What Is Religion?

Religion is the devotion of the human spirit to the free and supreme power (or powers) on whom man realizes his dependence, in whom he recognizes the source of his perfection and happiness, and in whom he feels himself drawn to. It is a voluntary submission of the soul to God, and it includes not only acts of worship but also the conception of deity, and the valuation of this concept and its attendant practices.

It is common to define religion as a taxon of beliefs and practices, which are typically characterized by ritual and ethical conduct. However, the concept of religion is not limited to this kind of social formation; indeed, it can even be applied to political ideologies such as fascism and communism. Thus, it is not surprising that scholars have often adopted the notion of religion as a universal feature of the human condition.

Some have gone further, arguing that to understand religion as a merely functional category is to neglect its subjective dimensions and impose a Protestant bias. In addition, they argue that the premise of religion as a social genus is flawed because it fails to recognize the essential role of human material culture in shaping religion. They therefore propose to rethink the three-sided model of the true, the beautiful, and the good in order to include a fourth C: the material. This concept is also called materialist religion and has been endorsed by a number of scholars.

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