Religion is a system of beliefs and practices that involves devotional acts, morality, and social organization. It is also a set of attitudes and values, including the belief in a supreme being or gods; moral teachings such as compassion, humility, and kindness; rituals and ceremonies; and a system of ethics governing conduct and relationships. It is a major force in the lives of two-thirds of all humans, whether they belong to a particular organized religion or not.
Religion satisfies many human needs, such as the desire for meaning and purpose, the need to explain the unexplainable, and the need for order and stability. It is also a source of hope, joy, and comfort. Often, it is a source of unity and a vehicle for personal and community transformation.
Although there is no universal definition of Religion, it usually consists of an organized system of beliefs and practices based on the concept of a divinity or deities. The word “religion” is derived from the Latin noun religio, which means “respect, devotion, or loyalty.” Religious attitudes and behaviors can include reverence, prayer, meditation, and holy scriptures, as well as participation in worship services, observance of a code of morality, and the performance of religious rites and ceremonies.
One theory of the origins of Religion is that it developed as a response to a biological or cultural need. Anthropologists (scientists who study human culture and societies) believe that the development of spirituality in humans was a reaction to the fact that humans became self-aware, which made them realize that they would die and that they might go on to another life. The development of religion was a result of a desire to avoid death or, in the case of the ancient Greeks, to find a way to become immortal.
Special deities began to develop in three particular classes: those that represented natural forces, such as the sun, moon, seasons, rivers and fertility; those that were considered guardians or protectors, such as mountains, animals, or human beings; and those whose spirit form represented an ancestor or an object or animal that served as a totem for a clan.
Some modern academics argue that the word Religion is a misnomer, because it implies that something supernatural must be involved. They assert that the essence of Religion is not in what people believe or do, but rather in the intense valuing of these beliefs and behaviors, which makes them sacred to individuals and communities. They suggest that a more accurate term is the “relationship of values” or, as Paul Tillich put it, Faith. A person may lead a highly spiritual life without being attached to any specific Religion, and many saints have done so. Nevertheless, religion is a major factor in the world’s peoples’ lives and should be taken seriously by politicians and others who seek to affect them.