Religion is a term that has been used by anthropologists, psychologists, sociologists, literary scholars, and others to describe a variety of experiences, feelings, myths, symbols, rituals, beliefs, cultural norms, morality, and doctrinal positions. It is a concept that has been in use for over 5,000 years and is still evolving.
It is a complex term and can be difficult to define.
The most common definition of religion is a substantive one, which determines membership in the category by identifying the existence of a belief in an unusual reality (such as a supernatural being or an afterlife). This type of approach was once dominant in the academic study of religion, but has been replaced by functional approaches that emphasize the distinctive role that a particular form of life can play in human life.
The last few decades have seen the emergence of “polythetic” approaches to the analysis of concepts. These approaches follow the classical view that every instance of a concept has a defining property. However, they differ from monothetic definitions in that they recognize a greater number of properties than do monothetic definitions.
Religious people have a need to believe in something that is meaningful and significant. They are willing to live according to and at times even die for what they value.
This is a powerful force in human society and is a major reason why societies can function as well as they do. But it can also cause social conflict and violence.