The Concept of Religion


Religion, in the broadest sense, may be defined as human beings’ relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine or worthy of especial reverence. In traditional religious traditions this is expressed in terms of one’s relationship with or attitude toward gods or spirits; in more humanistic and naturalistic forms it is often expressed in terms of human beings’ relationships with or attitudes toward the broader human community or the natural world.

Religion is a vital part of many people’s lives, but it can also cause problems for individuals and society as a whole. It’s important to recognize these challenges and work to overcome them.

The concept of religion is a very complex one. It rests on several fundamental conceptions, and in addition to the idea of a personal, loving relation to the Deity it implies the belief in certain supernatural ends to which man is raised by the special providence of God. It further assumes a certain concept of the Deity as a personal Being, not a mere force or law, not a simple one-dimensional being, but a personality whose loveliness and goodness are such as to invite confidence and invite obedience to His ordained means for attaining the special end in question.

Finally, it assumes that man recognizes this Divine personality in the various phenomena of nature, in the various forces of nature, and that in friendly communion with this Supreme Being he may find happiness and perfection. It is this hope, crudely conceived in lower religions, that leads them to believe in the existence of good and evil, of right and wrong; that, even among the most savage tribes, those who live according to the dictates of a religion are destined for a life of peace and prosperity, while those who do not are condemned to suffering or death, or, at any rate, are reborn in vile animal forms.

It is also believed that religions answer deep needs of mankind, higher than the needs of the individual, in fact higher than those of the family and clan. It is for this reason that the chief rites of religion are public rites, and that the observance of them imposes a burden on the individual which he cannot meet without the assistance of his fellow-men.

All these ideas are widely held, but the evidence in their favor is scanty; and it is possible that religions originated either as a response to biological or cultural needs. The second theory is favored by anthropologists, who argue that religion arose as soon as humans became aware of the inevitable occurrence of death and began to speculate on what might be the fate of their souls after death. This speculation produced beliefs in a Supreme Being and in a series of rituals designed to guarantee one’s eventual salvation or deliverance from the punishments of hell. These beliefs were accompanied by an aversion to sin, and a corresponding love for good.

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