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Concept.png Religion  NamebaseRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Interest of• George Carlin
• Oliver McTernan
• Cesare Merlini
• Aleksander Milosz Zielinski
A belief system which dictates the cultural attitudes, behaviors and norms of a group

Due to a lack of consensus about the definition of religion, the term can be difficult to define. The absense of a consensus means that people from different groups may have vastly different definitions of what a religion is. This article aims to provide a concise definition which is broad in scope for the sake of a clear and coherent description of religious phenomenon.

Religion can be loosely defined as any belief system which dictates cultural attitudes and behaviors for a particular group of people. Despite popular belief, religions aren't necessarily designed to be literally true but are created to influence the thoughts and behaviors of a particular group which affiliates with a given religion. Also contrary to popular belief, the inclusion of supernatural deities, including a monotheistic creator deity (God), is not necessary for the functioning of a religion.

All religions have a mythology (aka theology) and rituals associated with them. People who perscribe to a religion typically engage with its mythology and rituals in some capacity.

Mythology (aka theology)

Mythology is a fundamental component of religion. A mythology constitutes of stories or narratives which explore supernatural/unexplained phenomenon or notable historical or cultural events. Mythologies may be entirely fictional or entirely non-fictional. Alternatively, mythology can also be a mixture of fictional and non-fictional elements. As a fundamental compenent of a religion, the mythology has several functions. These functions of myths, as defined by Joseph Campbell in The Masks of God: Creative Mythology, are listed below.

The Metaphysical Function

Mythology encodes into symbols and language that which is difficult or impossible to define using symbols or language.

The Cosmological Function

Mythology can serve as a protoscience for explaining unexplained or unexplainable phenomenon.

The Sociological Function

Ancient societies had to conform to an existing social order if they were to survive at all. This is because they evolved under "pressure" from necessities much more intense than the ones encountered in our modern world. Mythology confirmed that order and enforced it by reflecting it into the stories themselves, often describing how the order arrived from divine intervention.

The Pedagogical Function

Mythology can also serve as a guide through various stages of life.


Besides a mythology, the other significant component of a religion is its rituals. The word ritual is very broad in scope and includes non religious phenomenon as well (shaking hands or saying "hello" are two examples of non-religious rituals). Campbell argues that engaging in a religious ritual requires a deliberate or involuntary suspension of disbelief, like watching a movie.

Innate response mechanism

In The Masks of God: Creative Mythology, Campbell argues that certain symbols and imagery inherently provoke a religious response among adherents. Cambell argues that this kind of an inherent, innate response has a biological basis and is a driving factor behind religious rituals.


“Some years ago, a leaked MI5 behavioural study of pathways to terrorism concluded that there was no single profile or pathway to violent radicalisation. It also found, contrary to conventional assumptions, that religious conservatism tended to act as a bulwark against extremism.”
Nafeez Ahmed (13 February 2015)  [1]


Joseph Campbell's Masks of God book series



Page nameDescription
Assemblies of God
Bahá'í Faith
BuddhismA major religion in South East Asia.
Church of ScotlandThe national church of Scotland.
Church of the United Brethren in ChristAn evangelical Christian denomination
Episcopal Church
Financial system
HinduismA religion traditionally mostly in India.
QuakersProtestant denomination stressing pacifism. Their philanthropic efforts include a prominent role in the abolition of slavery, prison reform, and social justice.
ScientologyReligion/Sect known for its hardball tactics against critics.
Shia IslamMost notably the dominant denomination in Iran.
Southern BaptistChristian denomination based on conservative Southern United States social values
Sunni Islam
Ukrainian Orthodox
Unitarian Universalist
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church


Related Quotations

George Carlin“Now, to balance the scale, I'd like to talk about some things that bring us together, things that point out our similarities instead of our differences. 'Cause that's all you ever hear about in this country. It's our differences. That's all the media and the politicians are ever talking about—the things that separate us, things that make us different from one another. That's the way the ruling class operates in any society. They try to divide the rest of the people. They keep the lower and the middle classes fighting with each other so that they, the rich, can run off with all the fucking money! Fairly simple thing. Happens to work. You know? Anything different—that's what they're gonna talk about—race, religion, ethnic and national background, jobs, income, education, social status, sexuality, anything they can do to keep us fighting with each other, so that they can keep going to the bank! You know how I define the economic and social classes in this country? The upper class keeps all of the money, pays none of the taxes. The middle class pays all of the taxes, does all of the work. The poor are there just to scare the shit out of the middle class. Keep 'em showing up at those jobs.”George Carlin
George Carlin“But let’s say it’s true; let’s say God gave us these rights. Why would he give us a certain number of rights? The Bill of Rights of this country has ten stipulations, okay? Ten rights. And apparently, God was doing sloppy work that week because we've had to amend the Bill of Rights an additional 17 times. So God forgot a couple of things. Like...SLAVERY! Just fuckin' slipped his mind.”George Carlin