a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects:
the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices:
a world council of religions.
the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.:
to enter religion.
the practice of beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience:
to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
religions, Archaic. religious rites:
painted priests performing religions deep into the night.
Archaic. strict faithfulness; devotion:
a religion to one’s vow.
get religion, Informal.

to acquire a deep conviction of the validity of religious beliefs and practices.
to resolve to mend one’s errant ways:
The company got religion and stopped making dangerous products.

Contemporary Examples

But think more deeply: Congress could make all kinds of laws that aggressively establish an ideology that is not a religion.
Gay Marriage Vs. the First Amendment James Poulos August 21, 2014

Diversity of thought, religion, ideology and freedom of expression is the underpinning of our democracy.
Does ‘Ebony’ Magazine Condone Bigotry? Ron Christie March 27, 2014

Millions of Scientologists around the world embrace the Scientology religion.
Church of Scientology Details Error in Lawrence Wright’s Book Karen Pouw January 22, 2013

An understanding of democracy,” he says, derives in part from “an understanding of religion that is in itself open-minded.
Blair’s New Mideast Mission Lisa Miller March 4, 2011

Is this a variant of that elite condescension for ordinary folks who are “bitter,” and who “cling to guns and religion”?
Obama’s Turban Anxiety Tunku Varadarajan October 19, 2010

Historical Examples

I cannot, for it is evident that you love me, and such love is condemned by religion.
The Memoires of Casanova, Complete Jacques Casanova de Seingalt

Aspasia remained in Athens, triumphant over the laws of religion and morality.
Philothea Lydia Maria Child

religion is no way of life, no show of life, no observance of any sort.
Lippincott’s Magazine, Vol. 20, August 1877 Various

The influences of religion have been multiplied and strengthened.
United States Presidents’ Inaugural Speeches Various

The extension of the empire, therefore, is an extension of religion.
The Journal of Negro History, Volume 2, 1917 Various

belief in, worship of, or obedience to a supernatural power or powers considered to be divine or to have control of human destiny
any formal or institutionalized expression of such belief: the Christian religion
the attitude and feeling of one who believes in a transcendent controlling power or powers
(mainly RC Church) the way of life determined by the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience entered upon by monks, friars, and nuns: to enter religion
something of overwhelming importance to a person: football is his religion

the practice of sacred ritual observances
sacred rites and ceremonies


c.1200, “state of life bound by monastic vows,” also “conduct indicating a belief in a divine power,” from Anglo-French religiun (11c.), Old French religion “piety, devotion; religious community,” and directly from Latin religionem (nominative religio) “respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods; conscientiousness, sense of right, moral obligation; fear of the gods; divine service, religious observance; a religion, a faith, a mode of worship, cult; sanctity, holiness,” in Late Latin “monastic life” (5c.).

According to Cicero derived from relegere “go through again” (in reading or in thought), from re- “again” (see re-) + legere “read” (see lecture (n.)). However, popular etymology among the later ancients (Servius, Lactantius, Augustine) and the interpretation of many modern writers connects it with religare “to bind fast” (see rely), via notion of “place an obligation on,” or “bond between humans and gods.” In that case, the re- would be intensive. Another possible origin is religiens “careful,” opposite of negligens. In English, meaning “particular system of faith” is recorded from c.1300; sense of “recognition of and allegiance in manner of life (perceived as justly due) to a higher, unseen power or powers” is from 1530s.

To hold, therefore, that there is no difference in matters of religion between forms that are unlike each other, and even contrary to each other, most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and practice. And this is the same thing as atheism, however it may differ from it in name. [Pope Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, 1885]

Related Terms

get religion
see: get religion


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