Religion is a range of social-cultural systems, including designated behaviors and practices, morals, beliefs, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that generally relate humanity to supernatural, transcendental, and spiritual elements[1]—although there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion.[2][3] Different religions may or may not contain various elements ranging from the divine,[4] sacredness,[5] faith,[6] and a supernatural being or beings.[7]

Religious practices may include rituals, sermons, commemoration or veneration (of deities or saints), sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trances, initiations, matrimonial and funerary services, meditation, prayer, music, art, dance, or public service. Religions have sacred histories and narratives, which may be preserved in sacred texts, symbols, and holy places, that primarily aim to give life meaning. Religions may contain symbolic tales that may attempt to explain the origin of life, the universe, and other phenomena; some followers believe these to be true stories. Traditionally, both faith and reason have been considered sources of religious beliefs.[8]

There are an estimated 10,000 distinct religions worldwide,[9] though nearly all of them have regionally based, relatively small followings. Four religions—Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism—account for over 77% of the world's population, and 92% of the world either follows one of those four religions or identifies as nonreligious,[10] meaning that the remaining 9,000+ faiths account for only 8% of the population combined. The religiously unaffiliated demographic includes those who do not identify with any particular religion, atheists, and agnostics, although many in the demographic still have various religious beliefs.[11]

Many world religions are also organized religions, most definitively including the Abrahamic religions Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, while others are arguably less so, in particular folk religions, indigenous religions, and some Eastern religions. A portion of the world's population, mostly located in Africa and Asia, are members of new religious movements.[12] Scholars have indicated that global religiosity may be increasing due to religious countries having generally higher birth rates.[13]

The study of religion comprises a wide variety of academic disciplines, including theology, philosophy of religion, comparative religion, and social scientific studies. Theories of religion offer various explanations for its origins and workings, including the ontological foundations of religious being and belief.[14]

  1. ^ "Religion – Definition of Religion by Merriam-Webster". Archived from the original on 12 March 2021. Retrieved 16 December 2019.
  2. ^ Morreall, John; Sonn, Tamara (2013). "Myth 1: All Societies Have Religions". 50 Great Myths of Religion. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 12–17. ISBN 978-0-470-67350-8.
  3. ^ Cite error: The named reference Nongbri was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  4. ^ James 1902, p. 31.
  5. ^ Durkheim 1915.
  6. ^ Tillich, P. (1957) Dynamics of faith. Harper Perennial; (p. 1).
  7. ^ Cite error: The named reference vergote was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  8. ^ Swindal, James (April 2010). "Faith and Reason". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Archived from the original on 31 January 2022. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  9. ^ African Studies Association; University of Michigan (2005). History in Africa. Vol. 32. p. 119.
  10. ^ "The Global Religious Landscape". 18 December 2012. Archived from the original on 19 July 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  11. ^ "Religiously Unaffiliated". The Global Religious Landscape. Pew Research Center: Religion & Public Life. 18 December 2012. Archived from the original on 30 July 2013. Retrieved 16 February 2022. The religiously unaffiliated include atheists, agnostics and people who do not identify with any particular religion in surveys. However, many of the religiously unaffiliated have some religious beliefs.
  12. ^ Eileen Barker, 1999, "New Religious Movements: their incidence and significance", New Religious Movements: challenge and response, Bryan Wilson and Jamie Cresswell editors, Routledge ISBN 0-415-20050-4
  13. ^ Zuckerman, Phil (2006). "3 – Atheism: Contemporary Numbers and Patterns". In Martin, Michael (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to Atheism. pp. 47–66. doi:10.1017/CCOL0521842700.004. ISBN 978-1-13900-118-2.
  14. ^ James, Paul (2018). "What Does It Mean Ontologically to Be Religious?". In Stephen Ames; Ian Barns; John Hinkson; Paul James; Gordon Preece; Geoff Sharp (eds.). Religion in a Secular Age: The Struggle for Meaning in an Abstracted World. Arena Publications. pp. 56–100. Archived from the original on 14 December 2021. Retrieved 23 August 2018.

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