Other Religions Atheism and Agnosticism Religion 101: Examining the Nature of Religion and Religious Beliefs Share Flipboard Email Print Other Religions Belief Systems Atheism and Agnosticism Logic Ethics Key Figures in Atheism Evolution Atheism Myths and Misconceptions By Austin Cline Atheism Expert M.A., Princeton University B.A., University of Pennsylvania Austin Cline, a former regional director for the Council for Secular Humanism, writes and lectures extensively about atheism and agnosticism. our editorial process Austin Cline Updated June 25, 2019 What is Religion? The Problem of Defining Religion: Academic literature is filled with attempts to describe what religion is and many of those attempts are very unhelpful. Definitions of religion tend to suffer from one of two problems: they are either too narrow and exclude many of the belief systems which most people will agree are religious, or they are too vague and ambiguous, leading one to conclude that just about any and everything is actually a religion. Read more about religion. Definition of Religion: How is Religion Defined? Many scholarly and academic attempts to define or describe religion can be classified into one of two types: functional or substantive. Each represents a very distinct perspective on the nature of function of religion, but dictionaries, theologians, and various scholars have also argued for their own perspectives on how religion should be defined. Religion vs. Theism: Is Religion Defined by Belief in God? Are religion and theism effectively the same thing, such that every religion is theistic and every theist is also religious? Because of some common misconceptions, many people are inclined answer that question positively. It isn't uncommon even among atheists to simply assume that religion and theism are equivalent. Religion vs. Religious: If Something is Religious, is it a Religion? The terms religion and religious obviously come from the same root, which would normally lead us to conclude that they also refer to basically the same thing: one as a noun and the other as an adjective. But perhaps that isn't always true - perhaps the adjective religious has a broader usage than the noun religion. Read more about religion vs. religious. Religion vs. Philosophy: What's the Difference? Is religion just a type of philosophy? Is philosophy a religious activity? There seems to be some confusion at times over just whether and how religion and philosophy should be distinguished from each other - this confusion is not unjustified because there are some very strong similarities between the two. Read more about the difference between religion and philosophy. Religion & Spirituality: Is Religion Organized Spirituality? One popular idea is that there exists a distinction between two different modes of relating with the divine or the sacred: religion and spirituality. Religion describes the social, the public, and the organized means by which people relate the the sacred and the divine while spirituality describes such relations when they occur in private, personally, and even in eclectic ways. Read more about spirituality and religion. Religion vs. Superstition: Is Religion Just Organized Superstition? Is there a real connection between religion and superstition? Some, particular adherents of various religious faiths, will often argue that the two are fundamentally different types of beliefs. Those who stand outside of religion, however, will notice some very important and fundamental similarities which bear closer consideration. Read more about superstition and religion. Religion vs. The Paranormal: Are Paranormal and Religious Beliefs Similar? Is there a real connection between religion and belief in the paranormal? Some, particularly adherents of various religious faiths, will often argue that the two very different types of beliefs. Those who stand outside of religion, however, will notice some very important similarities which bear closer consideration. Read more about paranormal beliefs and religion. Religion and Reason: Is Religion Irrational? Are religion and reason incompatible? I don't think so, but that isn't always an easy position to uphold. It seems rare for religion to promote reason or value logic while at the same time it's common for religion to praise high emotions and faith, two things which often inhibit good reasoning. Is Religion Necessary for Morality, Democracy, and Justice? One common complaint about secularism is that religion and belief in God are prerequisites for morality, justice, and a democratic society. The basic premise here is that the only values which ultimately matter are those which are transcendent, and such values can only be perceived and understood through religious tradition and a connection with the divine.