A religion is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a supernatural agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
Aspects of religion include narrative, symbolism, beliefs, and practices that are supposed to give meaning to the practitioner's experiences of life. Whether the meaning centers on a deity or deities, or an ultimate truth, religion is commonly identified by the practitioner's prayer, ritual, meditation, music and art, among other things, and is often interwoven with society and politics. It may focus on specific supernatural, metaphysical, and moral claims about reality (the cosmos and human nature) which may yield a set of religious laws, ethics, and a particular lifestyle. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and religious experience.
The term "religion" refers to both the personal practices related to communal faith and to group rituals and communication stemming from shared conviction. "Religion" is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system," but it is more socially defined than personal convictions, and it entails specific behaviors, respectively.
- The whole experience of a religion can give a systemic and stable character to human life and society; thus a religion may also be thought of as a cultural system. While religion is difficult to define, the standard model of religion as used in religious studies was defined by Clifford Geertz (Religion as a Cultural System, 1973). For an influential critique of Geertz's model see Talal Asad's The Construction of Religion as an Anthropological Category (1982).
- The words "belief system" may not necessarily refer to a religion, though a religion may be referred to as "belief system."