Religion is the belief in and worship of a god or gods, or a set of beliefs concerning the origin and purpose of the universe . It is commonly regarded as consisting of a person’s relation to God or to gods or spirits. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories associated with their deity or deities, that are intended to give meaning to life. They tend to derive ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature.
The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with faith or belief system, but it is more than private belief and has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviors, congregations for prayer, priestly hierarchies, holy places and scriptures.
Academics studying the subject have defined religion into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths, indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific religious groups, and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths.
The development of religion has taken different forms in different cultures. Some religions place greater emphasis on belief, some on practice. Some emphasize the subjective experience of the religious individual, some the activities of the community. Some religions are said to be universalistic, intending their claims to be binding on everyone, in contrast to ethnic religions, intended only for one group. Religion often makes use of meditation, music and art. In many places it has been associated with public institutions such as education and the family and with government and political power.
One of the more influential theories of religion today is social constructionism, which says that religion is a modern concept that developed from Christianity and was then applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures.