Religion depicts a relationship between spirituality and humanity and also shows how moral values are related to them. It comprises of an organized collection of world views, cultural systems and belief systems regarding spirituality and humanity. Many religions explain the origin of life or Universe through symbols, narratives, traditions and sacred histories. The concepts of ethics, religious laws, preferred lifestyles and morality are derived through their ideas pertaining to human nature and cosmos. Some estimates have indicated that there exist approximately 4200 religions all over the world (The Everything World's Religions Book, 2010).
Clergy and organized behaviors define the structure of holy places, scriptures and membership which are also an integral part of many religions. Mythology also constitutes a significant part of several religions. Religious practices usually comprise of sermons, trance, feasts, rituals, matrimonial services, gods or goddesses, festivals, meditation, art, music, prayer, funerary services, dance, public service, several aspects regarding human culture and commemoration or veneration of deity (The Everything World's Religions Book, 2010).
The word religion is often used interchangeably with words of belief and faith. Emile Durkheim specifies that religion is different from private belief in the sense that it relates eminently to social things (Durkheim, 1915). A global poll conducted in 2012 depicted that 59% population of the world was religious, 23% of the people did not belong to any religion while 13% comprised of the atheists (WIN-Gallup International, 2012).
Many religions of the world started off actually as revitalization movements. The charismatic prophet was successful in firing the imaginations of the people in striving for more comprehensive answers to their problems in comparison to the answers provided to them by their everyday beliefs. Charismatic individuals have emerged at different location of the world and have paved the way for long-term success. The prophets do appear regularly and launched several movements too, but they had a short-term impact. The development of supporter groups of these movements can be considered as the real drivers of long-term success as they institutionalized the movement (Monaghan, 2000).
Different cultures possess different forms of religious development. Some religions revolve around staunch beliefs while others emphasize practice. For some religions subjective experience pertaining to a religious individual is highly important. On the other hand, some religions focus on religious community activities. Some religions came in to being for specific or localized groups and are practiced by them only. Some religions came for the entire universe and considered it obligatory for everyone to follow their cosmology and laws. Public institutions like hospitals, government, education and political hierarchies are associated with different religions or religious groups at many places in the world. According to the views of anthropologists John Monoghan and Peter Just, religion has lend a hand in solving intolerable, significant and persistent problems of human life. This is accomplished as the religious beliefs cater with several ideas regarding the relation existing between people and the way they can deal with misfortune and accommodate anxieties (Monaghan, 2000).
According to one academic theory of religion and social constructionism, religion tends to be a modern concept, which follows the model of Abrahamic religions in terms of worship and spiritual practice. Religion is considered as an orientation system which caters the interpretation of reality and definition of human beings (Vergote, 1997). Since non-Western systems aren't based upon such systems, religion is an inappropriate application to non-Western culture and also those systems which involve a simpler construct substantially.
Three (3) examples of behaviors or beliefs
Judaism originated among the people of ancient Judea and Israel and is considered as the oldest Abrahamic religion. Torah was handed over to people of Israel by Prophet Moses, as believed by the Jews and it thus forms the basis of Judaism. Hebrew Bible and the Talmud are the central texts of Judaism apart from Torah. The destruction of Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE actually scattered the Jewish people. Today 40% of the Jews live in Israel and other 40% live in United States out of a total of 13 million Jews (Harvey, 2000).
The teachings and life of Jesus Nazareth (1st century) presented in the New Testament forms the foundation of Christianity. Christians believe Jesus as the Christ, who is the Savior and the Lord and the Son of God. Christianity revolves around the concept of Trinity which teaches unity of Father, Son (Jesus Christ) and Holy Spirit as a single Godhead. Nicene Creed also explains the beliefs and faith of Christian religion. Christianity was the religion prevalent in Western Europe and the Byzantine Empire during the first millennium. Christianity has propagated well all over the world since then. Considering the number of adherents, following are the main divisions of Christianity (Harvey, 2000):
Catholic Church is headed by the Pope in Rome, and is actually a communion of 22 Eastern Catholic churches and Western church.
Protestantism, segregated from the Catholic Church during the reformation in 16th-century, and got divided in many denominations.
Eastern Christianity, comprise of Oriental Orthodoxy, the Church of the East and Eastern Orthodoxy.
The inclusion of smaller groups like Latter Day Saint movement and Jehovah's Witnesses in Christianity is still a disputed matter.
Quran is the holy book of Muslims which was revealed by God. Islam is based on Quran and the teachings imparted by Prophet Muhammad, who was a significant religious figure of the 7th century CE. Majority of the Muslims exist in Sub-Saharan Africa, South East Europe and parts of South Asia. Islam is also widely practiced in North Africa, Western Asia, Central Asia and South East Asia. Shia and Sunni are the two core sects of Muslims. Wahhabi is a very famous Muslim school of thought prevalent in Saudi Arabia. There are several other minor groups of Muslims as well. Iran, Mauritania, Pakistan and Afghanistan are some famous Islamic republics (Harvey, 2000).
The Baha'i Faith was founded in the 19 century in Iran and is an Abrahamic religion. It has spread all over the world since then. It accepts all the prophets of Christianity, Islam, Judaism and the prophets of its own including the founder Baha'u'llah. It revolves around the concept of uniting the philosophies of all the religions.
Samaritanism is a smaller regional Abrahamic group founded primarily in the West Bank and Israel. The Rastafari movement which began in Jamaica and Druze which started primarily in Lebanon and Syria are also small regional Abrahamic groups (Harvey, 2000).
Another name (viewpoint) of religion
Religion can also be seen as superstition. Religion is a complex entity comprising of social practices and moral attitudes. On the other hand, superstition can be defined as the wrong perception of any cause or outcome or a misconception regarding an action. However, superstitions or magical practices may be a part of religions. Also some times, the followers of one religion interpret the theories of other religion as superstition (Fitzgerald, 2007). A religious belief for some atheists, skeptics and deists, is a superstitious phenomenon even.
The Greek and Roman pagans, who had an affiliation with gods in their political and social affairs, despised any person who would get fearful on thinking about gods (deisidaimonia) in a way a slave fears a cruel or stern master. This fear of god according to romans is known as superstition (Kevin and Hanna, 2009). superstitio Iudaica, a "Jewish superstition" was the name given to early Christianity due to which it was banned by Domitian in the 80s AD. When Romans accepted Christianity in 425 AD, the Pagan practices were outlawed as superstitious by Theodosius II (Kevin and Hanna, 2009).
Religion can also be defined as myth, since myth can be defined in several different ways:
1) A classical sequence of apparent historical incidences that reveals opinion of people from…