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Religion - essence, types, definition and meaning

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

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Author: Cristina Cristea

Date of publication: 06/05/2022

Faith is a personal thing and it is not always appropriate to discuss it openly. However, it is important for an educated person to understand the function of religion in society. Also, awareness of the types of modern world religions is essential as well.

What is religion?

The term "religion" has different interpretations, each of which is correct in its own way. Religion can be defined like this:

  • worldview and behavior of people, which determines the belief in the existence of any supernatural force;

  • a system of symbols, moral rules, rituals and cult actions, based on the idea of ​​the general order of being;

  • belief in the supernatural (in God);

  • a set of views and ideas, a system of beliefs and rituals that gathers people into a single community;

  • one of the forms of adaptation of a person to the world around him/her, a way to satisfy spiritual needs.

a cross necklace

Moreover, religious consciousness is closely connected with faith and these concepts are often used as synonyms.

In particular, faith is the unconditional acceptance of something as truth without the search for evidence and additional reasoning.

The main features of religion are:

  • irrationality - belief in absolute truth;

  • dogmatism - lack of need for evidence;

  • rituality - prayers and other sacred actions;

  • belief in the supernatural;

  • groundlessness.

However, we have uncovered the definition of religion. Let's look at the functions of religion and find out how it affects society.

Functions of Religion

religion practice

The main functions of religion:

  1. Worldview. Religion forms a certain picture of the world among followers. Through the prism of faith, a person sees and understands the world, society and himself.

  2. Value-semantic. Religion answers questions about the meaning and purpose of life, participates in the creation of value orientations.

  3. Psychological (compensatory). Through prayer, meditation or turning to God, the believer receives comfort in difficult times, relieves stress.

  4. Communicative. A common faith unites people, makes it possible to feel involved and not alone. In addition, through religious rites, a believer can turn to saints, God, angels, etc.

  5. Cultural-transmitting. Religion can be a factor in the development of art; cultural heritage is transmitted through religious works.

  6. Educational. Religion promotes the socialization of a person, instills certain rules of behavior in society.

  7. Regulatory. Faith regulates the aspirations and activities of a person.

  8. Integrating and disintegrating. Religion unites groups of believers, but at the same time opposes social groups professing different religions to each other.

Early forms of religion

There are four types of ancient religions that have existed for many centuries: totemism, shamanism, fetishism, animism.

Totemism is a way of connecting a person with the outside world through the worship of a totem. Specifically, the totem is most often an animal, less often a plant or some inanimate object.

Shamanism is interaction with the world of spirits through a guide called a shaman. In particular, it is believed that shamans are able to communicate with spirits and higher powers. So, the whole tribe listens only to his words and decrees.

Fetishism is the belief in objects that have supernatural powers. Thus, such items are called fetishes. For example, they can be an unusually shaped stone or precious metal.

Animism is the belief in spirits. These can be the spirits of dead people, animals and plants, or spirits that live in a certain area.

a religious book

Modern religions

Today, there are three types of religious beliefs:

  1. Tribal beliefs are the same totemism, shamanism, fetishism and animism, which we talked about above. These are archaic religions, but they survived in some societies, for example, among the tribes of Africa or the Canadian Indians.

  2. National-state religions are closely connected with a separate people, an ethnic community. For example, Hinduism and Jainism are predominantly distributed in India, Judaism - in Israel, Shintoism - in Japan, Taoism and Confucianism - in China.

  3. World religions go beyond the boundaries of one nation or state and cover a large number of believers around the world. There are three such religions: Christianity, Buddhism and Islam.


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