Religion may be defined as a cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements. However, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion. Different religions may or may not contain various elements ranging from the divine, sacred things, faith, a supernatural being or supernatural beings or “some sort of ultimacy and transcendence that will provide norms and power for the rest of life”. Religious practices may include rituals, sermons, commemoration or veneration (of deities), sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trances, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer, music, art, dance, public service, or other aspects of human culture. Religions have sacred histories and narratives, which may be preserved in sacred scriptures, and symbols and holy places, that aim mostly to give a meaning to life. Religions may contain symbolic stories, which are sometimes said by followers to be true, that have the side purpose of explaining the origin of life, the universe, and other things. Traditionally, faith, in addition to reason, has been considered a source of religious beliefs.
There are an estimated 10,000 distinct religions worldwide, but about 84% of the world’s population is affiliated with one of the five largest religion groups, namely Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or forms of folk religion. The religiously unaffiliateddemographic includes those who do not identify with any particular religion, atheists and agnostics. While the religiously unaffiliated have grown globally, many of the religiously unaffiliated still have various religious beliefs.
The study of religion encompasses a wide variety of academic disciplines, including theology, comparative religion and social scientific studies. Theories of religion offer various explanations for the origins and workings of religion, including the ontological foundations of religious being and belief.
Religious organizations operate churches, temples, monasteries, mosques, and similar places of worship. The largest groups include Christians, Muslims, and Hindus. The profitability of a church depends primarily on the congregation’s ability to attract members who can provide financial support. Large congregations have advantages in their ability to offer more programs and activities. Small congregations can compete effectively by maintaining stronger connections with members. Religious congregations are similar to charitable organizations, in that they solicit money in various ways to fund charitable and educational programs, often called missions or ministries.
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