What Is Religion?

Religion is a way of life that people have followed in the past and still follow today. It is one of the most important forces shaping knowledge, the arts and technology. It has also been a source of liberation and oppression, of cooperation and antagonism between governments and between religious organizations. It is possible to study religion in many different ways. One approach looks at its functions, such as the way that it brings people together and gives them a shared identity. Another approach considers its cosmological ideas, such as the idea that there is an ultimate order to the universe or the idea of resurrection and afterlife. A third way of looking at it is to see religion as a set of practices that includes rituals, moral rules and worship.

The term “religion” comes from the Latin word religio, which roughly means “scrupulousness”. It was used in antiquity to refer to a feeling of obligation that developed out of taboos, promises and curses. Religious feeling can be felt in a variety of ways, from a sense of pious duty to an ecstatic experience of the divine. People of all religions follow many different practices and perform many different rituals. They pray, meditate, read scripture and other holy texts and celebrate sacred holidays. People often make art that reflects and celebrates their religion, such as statues and paintings. They sometimes build special buildings where they meet, called temples, synagogues, churches, mosques or gurdwaras.

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