Religion is a broad social phenomenon that can encompass a wide range of beliefs, practices, and behaviors. In a general sense it can be defined as “the belief in and/or worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.” But the definition of religion is more than that. It is a category of human phenomena that is distinguished by both its intensity and its comprehensiveness. It is the most intensive and complete method of valuation that humans experience.
It also deals with salvation, either in a literal fashion such as going to heaven after death as in Christianity or in a more symbolic sense such as reaching an end to suffering such as nirvana in Buddhism. It is a social phenomenon that involves a community and consists of believers and nonbelievers. It has an organizational structure with a clergy or priesthood, sacred rites and rituals, a holy book, a set of symbols, and special days, places, and objects.
The issue of defining religion has been a controversial one. Some scholars have argued that it is not possible to have a universal, objective definition of religion because there are too many variables. Others have argued that the idea of a religion is just that, a concept created at a particular time and place to serve certain purposes. This view has become known as a realist or lexical approach to the study of religion. Its proponents claim that a realist definition will not impose a presupposition about the nature of God and can avoid ethnocentric biases.