Answer: The answer to this
question depends on the perspective of the respondent. Is it the
atheist’s definition of religion? The believer’s? The academic’s? No
one definition will satisfy all.
This situation in itself alludes to the multi-faceted aspects of
religion. It envelops all of life: spirit, law, community, ritual,
meaning, love, vision, virtue, belief, action.
The Arabic-speaking Muslims, for example, have no word for “religion.”
The closest correlative is din, which is usually translated as
religion, but it really refers to a “way of life.”
Our Latin-derived word “religion” — through French — comes from
religare, to bind or to tie. The idea is to make firm or to unite. The
root of the word may refer to a set of fixed beliefs or to the act of
bringing those of shared beliefs together in community.
In the scientific study of religion, as distinct from theological
colleges, not even the existence of God is assumed these days. These
definitions of religion would be secular.
There, religion is viewed as a purely man-made cultural artifact.
This secular view would not necessarily restrict itself to one
religion, or to the world’s religions, but in some university courses,
it would survey religion throughout history. Such a survey would
include, for example, polytheistic religions, animism, witchcraft
(wicca), and voodoo. The atheist Emile Durkheim, the famous French
sociologist, defined religion simply as “serious life” (la vie
Since cultural anthropological studies of preliterate societies began
in the 19th century, academics have put forth various sociological,
anthropological, philosophical, existential, theological and
psychological definitions, each relative to viewpoint.
In the Bahá’í Faith, a multitude of statements exist describing
religion and its functions in history and the growth of civilization.
The following statement of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), the third central
figure of the Bahá’í Faith, captures several of its essential elements:
“Religion is the outer expression of the divine reality. Therefore it
must be living,
vitalized, moving and progressive. If it be without motion and
non-progressive it is without the divine life; it is dead. The divine
institutes are continuously active and evolutionary; therefore the
revelation of them must be progressive and continuous. All things are
subject to re-formation.” -