What “religion” means

What do we mean when we say “religion”? Just to mention that the topic is complex: Wikipedia doesn’t only have an article about Religion, it has a separate article entitled Definition of religion.

But let’s keep it simple. Here are some definitions that work for me.


A collection of teachings expressing a comprehensive world view specified by a Holy Scripture.

A faith culture that identifies common patterns of faith and formulates them in order to cultivate them.

A social-cultural system of designated behaviours and practices, morals, world views, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements. –Wikipedia


A set of traditions, conventions and habits shared by a group of humans. Any given culture implies and cultivates a given set of values and convictions.

A set of ideals that makes a group of humans cooperate efficiently by creating “artificial instincts”, which accustome individuals “to think in certain ways, to behave in accordance with certain standards, to want certain things, and to observe certain rules”. –Yumal Harari, Sapiens, p.163 (adapted)

world view

The way an individual or group thinks about and interprets the world around them. –Open Education Sociology Dictionary

The fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the whole of the individual’s or society’s knowledge and point of view. –Wikipedia

A comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world especially from a specific standpoint. Called also weltanschauung. –Merriam-Webster

Holy Scripture

A document that is used by a religion as the base for their teachings.

Religion as a social phenomenon is the fruit of our longing for an ultimate truth.

A religion gives me a language that I can use to communicate more efficiently about faith questions.

Buddhism is a religion because it is a comprehensive world view and has holy scriptures.

Marketism is a comprehensive world view with spiritual components, but has no Holy Scripture.

Football is a culture, but not a religion because it does not embrace all aspects of life and has no Holy Scripture.

“Unlike other great religions, Christianity has never proposed a revealed law to the State and to society, that is to say a juridical order derived from revelation. In­stead, it has pointed to nature and reason as the true sources of law (…).” – Pope Benedict XVI speaking to the German Bundestag, Berlin, 22 September 2011