What is Religion? And Why Does it Matter?
As the social genus of life and beliefs, religion is one of the most complicated aspects of human culture. While some scholars define religion as universal, others have treated it as pan-human. The definition, however, is an important tool in understanding how religion affects people. Regardless of what the exact meaning of religion is, its universality is a product of the way the term is defined. So, what is Religion? And why does it matter?
Religion is a social genus
Religion is a system of beliefs, practices, and rituals associated with a society or culture. These beliefs, practices, and rituals are used to foster social cohesion and individual identity. The concept of religion is an ancient one that predates Western thought, and it has many non-Western origins as well. Here are some characteristics of religion that are universal across cultures. Listed below are the common characteristics of religion.
It is a set of beliefs
What is religion? It is a social arrangement that gives people a collective voice regarding the unseen aspects of life. It provides answers to enduring human concerns, and forms the basis of social cohesion and solidarity. In fact, there are more than three dozen religions in the world. However, the term religion is also used broadly, to cover several subsets. Below, we discuss the main features of religion.
It is a form of life
While many researchers identify religion as a form of life, others question the nature of the concept. In 1871, Edward Burnett Tylor defined religion as “belief in the existence of a divine being.” The definition would be much narrower if it were limited to cultic practices and particular developments. Tylor argued that religion is a universal phenomenon and that all known societies practice some form of religious belief. In addition, he argued that the word “religion” has multiple meanings.
It is a complex
African Traditional Religion, also known as ATR, is a highly complex phenomenon in all aspects of African traditional life. Early scholars have noted that it is difficult to observe ATR objectively because it is so diverse and complex. For example, in 1906, British colonial officer Arthur Glenn Leonard made comments about the Igbo religion. Even today, ATR is observed and practiced in over 1000 different languages, representing a large number of ethnic groups in Africa.
It is a political invention
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, European intellectuals began to “imagine” religion as a distinct category of human activity, arguing that a separation between the religious and political domains was necessary for the survival of a rational, secular society. But Gandhi’s assertions were controversial, and he ultimately rejected both the separation of the religious and political spheres and the notion of secularism.