Religion has two related meanings: it’s the belief that one or more divine beings are responsible for the fate of all human life, and it’s also an organization where people of a specific religion can express their beliefs.

Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam: these are examples of religions, and millions around the world follow the principles defined by their chosen faith. The Latin root religio means “to bind,” and religion binds people together not just by their practices, but also by their ideas. Most religions have their own story about the creation of the universe, and each has a different explanation for the meaning of life, which is a source of comfort for a religion’s followers.

Definitions of religion

n a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny

faith, religious belief
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the religious belief that God cannot be known but is completely `other' and must be described in negative terms (in terms of what God is not)
the religious belief that God has given enough clues to be known to humans positively and affirmatively (e.g., God created Adam `in his own image')
analogy, doctrine of analogy
the religious belief that between creature and creator no similarity can be found so great but that the dissimilarity is always greater; any analogy between God and humans will always be inadequate
cult, cultus, religious cult
a system of religious beliefs and rituals
a religion or sect that is generally considered to be unorthodox, extremist, or false
religion appropriate to a church and to ecclesiastical principles and practices
mysticism, religious mysticism
a religion based on mystical communion with an ultimate reality
nature worship
a system of religion that deifies and worships natural forces and phenomena
revealed religion
a religion founded primarily on the revelations of God to humankind
the doctrine or belief in the existence of a God or gods
heathenism, pagan religion, paganism
any of various religions other than Christianity or Judaism or Islamism
Christian religion, Christianity
a monotheistic system of beliefs and practices based on the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus as embodied in the New Testament and emphasizing the role of Jesus as savior
Hindooism, Hinduism
a body of religious and philosophical beliefs and cultural practices native to India and based on a caste system; it is characterized by a belief in reincarnation, by a belief in a supreme being of many forms and natures, by the view that opposing theories are aspects of one eternal truth, and by a desire for liberation from earthly evils
Brahmanism, Brahminism
the religious beliefs of ancient India as prescribed in the sacred Vedas and Brahmanas and Upanishads
religion founded in the 6th century BC as a revolt against Hinduism; emphasizes asceticism and immortality and transmigration of the soul; denies existence of a perfect or supreme being
the doctrines of a monotheistic religion founded in northern India in the 16th century by Guru Nanak and combining elements of Hinduism and Islam
the teaching of Buddha that life is permeated with suffering caused by desire, that suffering ceases when desire ceases, and that enlightenment obtained through right conduct and wisdom and meditation releases one from desire and suffering and rebirth
Hsuan Chiao, Taoism
popular Chinese philosophical system based in teachings of Lao-tzu but characterized by a pantheism of many gods and the practices of alchemy and divination and magic
Shinto, Shintoism
the ancient indigenous religion of Japan lacking formal dogma; characterized by a veneration of nature spirits and of ancestors
Manichaeanism, Manichaeism
a religion founded by Manes in the third century; a synthesis of Zoroastrian dualism between light and dark and Babylonian folklore and Buddhist ethics and superficial elements of Christianity; spread widely in the Roman Empire but had largely died out by 1000
Mithraicism, Mithraism
ancient Persian religion; popular among Romans during first three centuries a.d.
Mazdaism, Zoroastrianism
system of religion founded in Persia in the 6th century BC by Zoroaster; set forth in the Zend-Avesta; based on concept of struggle between light (good) and dark (evil)
a religion founded in Iran in 1863; emphasizes the spiritual unity of all humankind; incorporates Christian and Islamic tenets; many adherents live in the United States
Asian shamanism, shamanism
an animistic religion of northern Asia having the belief that the mediation between the visible and the spirit worlds is effected by shamans
any animistic religion similar to Asian shamanism (especially as practiced by certain Native American tribes)
the polytheistic nature religion of modern witchcraft whose central deity is a mother goddess; claims origins in pre-Christian pagan religions of western Europe
a form of religious mysticism requiring withdrawal from all human effort and passive contemplation of God
Islamic mysticism
belief in a single God
belief in multiple Gods
the system of religion and philosophy taught by the Druids and their rites and ceremonies
the doctrine or belief that God is the universe and its phenomena (taken or conceived of as a whole) or the doctrine that regards the universe as a manifestation of God
(rare) worship that admits or tolerates all gods
cargo cult
a religious cult that anticipates a time of joy, serenity, and justice when salvation comes
a Brazilian religious cult of African origin; combines voodoo elements with singing and chanting and dancing
obeah, obi
a religious belief of African origin involving witchcraft and sorcery; practiced in parts of the West Indies and tropical Americas
a religious cult based on a belief that Ras Tafari (Haile Selassie) is the Messiah and that Africa (especially Ethiopia) is the Promised Land
Adventism, Second Adventism
any Christian religion that believes the second coming of Christ is imminent
Catholicism, Catholicity
the beliefs and practices of a Catholic Church
Albigensianism, Catharism
a Christian movement considered to be a medieval descendant of Manichaeism in southern France in the 12th and 13th centuries; characterized by dualism (asserted the coexistence of two mutually opposed principles, one good and one evil); was exterminated for heresy during the Inquisition
a schismatic Christian religion in northern Africa from the 4th to the 7th century; held that only those who led a blameless life belonged in the church or could administer the sacraments
the theological system of any of the churches of western Christendom that separated from the Roman Catholic Church during the Reformation
Puseyism, Tractarianism
principles of the founders of the Oxford movement as expounded in pamphlets called `Tracts for the Times'
(from the Sanskrit word for `to see') one of six orthodox philosophical systems or viewpoints on the nature of reality and the release from bondage to karma
(from the Sanskrit word for `reflection' or `interpretation') one of six orthodox philosophical systems or viewpoints on ritual traditions rooted in the Vedas and the Brahmanas as opposed to Vedanta which relies mostly on the Upanishads
(from the Sanskrit for `end of the Veda') one of six orthodox philosophical systems or viewpoints rooted in the Upanishads as opposed to Mimamsa which relies on the Vedas and Brahmanas
worship of Krishna the 8th avatar of Vishnu
Shivaism, Sivaism
worship of Shiva one of the 3 chief gods of the Hindu pantheon
Saktism, Shaktism
worship of Shakti as the wife of Shiva
Vaishnavism, Vaisnavism, Vishnuism
worship of Vishnu one of the 3 chief gods of the Hindu pantheon
Hindu discipline aimed at training the consciousness for a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility that is achieved through the three paths of actions and knowledge and devotion
Mahayana, Mahayana Buddhism
one of two great schools of Buddhist doctrine emphasizing a common search for universal salvation especially through faith alone; the dominant religion of China and Tibet and Japan
Theravada, Theravada Buddhism
one of two great schools of Buddhist doctrine emphasizing personal salvation through your own efforts; a conservative form of Buddhism that adheres to Pali scriptures and the non-theistic ideal of self purification to nirvana; the dominant religion of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand and Laos and Cambodia
Lamaism, Tibetan Buddhism
a Buddhist doctrine that includes elements from India that are not Buddhist and elements of preexisting shamanism
Zen, Zen Buddhism
a Buddhist doctrine that enlightenment can be attained through direct intuitive insight
a form of Buddhism emphasizing mystical symbolism of mantras and mudras and the Buddha's ideal which is inexpressible
Tantra, Tantrism
doctrine of enlightenment as the realization of the oneness of one's self and the visible world; combines elements of Hinduism and paganism including magical and mystical elements like mantras and mudras and erotic rites; especially influential in Tibet
Parseeism, Parsiism
the faith of a Zoroastrian sect in India
the form of Hinduism that revolves primarily around the mythic version and ritual ideologies in the Vedas
hoodooism, vodoun, voodoo, voodooism
a religious cult practiced chiefly in Caribbean countries (especially Haiti); involves witchcraft and animistic deities
Type of:
supernatural virtue, theological virtue
according to Christian ethics: one of the three virtues (faith, hope, and charity) created by God to round out the natural virtues
any cognitive content held as true

n an institution to express belief in a divine power

“he was raised in the Baptist religion
faith, organized religion
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Christian church, church
one of the groups of Christians who have their own beliefs and forms of worship
Hebraism, Jewish religion, Judaism
Jews collectively who practice a religion based on the Torah and the Talmud
Hindooism, Hinduism
the religion of most people in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal
religion adhering to the teaching of Lao-tzu
a religion represented by the many groups (especially in Asia) that profess various forms of the Buddhist doctrine and that venerate Buddha
the group of initiated Sikhs to which devout orthodox Sikhs are ritually admitted at puberty; founded by the tenth and last Guru in 1699
Church of Scientology, Scientology
a new religion founded by L. Ron Hubbard in 1955 and characterized by a belief in the power of a person's spirit to clear itself of past painful experiences through self-knowledge and spiritual fulfillment
the native religion and former ethnic cult of Japan
established church
the church that is recognized as the official church of a nation
religious order, religious sect, sect
a subdivision of a larger religious group
followers of an unorthodox, extremist, or false religion or sect who often live outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader
followers of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices
a religious society of women who live together as sisters (especially an order of nuns)
Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, Armenian Church
an independent Christian church established in Armenia since 300; was influenced by both Roman and Byzantine traditions
Catholic Church
any of several churches claiming to have maintained historical continuity with the original Christian Church
Albigenses, Cathari, Cathars
a Christian religious sect in southern France in the 12th and 13th centuries; believers in Albigensianism
Nestorian Church
a Christian Church in the Middle East that followed Nestorianism; there is still a small Nestorian Church in Iraq
Coptic Church
the ancient Christian church of Egypt
Protestant, Protestant Church
the Protestant churches and denominations collectively
High Anglican Church, High Church
a group in the Anglican Church that emphasizes the Catholic tradition (especially in sacraments and rituals and obedience to church authority)
Unification Church
a Christian church (with some Buddhist elements) founded in 1954 by Sun Myung Moon and known for staging mass weddings and other communal activities
a 16th century sect of Anabaptists centered in Germany who had an absolute disdain for human knowledge
Amish sect
an orthodox Anabaptist sect separated from the Mennonites in late 17th century; settled chiefly in southeastern Pennsylvania
a Jewish sect that recognizes only the Hebrew Scriptures as the source of divinely inspired legislation and denies the authority of the postbiblical tradition of the Talmud; the sect arose in Iraq in the eighth century
Jewish Orthodoxy, Orthodox Judaism
Jews who strictly observe the Mosaic law as interpreted in the Talmud
Conservative Judaism
Jews who keep some of the requirements of the Mosaic law but allow for adaptation of other requirements (as some of the dietary laws) to fit modern circumstances
Reform Judaism
the most liberal Jews; Jews who do not follow the Talmud strictly but try to adapt all of the historical forms of Judaism to the modern world
Shia, Shiah, Shiah Islam
one of the two main branches of orthodox Islam; mainly in Iran
Sunni, Sunni Islam
one of the two main branches of orthodox Islam
Brahmanism, Brahminism
the religious and social system of orthodox Hinduism
Shivaism, Sivaism
a Hindu sect worshiping Shiva
Saktism, Shaktism
a Hindu sect worshiping Shakti
Vaishnavism, Vaisnavism
Hindu sect worshiping of Vishnu
any of several sects of Orthodox Judaism that reject modern secular culture and many of whom do not recognize the spiritual authority of the modern state of Israel
Hare Krishna, ISKCON, International Society for Krishna Consciousness
a religious sect founded in the United States in 1966; based on Vedic scriptures; groups engage in joyful chanting of `Hare Krishna' and other mantras based on the name of the Hindu god Krishna; devotees usually wear saffron robes and practice vegetarianism and celibacy
sect founded in the 6th century BC as a revolt against Hinduism
a Chinese sect claiming to follow the teaching of Lao-tzu but incorporating pantheism and sorcery in addition to Taoism
Zen, Zen Buddhism
school of Mahayana Buddhism asserting that enlightenment can come through meditation and intuition rather than faith; China and Japan
a major school of Buddhism teaching social concern and universal salvation; China; Japan; Tibet; Nepal; Korea; Mongolia
a major school of Buddhism teaching personal salvation through one's own efforts
movement within Buddhism combining elements of Hinduism and paganism
Kokka, Kokka Shinto
the branch of Shinto recognized as the official state religion of Japan
Shua, Shuha Shinto
any branch of Shinto other than Kokka
(plural) the lay members of a male religious order
monastic order, order
a group of person living under a religious rule
Quakers, Religious Society of Friends, Society of Friends
a Christian sect founded by George Fox about 1660; commonly called Quakers
Shakers, United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing
a celibate and communistic Christian sect in the United States
Vaudois, Waldenses
a Christian sect of dissenters that originated in southern France in the late 12th century adopted Calvinist doctrines in the 16th century
a Zoroastrian sect that claims Zurvan was the ultimate source of the universe
cargo cult
(Melanesia) the followers of one of several millenarian cults that believe salvation will come in the form of wealth (`cargo') brought by westerners; some ascribe divine attributes to westerners on first contact (especially to missionaries)
(Brazil) followers of a religious cult of African origin
obeah, obi
(West Indies) followers of a religious system involving witchcraft and sorcery
(Ethiopia) adherents of an African religion that regards Ras Tafari as divine
(Haiti) followers of a religion that involves witchcraft and animistic deities
Rastafari, Rastas
(Jamaica) a Black youth subculture and religious movement that arose in the ghettos of Kingston, Jamaica, in the 1950s; males grow hair in long dreadlocks and wear woolen caps; use marijuana and listen to reggae music
a community of followers of the Wicca religion
Type of:
establishment, institution
an organization founded and united for a specific purpose

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