The Importance of Religion


Religion has been an important part of human culture throughout history and continues to influence the lives of many people around the globe. While the study of Religion has roots that extend back several centuries, its modern configuration and institutional embodiment are 20th century phenomena. The importance of religions to both individuals and societies makes the field an essential one for academic inquiry.

Most attempts to define Religion have used “monothetic” definitions that rely on the classical view that every instance that accurately describes a given concept will share a single defining property. However, the emergence of “polythetic” approaches that recognize multiple properties is challenging this traditional view.

Traditionally, scholars have classified Religions based on their beliefs and practices. The most common of these classifications has focused on the presence of a belief in a unique kind of reality or on the formation of a moral community centered on those beliefs and practices. The work of Emile Durkheim, for example, is influential in sociological thinking about religion to this day.

Others have argued that classifying religions in terms of beliefs and subjective mental states obscures their true complexity and power. For this reason, they have sought to define Religion functionally as the system of beliefs and practices that bring a group together and provide them with orientation in life (although these features may not include any belief in unusual realities).

Some scholars have even taken it a step further and used social-genus theories to argue that some or all religions are inevitable features of human culture. But this approach can also be problematic, as the existence of some religions does not imply that all humans must have them.