Religion is the belief in one or more gods and a set of rules that govern how people live their lives. It is an important part of the world’s culture, influencing millions of people and helping them to make sense of their lives.
The Latin term religio, derived from the verb meaning “to bind”, is a root that also explains what religion does: it ties together people by forming organizations and beliefs that guide their lives. In this way, religion helps to bring people together and create a community that can stand up to challenges.
Religious practices are generally defined by their connection to a specific god, but the term is broad enough to encompass all of the different types of beliefs that humans have about the universe and the meaning of life. For example, the religions of Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam each have their own story about how the universe was created and what it means to be human.
A wide range of social practices have been categorized as religions, including ritual practices that ascribe a divine power to objects or events and moral or spiritual principles that regulate conduct. Among these are the religious beliefs of Judaism, Christianity, and Islamic religions, but also the folk religions of many cultures, such as the religion of China and the Yoruba.
During the past few centuries, a number of researchers have developed new definitions for the concept of religion. They are not ad hoc and do not attempt to define the phenomenon in isolation from the history of other social genuses, but rather rely on comparative study to develop conceptual categories that allow scholars to compare and evaluate the various historical materials they have gathered.