religious practices are most likely to be labeled "superstitious" by outsiders when they include belief in extraordinary events (miracles), an afterlife, supernatural interventions, apparitions or the efficacy of prayer, charms, incantations, the meaningfulness of omens, and prognostications.

Greek and Roman pagans, who modeled their relations with the gods on political and social terms scorned the man who constantly trembled with fear at the thought of the gods, as a slave feared a cruel and capricious master. Such fear of the gods (deisidaimonia) was what the Romans meant by superstitio (Veyne 1987, p 211). Early Christianity was outlawed as a superstitio Iudaica, a "Jewish superstition", by Domitian in the 80s AD, and by AD 425, Theodosius II outlawed pagan traditions as superstitious.

The Roman Catholic Church considers superstition to be sinful in the sense that it denotes a lack of trust in the divine providence of God and, as such, is a violation of the first of the Ten Commandments. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states superstition "in some sense represents a perverse excess of religion" (para. #2110).

Superstition is a deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand is to fall into superstition. Cf. Matthew 23:16-22 (para. #2111)


Main articles: History of religion and Timeline of religion

Ideally, a history of religion could include all human religious practices, but archaeological study of religion is a relatively new and undeveloped field.[20] Therefore, the history of religion is largely limited to those practices which have been described in writing.

Development of religion

Main articles: Evolutionary origin of religions, Development of religion, Anthropology of religion, and Prehistoric religion

Like the definition of religion, the construction of religious history is a task fraught with ideological implications. Early studies of religions were often written to imply that the author's own religion was the most accurate. Even in a secular history, to imply that religion "progresses" towards better understanding of reality makes a value judgment about past religions; likewise, to consider religion an essentially social construction with no transcendent meaning denies the claims of every religious authority.

There is no time or place in human history where religious movements are not being founded, and religious practice is not merely a matter of founding prophets but also of local traditions and reforms. There is not even a single era when the Abrahamic religions were developed; the Jewish prophets lived some centuries before Jesus, Muhammad came six centuries after him, and Bahá'u'lláh founded the Bahá'í Faith over a millennium later.

Middle Ages

The Middle Ages (800 AD-1500 AD) was a time of philosophical development for several major religions. As Christianity became the focus of scholarship throughout Europe, Buddhist missions were sent to East Asia, and Islam was spread throughout the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, North Africa and parts of Europe and India. Meanwhile, the decline of Buddhism in India led to the flourishing of folk religion there.

Many medieval religious movements emphasized mysticism, such as the Cathars and related movements in the West, the Bhakti movement in India and Sufism in Islam. Monotheism was articulated distinctly in Christian Christology and in Islamic Tawhid. Hindu monotheist notions of Brahman likewise reached their classical form with the teaching of Adi Shankara.

Religion was the dominant ideology behind many conflicts of the Middle Ages. Muslims were in conflict with Zoroastrians during the Islamic conquest of Persia; Christians were in conflict with Muslims during the Byzantine-Arab Wars, Crusades, Spanish Reconquista and Ottoman wars in Europe; Christians were in conflict with Jews during the Crusades, Reconquista and Inquisition; Shamans were in conflict with Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims and Christians during the Mongol invasions; and Muslims were in conflict with Hindus and Sikhs during Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent.

Modern period

European colonisation during the 15th to 19th centuries resulted in the spread of Christianity to Sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, Australia and the Philippines. The 18th century saw the beginning of secularisation in Europe, rising to notability in the wake of the French Revolution. By the 20th century, religion was no longer the dominant ideological force behind international wars, but had generally been unseated by political ideals such as democracy and communism.

In the 20th century, the regimes of Communist Eastern Europe and Communist China were explicitly anti-religious. A great variety of new religious movements originated in the 20th century, many proposing syncretism of elements of established religions. Adherence to such new movements is limited, however, remaining below 2% worldwide in the 2000s. Adherents of the classical world religions account for more than 75% of the world's population, while self-reported alliegance to indigenous folk religions has fallen to 4%. As of 2005, an estimated 14% of the world's population identifies as nonreligious.

Religious belief

Main article: Religious belief

Religious belief usually relates to the existence, nature and worship of a deity or deities and divine involvement in the universe and human life. Alternately, it may also relate to values and practices transmitted by a spiritual leader. Unlike other belief systems, which may be passed on orally, religious belief tends to be codified in literate societies (religion in non-literate societies is still largely passed on orally[21]). In some religions, like the Abrahamic religions, it is held that most of the core beliefs have been divinely revealed.

Religious belief can also involve causes, principles or activities believed in with zeal or conscientious devotion concerning points or matters of ethics or conscience, not necessarily limited to organized religions.[22]

Related forms of thought

Religion and science

Main article: Relationship between religion and science

Religious knowledge, according to religious practitioners, may be gained from religious leaders, sacred texts (scriptures), and/or personal revelation. Some religions view such knowledge as unlimited in scope and suitable to answer any question; others see religious knowledge as playing a more restricted role, often as a complement to knowledge gained through physical observation. Some religious people maintain that religious knowledge obtained in this way is absolute and infallible (religious cosmology).

The scientific method gains knowledge by testing hypotheses to develop theories through elucidation of facts or evaluation by experiments and thus only answers cosmological questions about the physical universe. It develops theories of the world which best fit physically observed evidence. All scientific knowledge is subject to later refinement in the face of additional evidence. Scientific theories that have an overwhelming preponderance of favorable evidence are often treated as facts (such as the theories of gravity or evolution).

Many scientists have held strong religious beliefs (see List of Christian thinkers in science) and have worked to harmonize science and religion. Isaac Newton, for example, believed that gravity caused the planets to revolve about the Sun, and credited God with the design. In the concluding General Scholium to the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, he wrote: "This most beautiful System of the Sun, Planets and Comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being." Nevertheless, conflict has repeatedly arisen between religious organizations and individuals who propagated scientific theories that were deemed unacceptable by the organizations. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, has in the past[23] reserved to itself the right to decide which scientific theories were acceptable and which were unacceptable. In the 17th century, Galileo was tried and forced to recant the heliocentric theory based on the church's stance that the Greek Hellenistic system of astronomy was the correct one.[24][25]

Many theories exist as to why religions sometimes seem to conflict with scientific knowledge. In the case of Christianity, a relevant factor may be that it was among Christians that science in the modern sense was developed. Unlike other religious groups, as early as the 17th century the Christian churches had to deal directly with this new way to investigate nature and seek truth.

The perceived conflict between science and Christianity may also be partially explained by a literal interpretation of the Bible adhered to by many Christians, both currently and historically. The Catholic Church has always held with Augustine of Hippo who explicitly opposed a literal interpretation of the Bible whenever the Bible conflicted with Science. The literal way to read the sacred texts became especially prevalent after the rise of the Protestant reformation, with its emphasis on the Bible as the only authoritative source concerning the ultimate reality.[26] This view is often shunned by both religious leaders (who regard literally believing it as petty and look for greater meaning instead) and scientists who regard it as an impossibility.

Some Christians have disagreed or are still disagreeing with scientists in areas such as the validity of Keplerian astronomy, the theory of evolution, the method of creation of the universe and the Earth, and the origins of life. On the other hand, scholars such as Stanley Jaki have suggested that Christianity and its particular worldview was a crucial factor for the emergence of modern science. In fact, most of today's historians are moving away from the view of the relationship between Christianity and science as one of "conflict" — a perspective commonly called the conflict thesis.[27][28] Gary Ferngren in his historical volume about Science & Religion states:

While some historians had always regarded the [conflict] thesis as oversimplifying and distorting a complex relationship, in the late twentieth century it underwent a more systematic reevaluation. The result is the growing recognition among historians of science that the relationship of religion and science has been much more positive than is sometimes thought. Although popular images of controversy continue to exemplify the supposed hostility of Christianity to new scientific theories, studies have shown that Christianity has often nurtured and encouraged scientific endeavour, while at other times the two have co-existed without either tension or attempts at harmonization. If Galileo and the Scopes trial come to mind as examples of conflict, they were the exceptions rather than the rule.[29]

In the Bahá'í Faith, the harmony of science and religion is a central tenet.[30] The principle states that that truth is one, and therefore true science and true religion must be in harmony, thus rejecting the view that science and religion are in conflict.[30] `Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of the founder of the religion, asserted that science and religion cannot be opposed because they are aspects of the same truth; he also affirmed that reasoning powers are required to understand the truths of religion and that religious teachings which are at variance with science should not be accepted; he explained that religion has to be reasonable since God endowed humankind with reason so that they can discover truth.[31] Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, described science and religion as "the two most potent forces in human life."[32]

Proponents of Hinduism claim that Hinduism is not afraid of scientific explorations, nor of the technological progress of mankind. According to them, there is a comprehensive scope and opportunity for Hinduism to mold itself according to the demands and aspirations of the modern world; it has the ability to align itself with both science and spiritualism. This religion uses some modern examples to explain its ancient theories and reinforce its own beliefs. For example, some Hindu thinkers have used the terminology of quantum physics to explain some basic concepts of Hinduism such as Maya or the illusory and impermanent nature of our existence.

The philosophical approach known as pragmatism, as propounded by the American philosopher and psychologist William James, has been used to reconcile scientific with religious knowledge. Pragmatism, simplistically, holds that the truth of a set of beliefs can be indicated by its usefulness in helping people cope with a particular context of life. Thus, the fact that scientific beliefs are useful in predicting observations in the physical world can indicate a certain truth for scientific theories; the fact that religious beliefs can be useful in helping people cope with difficult emotions or moral decisions can indicate a certain truth for those beliefs. (For a similar postmodern view, see grand narrative).

Religion, metaphysics, and cosmology

This section requires expansion.

Being both forms of belief system, religion and philosophy meet in several areas - notably in the study of metaphysics and cosmology. In particular, a distinct set of religious beliefs will often entail a specific metaphysics and cosmology. That is, a religion will generally have answers to metaphysical and cosmological questions about the nature of being, of the universe, humanity, and the divine.

Mysticism and esotericism

Mysticism focuses on methods other than logic, but (in the case of esoteric mysticism) not necessarily excluding it, for gaining enlightenment. Rather, meditative and contemplative practices such as Vipassanā and yoga, physical disciplines such as stringent fasting and whirling (in the case of the Sufi dervishes), or the use of psychoactive drugs such as LSD, lead to altered states of consciousness that logic can never hope to grasp. However, regarding the latter topic, mysticism prevalent in the 'great' religions (monotheisms, henotheisms, which are perhaps relatively recent, and which the word 'mysticism' is more recent than,) includes systems of discipline that forbid drugs that can damage the body, including the nervous system.

Mysticism (to initiate) is the pursuit of communion with, or conscious awareness of ultimate reality, the divine, spiritual truth, or Deity through direct, personal experience (intuition or insight) rather than rational thought. Mystics speak of the existence of realities behind external perception or intellectual apprehension that are central to being and directly accessible through personal experience. They say that such experience is a genuine and important source of knowledge.

Esotericism is often spiritual (thus religious) but can be non-religious/-spiritual, and it uses intellectual understanding and reasoning, intuition and inspiration (higher noetic and spiritual reasoning,) but not necessarily faith (except often as a virtue,) and it is philosophical in its emphasis on techniques of psycho-spiritual transformation (esoteric cosmology). Esotericism refers to "hidden" knowledge available only to the advanced, privileged, or initiated, as opposed to exoteric knowledge, which is public. All religions are probably somewhat exoteric, but most ones of ancient civilizations such as Yoga of India, and the mystery religions of ancient Egypt, Israel (Kabbalah,) and Greece are examples of ones that are also esoteric.


Main article: Spirituality

Members of an organized religion may not see any significant difference between religion and spirituality. Or they may see a distinction between the mundane, earthly aspects of their religion and its spiritual dimension.

Some individuals draw a strong distinction between religion and spirituality. They may see spirituality as a belief in ideas of religious significance (such as God, the Soul, or Heaven), but not feel bound to the bureaucratic structure and creeds of a particular organized religion. They choose the term spirituality rather than religion to describe their form of belief, perhaps reflecting a disillusionment with organized religion (see Major religious groups), and a movement towards a more "modern" — more tolerant, and more intuitive — form of religion. These individuals may reject organized religion because of historical acts by religious organizations, such as Christian Crusades and Islamic Jihad, the marginalisation and persecution of various minorities or the Spanish Inquisition. The basic precept of the ancient spiritual tradition of India, the Vedas, is the inner reality of existence, which is essentially a spiritual approach to being.


Main article: Mythology

The word myth has several meanings.

  1. A traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon;
  2. A person or thing having only an imaginary or unverifiable existence; or
  3. A metaphor for the spiritual potentiality in the human being.[33]

Ancient polytheistic religions, such as those of Greece, Rome, and Scandinavia, are usually categorized under the heading of mythology. Religions of pre-industrial peoples, or cultures in development, are similarly called "myths" in the anthropology of religion. The term "myth" can be used pejoratively by both religious and non-religious people. By defining another person's religious stories and beliefs as mythology, one implies that they are less real or true than one's own religious stories and beliefs. Joseph Campbell remarked, "Mythology is often thought of as other people's religions, and religion can be defined as mis-interpreted mythology."[34]

In sociology, however, the term myth has a non-pejorative meaning. There, myth is defined as a story that is important for the group whether or not it is objectively or provably true. Examples include the death and resurrection of Jesus, which, to Christians, explains the means by which they are freed from sin and is also ostensibly a historical event. But from a mythological outlook, whether or not the event actually occurred is unimportant. Instead, the symbolism of the death of an old "life" and the start of a new "life" is what is most significant. Religious believers may or may not accept such symbolic interpretations.


Main articles: Religious cosmology, Philosophy, Metaphysics, Esotericism, and Mysticism

Main articles: Spirituality, Mythology, and Philosophy of religion

Humans have many different methods which attempt to answer fundamental questions about the nature of the universe and our place in it (cosmology). Religion is only one of the methods for trying to answer one or more of these questions. Other methods include philosophy, metaphysics, astrology, esotericism, mysticism, and forms of shamanism, such as the sacred consumption of ayahuasca among Peruvian Amazonia's Urarina. The Urarina have an elaborate animistic cosmological system,[35] which informs their mythology, religious orientation and daily existence. In many cases, the distinction between these means are not clear. For example, Buddhism and Taoism have been regarded as schools of philosophies as well as religions.

Given the generalized discontents with modernity, consumerism, over-consumption, violence and anomie, many people in the so-called industrial or post-industrial West rely on a number of distinctive religious worldviews. This in turn has given rise to increased religious pluralism, as well as to what are commonly known in the academic literature as new religious movements, which are gaining ground across the globe.

Criticism of religious belief

Main articles: Criticism of Religion, Antireligion, Secularism, Agnosticism, and Atheism

The most widely known Western criticism of religious constructs and their social consequences has come from atheists and agnostics. Anti-Catholic/anti-Christian sentiment first gathered force during the 18th century European Enlightenment through pioneering critics such as Voltaire and his fellow Encyclopedists, who were for the most part deists. The French Revolution then instituted what later became known as secularism, a constitutional declaration of the separation of church and state. In addition to being adopted by the new French and United States republics, secularism soon came to be adopted by a number of nation states, both revolutionary and post-colonial. Marx famously declared religion to be the "opium of the people".[36] This conception was applied in the state atheism of social systems inspired by Marx's writings, most notably in the Soviet Union and China, and most notoriously in Cambodia, although Marx himself believed that religion would disappear by itself once the perceived social ills of capitalism were eliminated, therefore requiring no actual repression of religion.[36] Systematic criticism of the philosophical underpinnings of religion paralleled the upsurge of scientific discourse within industrial society. T.H. Huxley in 1869 coined the term "agnostic," a term subsequently adopted by such figures as Robert Ingersoll. Later, Bertrand Russell told the world Why I Am Not a Christian.

Many contemporary critics fault religion as being irrational.[37][38][39] Some assert that dogmatic religions are in effect morally deficient, elevating to moral status ancient, arbitrary, and ill-informed rules—taboos on eating pork, for example, as well as dress codes and sexual practices[40]—possibly designed for reasons of hygiene or even mere politics in a bygone era.

In North America and Western Europe the social fallout of the 9/11 attacks contributed in part to the appearance of numerous pro-secularist books, such as The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, The End of Faith by Sam Harris, and God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens. This criticism is largely, but not entirely, focused on the monotheistic Abrahamic traditions.

Evolutionary psychology of religion

See also: Evolutionary psychology of religion

Although evolutionists had previously sought to understand and explain religion in terms of a cultural attribute which might conceivably confer biological advantages to its adherents, Richard Dawkins called for a re-analysis of religion in terms of the evolution of self-replicating ideas apart from any resulting biological advantages they might bestow. He argued that the role of key replicator in cultural evolution belongs not to genes, but to memes replicating thought from person to person by means of imitation. These replicators respond to selective pressures that may or may not affect biological reproduction or survival.[41]

In her book, The Meme Machine, Susan Blackmore regards religions as particularly tenacious memes. Many of the features common to the most widely practiced religions provide built-in advantages in an evolutionary context, she writes. For example, religions that preach of the value of faith-based belief over evidence from everyday experience or reason inoculate societies against many of the most basic tools people commonly use to evaluate their ideas. By linking altruism with religious affiliation, religious memes can proliferate more quickly because people perceive that they can reap societal as well as personal rewards. The longevity of religious memes improves with their documentation in revered religious texts.[42]

Aaron Lynch attributed the robustness of religious memes in human culture to the fact that they incorporate multiple modes of meme transmission. Religious memes pass down the generations from parent to child and across a single generation through proselytism. Most will hold the religion taught them by their parents throughout their life. Many religions feature adversarial elements, punishing apostasy, for instance, or demonizing infidels. In Thought Contagion Lynch identifies the memes of transmission in Christianity as especially powerful in scope. Believers view the conversion of non-believers both as a religious duty and as an act of altruism. The promise of eternity in heaven to believers or hell to non-believers provides a strong incentive to accept and retain Christian faith. Lynch asserts that belief in the crucifixion in Christianity amplifies each of its other replication advantages through the indebtedness believers have to their Savior for sacrifice on the cross. The image of the crucifixion recurs in religious sacraments, and the proliferation of symbols of the cross (itself a meme) in homes and churches potently reinforces the wide array of Christian memes.[43]

Criticism of the concept of "religion"

The Canadian scholar of comparative religion Wilfred Cantwell Smith argued that religion, rather than being a universally valid category as is generally supposed, is a peculiarly European concept of comparatively recent origin. His work has been enlarged upon by E.J. Sharpe, C.F. Keyes, and Timothy Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald especially notes in The Ideology of Religious Studies that the concept of religion as a study irreducible to sociology, history, etc., is a fallacy caused by a desire to protect the transcendent ideals of world cultures. He claims that writers cannot define a single concept called "religion" that applies to all cultures, because all definitions of religion have the dual effect of setting up an imaginary ideal onto which real practices are merely mapped, and serializing individual identity to include a separate aspect called "religion." In short, "there is no coherent non-theological theoretical basis for the study of religion as a separate academic discipline."[44] The implication of Smith's and Fitzgerald's work is that religion, rather than being a special category which can be criticized or praised as a group, is merely one type of ideology, alongside humanism, Marxism, nationalism and so forth.

See also

Main article: Outline of religion


1.      While religion is difficult to define, the standard model of religion as used in religious studies was defined by Clifford Geertz (Religion as a Cultural System, 1973). For an influential critique of Geertz's model see Talal Asad's The Construction of Religion as an Anthropological Category (1982).

2.      The words "belief system" may not necessarily refer to a religion, though a religion may be referred to as "belief system."

3.      Jack Goody as cited in "Sacred and Profane - Durkheim's Critics". Retrieved on 2007-07-10. 

4.      Durkheim 1976, p.36

5.      Lewis & Short, A Latin Dictionary[1]

6.      qui omnia, quae ad cultum deorum pertinerent, diligenter retractarent et tamquam relegerent, sunt dicti religiosi ex relegendo, ut elegantes ex elegendo, tamquam a diligendo diligentes, ex intellegendo intellegentes: his enim in verbis omnibus inest vis legendi eadem, quae in religioso, Cic. N. D. 2, 28, 72

7.      Talal Asad, Genealogies of Religion (Johns Hopkins University Press.)

8.      Thomas A. Tweed. Crossing and Dwelling: A Theory of Religion. New York: Havard University Press, 2006. p.35.

9.      Hueston A. Finlay. "‘Feeling of absolute dependence’ or ‘absolute feeling of dependence’? A question revisited". Religious Studies 41.1 (2005), pp.81-94.

10. Max Müller. "Lectures on the origin and growth of religion."

11. George A. Lindbeck, Nature of Doctrine (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1984), 33.

12. from unabridged dictionaries on and also the Oxford English Dictionary

13. a b Brian Kemble Pennington Was Hinduism Invented? New York: Oxford University Press US, 2005. ISBN 0195166558

14. Russell T. McCutcheon. Critics Not Caretakers: Redescribing the Public Study of Religion. Albany: SUNY Press, 2001.

15. Nicholas Lash. The beginning and the end of 'religion'. Cambridge University Press, 1996. ISBN 0521566355

16. Charles Eric Lincoln. Race, religion, and the continuing American dilemma. Macmillan, 1999. ISBN 0809016230

17. Won Moo Hurh. The Korean Americans. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998.

18. Koenraad Elst. Who Is a Hindu? New Delhi: Voice of India, 2001.

19. Boyer (2001). "Why Belief". Religion Explained. 

20. Renfrew, C. 1994. "The Archaeology of Religion." In Renfrew, C. and Zubrow, E. (eds.) The Ancient Mind: Elements of Cognitive Archaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 47-54

21. Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought, Pascal Boyer, Basic Books (2001)

22. see several dictionaries on and also Oxford's English Language Dictionary

23. Quotation: "The Second Vatican Council affirmed academic freedom for natural science and other secular disciplines". From the essay of Ted Peters about Science and Religion at "Lindsay Jones (editor in chief). Encyclopedia of Religion, Second Edition. Thomson Gale. 2005. p.8185"

24. By Dr Paul Murdin, Lesley Murdin Photographs by Paul New. Supernovae Astronomy Murdin Published 1985, Cambridge UniversityPress Science,256 pages,ISBN 052130038X page 18.

25. Godfrey-Smith, Peter. 2003. Theory and reality: an introduction to the philosophy of science. Science and its conceptual foundations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Page 14.

26. Stanley Jaki. Bible and Science, Christendom Press, 1996 (pages 110-111)

27. Spitz, Lewis (1987). (The Rise of modern Europe) The protestant Reformation 1517-1559.. Harper Torchbooks. pp. 383. ISBN 0-06-132069-2 The historian of early modern Europe Lewis Spitz says "To set up a 'warfare of science and theology' is an exercise in futility and a reflection of a nineteenth century materialism now happily transcended". 

28. Quotation: "The conflict thesis, at least in its simple form, is now widely perceived as a wholly inadequate intellectual framework within which to construct a sensible and realistic historiography of Western science." (p. 7), from the essay by Colin A. Russell "The Conflict Thesis" on "Gary Ferngren (editor). Science & Religion: A Historical Introduction. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8018-7038-0".

29. Gary Ferngren (editor). Science & Religion: A Historical Introduction. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8018-7038-0. (Introduction, p. ix)

30. a b Esslemont, J.E. (1980). Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era (5th ed.). Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0-87743-160-4. 

31. `Abdu'l-Bahá (1982) [1912]. The Promulgation of Universal Peace (Hardcover ed.). Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0-87743-172-8. 

32. Effendi, Shoghi (1938). The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0-87743-231-7. 

33. Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, p. 22 ISBN 0-385-24774-5

34. Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor. Ed. Eugene Kennedy. New World Library ISBN 1-57731-202-3.

35. Bartholomew Dean 1994 "The Poetics of Creation: Urarina Cosmology and Historical Consciousness." Latin American Indian Literatures Journal (10):22-45

36. a b Karl Marx, 1844, Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."English online edition; in German: "Die Religion ist der Seufzer der bedrängten Kreatur, das Gemüt einer herzlosen Welt, wie sie der Geist geistloser Zustände ist. Sie ist das Opium des Volks." MEW 1, p.378

37. Bryan Caplan. "Why Religious Beliefs Are Irrational, and Why Economists Should Care".  The article about religion and irrationality.

38. Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. 

39. Harris, Sam. THE END of FAITH. 

40. Nobel Peace Laureate, Muslim and human rights activist Dr Shirin Ebadi has spoken out against undemocratic Islamic countries justifying "oppressive acts" in the name of Islam. Speaking at the Earth Dialogues 2006 conference in Brisbane, Dr Ebadi said her native Iran as well as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Yemen "among others" were guilty of human rights violations. "In these countries, Islamic rulers want to solve 21st century issues with laws belonging to 14 centuries ago," she said. "Their views of human rights are exactly the same as it was 1400 years ago."

41. Dawkins 1989, p. 352

42. Blackmore 1999

43. Lynch 1996

44. Timothy Fitzgerald. The Ideology of Religious Studies. New York: Oxford University Press USA, 2000. p.1.


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