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"Religion" traces back to the Latin religio, which is thought to be based on religare, meaning "to bind".

Religion is a set of core beliefs held by people, a particular recognised set of such beliefs, or an organisation devoted to a set of beliefs.


Religion as core beliefs

The Merriam-Webster dictionary has one of its definitions of "religion" being "a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith."[1][note 1]

By this definition, religion need not be about a belief in a god or gods. This is roughly synonymous with a worldview. Secular humanism is an example of an atheistic religion.

Religions can be grouped according to how many gods they recognise, and the nature of that god or those gods.

  • Atheistic religions recognise no gods.
Examples include Humanism and Buddhism
  • Monotheistic religions recognise only one god.
Examples include Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
  • Deistic religions recognise one god, but a god who is little more than a 'first cause' and who otherwise has no interaction with its creation.
World Union of Deists is a deistic umbrella organisation.
  • Polytheistic religions recognise multiple gods or supernatural beings.
Examples include spirit worship and ancient Greek religions.
  • Pantheistic religions believe that everything is part of god
An example is Hinduism.

Religion as a recognised set of beliefs

A religion can be a particular recognised set of beliefs, as in Christianity, Islam, or Hinduism.

Many such religions share certain qualities: beliefs and practices, moral guidance, narratives or texts, symbols, and (typically) some supernatural or transcendent being that is to be worshipped.

Religion as an organisation or movement

The term religion is sometimes used to mean a denomination of a particular religion, especially Christianity (for example, the Catholic, Baptist, and Orthodox religions).

Religions by type

Religions can be categorised by the type of religion.

Abrahamic Indian Far-Eastern Tribal Other


  1. This use of 'religion' is a later construction, based upon the use of the word "religious" to refer to members of the regular clergy, and the word is derived from the Latin religio, which meant a sense of awe in the presence of the supernatural.


  1. Merriam-Webster Online, Religion
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