What is Religion?


Religion is a set of beliefs, practices, and institutions that organize social life and create community. Throughout history, religious beliefs have made an imprint on culture and have been a source of inspiration for many pieces of literature, music, art, dress codes, and ways of organising life together.

There are five large religious traditions by world population: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and traditional folk religion. The number of people who belong to these traditions is estimated to be over 6.2 billion worldwide.

Some of these traditions are growing in popularity and are seeking more members actively, while others are shrinking and losing their followers. There are also a number of new religious movements that have arisen in recent years.

The term religion is often used to refer to a single supreme deity, as well as to multiple gods and other supernatural beings. However, some religious groups do not believe in a deity and these do not fall into the category of religions.

A number of scholars have developed a definition of religion as a social genus, a set of beliefs and practices that generate cohesion or orientation in life. This has become an increasingly common approach in contemporary anthropology.

One of the most influential books in this field is Talal Asad’s Genealogies of Religion (1993). Applying a Foucauldian approach, Asad demonstrates that assumptions such as Christianity and modernity have shaped the way in which we think about religion.