The Concept of Religion


Religion is the human devotion to God and the adoration of His sacred attributes, especially love, truth, beauty, and goodness. It exists at its highest perfection in heaven, where men and angels love, praise, and adore God, and live in perfect conformity to His holy will. Its lowest form on earth is that of the lower, natural religions, which are based on man’s recognition of his dependence upon God for his physical and spiritual existence, and upon the hope that he may achieve a blessed communion with His Divine Being.

The concept of religion, as it is used in contemporary anthropology, has been shaped by a number of assumptions. The most influential is probably Michel Foucault’s “genealogical” approach, which asserts that there are different religious attitudes that have been inculcated by the disciplining techniques of some authority. Another influential trend in the study of religion has been the functionalist perspective of Emile Durkheim and Max Weber, who viewed religion as an element of social structure that functions to organize people’s values and provide them with a sense of direction for their lives.

While there are many different forms of religion, it is important to recognize that all of them have some things in common. They all involve worship, usually through a set of beliefs and rituals. They all presuppose a division of the world into two domains, the one containing the sacred, and the other the profane. They also all imply the attribution of virtues and powers to sacred things, and the interrelationships between the sacred and the profane.

In addition, religion has a positive influence on society, increasing health, learning, economic well-being, self-control and self-esteem, and morality. It is also responsible for reducing the incidence of certain social pathologies, including out-of-wedlock births, crime, drug and alcohol addiction, and psychological disorders. It is also an important source of identity and community, providing a sense of belonging and a place to find meaning in life.

Religion is a social phenomenon that can be difficult to define. It is sometimes referred to as the “opium of the masses,” because it provides an emotional outlet for the frustrations and indignities that people face in their daily lives. It is also a powerful force for peace and understanding between cultures.