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Former featured article candidate Religion is a former featured article candidate. Please view the links under Article milestones below to see why the nomination failed. For older candidates, please check the archive.
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April 15, 2006 Featured article candidate Not promoted
November 19, 2009 Peer review Reviewed
Current status: Former featured article candidate


Religion is defined as, according to this article, "an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence". Numerous scientific fields, like anthropology/evolutionary biology, and certain parts of philosophy, can also fit into this category. I suggest you add the word "unsubstantiated" at the start of the definition. JDiala (talk) 22:41, 24 December 2013 (UTC)

I think that change would violate WP:NPOV, but I wonder if there is reliable sourcing for adding a word or two to convey the spiritual nature of it. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:45, 24 December 2013 (UTC)
I suggest making use of Durkheim's wording (given in the later Definitions section). Thus: "Religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence relative to sacred things including but not limited to gods and spirits". Manbooferie (talk) 07:38, 30 December 2013 (UTC)
If we want to avoid violating NPOV, but still address JDiala's valid point about science not being a religion, then I suggest adding the word "faiths" to the definition. As faiths are, by definition, unconditional, it would mean that science would no longer apply. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:58, 31 December 2013 (UTC)

The definition is baloney. Religion is defined in the bible as something made up by men telling each other what to do. There is no connection to cultural systems and only accidental connections to beliefs. (Pretense of belief is acceptable in religion.) Morality is the adjective form of more, pronounced "mor-ay", and a more is any rule made up by a group of people who live near each other. A more does not have to be right, only accepted. There is no particular connection between religion, morality, and law. For example many people think illicit sex should be punished by death, laws prescribe jail time, and the bible commands banishment. [1] [2] [3] [4]

  1. ^ Acts 26:5
  2. ^ Galatians 1:13
  3. ^ Galatians 1:14
  4. ^ James 1:26

Jewels Vern (talk) 02:52, 9 March 2014 (UTC)

Religion is defined as, according to this article, "an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence". This is very confusing, since it mixes together anthropological and phylosophical terminology requiring separate explanation to be properly understood (and the reference to Geertz in the note does not suffice). I recommend changing the entire initial definition as follows: "Religion refers to sets of variously organized beliefs about the relationship between natural and supernatural aspects of reality, and about the role of humans in this relationship." — Preceding unsigned comment added by ELCLant (talkcontribs) 02:40, 30 March 2014 (UTC)

Religion has a page in wikitionary I'm still a newbe here so I can't add it, if anyone able to add this link somewhere and define it by a dictionary or something that'll be great! Night-changer (talk) 10:32, 24 May 2014 (UTC)

New stuff goes at the bottom. We don't use user-generated sources (i.e. anything with "wiki" in the name) as a source. And at any rate, a dictionary definition would be woefully understating a small selection of sources on the subject instead of accurately summarizing the variety of views out there. Ian.thomson (talk) 15:15, 24 May 2014 (UTC)

Wetodid (talk) 19:01, 13 August 2014 (UTC)If you take supernatural out of the definition for religion the description becomes that of traditions The definition for religion must include a reference to the supernatural or it will not be accurate.

The current definition is not correct as it would include ideas such as Democracy. Religion requires a belief in a god or gods per standard Dictionary definitions, we should not be attempting to redefine it here. Lexlex (talk) 12:06, 21 October 2014 (UTC)
The dictionary is just plain unreliable compared to academic works dedicated to studying the subject. The dictionary is not written by specialists in relevant fields, but by people who copy colloquialisms (or attempting to re-define things themselves). Citing a dictionary to define religion when there are academic sources (and already in the article), is like citing newspapers on Global warming instead of scientists.
Belief in a god or gods is theism, not necessarily religion. The Church of Satan, Raëlism, Scientology, Jainism, and some forms of Buddhism and Confucianism lack gods, but are religions. Spinozism has beliefs about God, but is still not considered a religion (just as deists like Thomas Jefferson are also not considered religious). Ian.thomson (talk) 15:37, 21 October 2014 (UTC)

Update to Religious groups table?

I suggest the table under 'Religious groups' showing numbers of adherents for the five main religions, ought to be updated and expanded with more recent data, e.g. 2010 from the Pew Research Center. Also, I think it would be a good idea to include a few other groups so that the total adds up to 100% and, quite importantly, the "non-religious" category gets a mention too. With regard to Judaism, which is clearly is a minor religion in percentage terms, I think it's worth separating out because of its (dis-proportionate) world-wide impact. The revised table would look like this:

Major religious groups Adherents in 2010[1]  % of world population[1] Demographics
Christianity 2200 million 31.5% Christianity by country
Islam 1600 million 23.2% Islam by country
Hinduism 1000 million 15.0% Hinduism by country
Buddhism 500 million 7.1% Buddhism by country
Folk religion 400 million 5.9% Chinese folk religion
Judaism 14 million 0.2% Judaism by country
Other religions 58 million 0.8%
Non-Religious 1100 million 16.3%
Total 6872 million 100.0%

† Includes followers of African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions.
‡ Includes Bahai's, Jains, Sikhs, Shintoists, Taoists, followers of Tenrikyo, Wiccans, Zoroastrians and many other faiths.
¶ Includes atheists, agnostics and people who do not identify with any particular religion in surveys.

  1. ^ a b Pew Research Center (December 2012). "The Global Religious Landscape. A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Major Religious Groups as of 2010.". Pew Research Center. Retrieved 30 December 2013. order of existence.

The opening definition does not match the dictionary/wiktionary definitions. Additionally, "order of existence" seems to have been invented solely for this article, its not a wiki page and Google didn't have a single hit... The article sites approx. 4,200 religions, if we can confirm that a single one of those does not have supernatural components that would begin the discussion for dropping it. To date, the supernatural element is what defines religion. Removing it from the opening line fails to communicate the fundamental mechanism behind religion. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Wetodid (talkcontribs) 19:10, 18 August 2014 (UTC)

I think you raise an interesting point about the phrase "order of existence". I'd like to hear from other editors about whether there is a good argument in favor of us using that phrase, and, if not, what other wording might be used in its place. (But I'd like to have some discussion here before anyone changes the page.) --Tryptofish (talk) 19:38, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
(edit conflict)Dictionaries do not go as in depth as the academic works that are summarized and cited in this article. Wikipedia does not cite Wikipedia, much less Wiktionary. "Order of existence" was hardly invented for this article (that you claim so leaves me incapable of believing you've done any reading on the subject except beyond a few misguided polemics), but is quoting the work of Clifford Geertz, and is cited in a variety of religious studies courses. Even criticism by Talal Asad shows it to be a common definition, which is what the article aims to use. It is readily found in a Google books search, including this book, this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, this one... That's just in the first two pages of my search results.
Random Google web searches are not used for any indication of popularity (much less reliability) because Google does tailor its results to individuals. For example, when I searched for it, I got this, this, this, this, this, this, and this just on the first page of my search.
The supernatural element fails as a definition because there are agnostics, "spiritual but not religious," and other non-religious folks who believe in the supernatural, and there are religious folks who firmly deny anything they understand to be supernatural. Many religious persons do not believe in something that is beyond (supra-) nature, but believe that whatever entities exist in their religion exist within the realm of natural law (even if they operate on principles not yet understood). To say that such beliefs are supernatural is to misrepresent what they claim as their beliefs. They may not be scientific, but they are a form of naturalism, even if it's not a colonialist white naturalism that is historically rooted in Protestant deism. Further, supernaturalism is at odds with skepticism, and as Jamy Ian Swiss will tell you, atheists do not possess a monopoly on skepticism, and there are superstitious atheists.
To define religion in relation to the supernatural requires redefining the supernatural in a way that makes my ghost-hunting, luck-charm-buying, fortune-teller-visiting, horoscope-reading, conspiracy-theory-believing agnostic friends somehow more scientifically minded than (*raises hand*) the religious friend who constantly responds to their Facebook posts with links to Snopes, Hoaxbuster, and scientific journals because he believes that logic and scientific laws are emanations of the Logos.
To define religion in terms of theism is also wrong, because that means that Albert Einstein is religious for his Spinozan view of God, Thomas Jefferson religious for his deistic belief in a first cause; but Buddhism, Confucianism, Jainism, some branches of Taoism, Raelianism, Scientology, and the Church of Satan are somehow not religions.
Theism, supernaturalism, and religion are clearly three distinct things that can be compatible but are still not the same.
And for the record, I had nothing to do with writing the lede, I just cannot support the OP's approach. Ian.thomson (talk) 20:23, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
1. Every Google book referenced contains the description made by Geertz, which was dissected and re-worded in the description for this article. Why are we cherry picking from his description and re-writing, if it is the authority shouldnt we use it in whole or risk corrupting it? 2. Spirituality comes with both Natural and Supernatural components depending on interpretation, Agnostics are by definition claiming neither faith nor disbelief and may need a category created called "sitting on the bench", I am not sure why that was brought into the conversation? 3. The word supernatural references things that are outside the realm of nature (beyond nature). In simple terms, if we call empirically proved things nature then the things claimed to be proved but which lay beyond empirical measurements are supernatural which includes religion, ghosts (aka the soul), lucky charms (ex. Rosary), fortune telling (Divination), Horoscope reading (Astrology is a form of divination). The point here is that these beliefs are no more and no less scientific than religion, they are by description claiming unique mechanisms which exist in the realm of the supernatural. I recommend reading the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosphy's reference on the meaning of life for clarification on my destination; 4. Agreed that Theism is a subset of religion. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Wetodid (talkcontribs) 20:13, 9 October 2014 (UTC)
There's a difference between cherry-picking and due weight. If a ton of sources support a particular idea, Wikipedia follows suit. If I was cherry-picking, it'd be easy enough to go to and completely overshadow the 18 results I found (out of the first 20!).
And again, "Many religious persons do not believe in something that is beyond (supra-) nature, but believe that whatever entities exist in their religion exist within the realm of natural law (even if they operate on principles not yet understood). To say that such beliefs are supernatural is to misrepresent what they claim as their beliefs. They may not be scientific, but they are a form of naturalism, even if it's not a colonialist white naturalism that is historically rooted in Protestant deism."
For example, the Church of Satan regards itself as completely materialist, Kopimism doesn't have anything to say about the supernatural (other than distributing any literature about it whether or not it agrees with any of it), Confucianism regularly rejected all the supernaturalism of Buddhism and Taoism but advocated keeping the ancestor worship and belief in a divine right of emperors as purely civil rites, and the Hashashin probably reinterpreted all of Islam's commandments as purely political (Zakat being a form of taxation for a rebel state rather than charity to earn brownie points with God). And those are systems of thought compatible with modern western science. Going into pre-modern or non-western cosmological beliefs, many forms of magical thinking did not regard their beliefs as supernatural, but Preternatural or even (especially in animist societies) just plain natural. These beliefs assume that there are natural laws, but make mistaken assumptions as to what those laws are.
From an emic perspective, those beliefs are a form of naturalism, not supernaturalism; and from an etic perspective, to say that they are not a form of naturalism (if an admittedly mistaken form) is just the prejudices of a modern western emic perspective.
And we are not agreed regarding the relationship between theism and religion. I clearly stated that theism overlaps with but has distinct points from religion. Einstein, Ben Franklin, Goethe, Thomas Jefferson, Socrates, and Spinoza were certainly theistic but far from religious. Ian.thomson (talk) 20:45, 9 October 2014 (UTC)
Wow, I wrote a short, snarky comment about this but ian.thomson's edit just conflicted with mine, and he explains this in far better detail. Thank you.
Too many people come to this article thinking that their own personal pet definitions can simply supplant the consensus of reliable sources. We as long-term editors must demand citations for claims like this. Shii (tock) 20:27, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
Those explanations are good enough for me – thanks! --Tryptofish (talk) 20:40, 18 August 2014 (UTC)

New notice at the top?

Maybe something along the lines of "If you cite a dictionary against the academic sources in the article, we will not consider your attempts to change the definition" or "dictionaries do not trump academic sources when defining religion"...? Ian.thomson (talk) 15:40, 21 October 2014 (UTC)

Sounds good to me. Talk:Historicity of Jesus has a ton of notices to steal from. Shii (tock) 16:25, 21 October 2014 (UTC)

Introductory image

I reverted the 'Religious activities around the world' collage photo back to its original, which happens to include an image of animal sacrifice (which incidentally is a topic in the article). My edit has been undone on the grounds that "requiring an image of animal sacrifice seems WP:POINTy and unnecessary". My response is that it was the earlier change that was unnecessary, and which should have been challenged at the time. This latest undo is inconsistent and unnecessary editorial behaviour. Manbooferie (talk) 23:32, 9 November 2014 (UTC).

Whatever my "editorial behavior" Face-smile.svg, here is my thinking about it. Although animal sacrifice is certainly an aspect of a number of religions, it seems to me to be WP:UNDUE to give it that kind of prominence in the lead image. Giving it that kind of prominence has the effect of drawing attention to it in a way that presents religion, perhaps inaccurately, in a potentially negative way, and that was the "point" I was talking about in my edit summary. The edit history was that another editor (not me) created the new image on the grounds that that editor was concerned that some people would be offended by the animal sacrifice image. Myself, I think that WP:NOTCENSORED partly argues against that reasoning, but I also think that, just because Wikipedia does not censor images simply because some people might not like them, editorial judgment also allows us the freedom to not feel obligated that we must use images to which some people would object. I see to some extent that the sacrifice image could be a little bit unhelpful, but I cannot see what good it does, that would make it important for us to use it. On the other hand, I'd be fine with taking that one portion of the collage, just the animal sacrifice image, and using it as a thumbnail image at Religion#Animal sacrifice, lower on the page. --Tryptofish (talk) 20:57, 10 November 2014 (UTC)
IIRC, it was removed because it gave the impression that animal sacrifice is more common in Hinduism than it really is (and really, religion in general). It is quite appropriate in the animal sacrifice section, though. Ian.thomson (talk) 21:06, 10 November 2014 (UTC)
+1 Shii (tock) 23:32, 10 November 2014 (UTC)
Whilst I appreciate the gesture to retain the animal sacrifice image in the body of the article, I still maintain that the decision to remove the image from the original photomontage is unnecessary and unjustified. When the photomontage was first created (back in February 2013) the image of animal sacrifice was included not to provoke or offend anyone, but like all of the other images, merely to provide a broad cross-range of religious rituals and peoples from around the world (East/West, young/old, black/white, offerings, sacrifices, music etc). It wasn't especially about sacrifice in Hinduism and maybe an image from e.g. Eid al-Adha would have been more 'neutral'. As I recall, someone was indeed unhappy about the animal sacrifice image, but objections were also raised about Christianity being represented by scary guys in hoods, and even the relevance of the children sat around a dinner table. These objections were discussed at the time, but recognising that it's an impossible task to please everyone (as happened with the symbols), the consensus reached was that the photomontage was acceptable, and hence remained unaltered until very recently. Anyway, it appears I'm outvoted so I'll leave it there. ps. Putting the above arguments aside, an unfortunate side-effect of replacing the original photomontage is that important details about the individual images have now been lost (unless you're motivated to delve into the history). The licensing of the latest photomontage is also highly dubious. Manbooferie (talk) 12:41, 11 November 2014 (UTC)