Religion is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of life and the universe,especially when considered as the creation of a supernatural agency, or human beings’ relationto that which they regard as holy, sacred, spiritual, or divine. Many religions havenarratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life. Theytend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about thecosmos and human nature.The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with faith or belief system, but religiondiffers from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviors,including congregations for prayer, priestly hierarchies, holy places, and/or scriptures.Academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: worldreligions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths, indigenous religions, whichrefers to smaller, culture-specific religious groups, and new religious movements, which refers torecently developed faiths.The development of religion has taken different forms in different cultures. Some religions placegreater emphasis on belief, while others emphasize practice. Some religions focus on thesubjective experience of the religious individual, while others consider the activities of thecommunity to be most important. Some religions claim to be universal, believing their laws andcosmology to be binding for everyone, while others are intended to be practiced only by one,localized group. Religion often makes use of meditation, music and art. In many places it hasbeen associated with public institutions such as education, the family, government, and politicalpower.One of the more influential theories of religion today is social constructionism, which says thatreligion is a modern concept suggesting all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to Christianity; social constructionism suggests that religion, as a concept, has therefore beenapplied inappropriately to non-Western cultures.
religion and violence
Charles Selengut characterizes the phrase "religion and violence" as "jarring", asserting that"religion is thought to be opposed to violence and a force for peace and reconciliation. Heacknowledges, however, that "the history and scriptures of the world's religions tell stories of violence and war as they speak of peace and love."Hector Avalos argues that, because religions claim divine favor for themselves, over and againstother groups, this sense of righteousness leads to violence because conflicting claims tosuperiority, based on unverifiable appeals to God, cannot be adjudicated objectively.Some critics of religion (in general) such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins go farther and argue that religions do tremendous harm to society in three ways:[page needed][pageneeded]* Religions sometimes use war, violence, and terrorism to promote their religious goals* Religious leaders contribute to secular wars and terrorism by endorsing or supporting theviolence* Religious fervor is exploited by secular leaders to support war and terrorismRegina Schwartz argues that all monotheistic religions are inherently violent because of anexclusivism that inevitably fosters violence against those that are considered outsiders.