Religion is a large and complex phenomenon with many diverse beliefs, practices, institutions, and values. It is also a major force in our world today, sometimes working in harmony with and other times in antagonism to government power. Hence it is important for people to know about religions and their role in society.
There is an ongoing debate about the nature of religion that cuts across disciplines, including anthropology, history, philosophy, psychology, religious studies, sociology, and most recently cognitive science. This debate has resulted in a wide variety of views on what religion is. In the broadest sense, religion can be defined as any system of belief or ritual behavior that is held to be true by a group of people. This definition is often contrasted with the more narrow view that religion consists of those faith traditions that have a supernatural component and an explicit metaphysics.
Both of these definitions are flawed in a number of ways. They are too broad because they include belief in ghosts and other spirits, and they are too narrow because they fail to recognize faith traditions that stress immanence or oneness, such as Jainism, Buddhism, and Daoism. In addition, they are ethnocentric in the sense that they focus on Western religions and assume that those religions are the only ones with any validity.