Religion is a belief system and set of practices that people follow to explain the world, to guide behavior, and to provide a sense of community. The word comes from the Latin words religio (respect for what is sacred) and religare (to bind).
Religious beliefs, rituals, and traditions vary widely across the globe. Among the most well-known examples are Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.
Some of the most common features shared by all of these traditions are:
One god made the universe; a god will end the universe and each person will have a soul that separates from the body after death.
These common features are also found in other cultures around the world.
Another important feature of religion is the idea that a person can earn eternal life through their actions or good deeds, not just through luck.
The concept of reincarnation is particularly interesting in religion, as it gives people a chance to return to life again and again after death.
Early forms of religion developed out of attempts to control uncontrollable aspects of their environment, such as weather, pregnancy and birth, and success in hunting. Magic tries to make these things directly subject to human will through rituals, while religion appeals to a higher power, gods and goddesses.
There are two philosophical issues that arise for the concept of religion, but both can be resolved if one assumes that the term does have an essence. A first issue is whether the concept can be understood as a social taxon that has necessary and sufficient properties.