Religion is an often vague umbrella term that encompasses a wide variety of opinions and beliefs attributed to a specific group or individual. It is used to describe a set of shared beliefs that are attributed to a specific deity or set of entities perceived by individuals as having special powers or abilities. The word religion can also be applied to an adherence to a set of moral codes, as in the case of a set of ethical or moral codes commonly accepted as being inherent in divine revelation. Religion can also be used to describe a set of institutionalized practices and institutions designed to serve particular beliefs or moral standards.
The major components of religion are church and state, ritual, scripture, and authority of leadership. The clergy or priests are considered the administrators of most religions, while laypersons are regarded as the members of the clergy. While there are several smaller types of religions, the most prominent ones are Catholicism, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, and Buddhism. The biggest differences between various religions are their perspectives on sexuality, child-rearing, and their treatment of women. There are also differences in views on the afterlife, Hell, and God, which all have profound effects on how religions are practiced and perceived.
There are several different definitions of what constitutes a religion. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines religion as “the belief in a higher unseen power responsible for human life and affairs; also called a religion, a set of creeds, practices, and institutions pursued with religious veneration and obedience.” In common use, however, the definition of religion is used to describe a set of publicly held beliefs about a deity, afterlife, nature of the universe, and the relationship between humans and these forces. Religions can be organized into sects, organizations, and churches, while there are also non-organized religions.