Religion is a complex, multi-faceted system of beliefs and practices that have been practiced by people worldwide since ancient times. It includes a variety of practices, such as worship, prayer, moral conduct, and belief in specific gods and goddesses.
Despite the difficulty of defining religion, scholars have explored many ways to analyze it. These include monothetic and polythetic approaches that focus on the nature of religion and its relationship to society.
In a monothetic approach, the concept religion is defined by a stipulative definition that determines membership in the category in terms of the presence of a certain defining property. This is the classical approach.
A more recent approach is called a polythetic approach. This approach, which was pioneered by Emile Durkheim, defines the concept of religion in terms of the distinctive role that a form of life can play in one’s life–that is, as a way of being.
The defining properties that distinguish religion from other forms of life include intensity and comprehensiveness.
Religious practices can be very intense and involve crying, laughter, screaming, trancelike states, and feeling of oneness with others.
These types of experiences can be extremely transformative for some people, but they are not for everyone.
Religious practices also have the potential to reinforce and promote social inequality and other problems. For example, religion can entice the poor to accept their lot in life or it can generate hostility and violence motivated by religious differences.