A Working Definition of Religion

A religion* is a system of thought generally composed of ancestral or cultural traditions and practices, a set of narratives, history, symbols and myth (foundational views about reality, deity or deities, humanity and the origin of the universe). Religion frequently generates a philosophy of life, a code of ethics and ritual.

Breaking the fast, San Francisco, CA, USA
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Adherents may be united in spiritual kinship by a common identity and references to a higher power or ultimate truth. The main function of religion is to reconcile human beings with themselves and all that transcends them: others, their surroundings and the inexplicable.

* No definition of religion is totally satisfactory. Etymologically, the term is believed to be derived from the Latin words religio (conscience, scrupulous attention, sacred commitment) and religare (to bind or tie together).
Although some of the spiritual traditions presented here be more readily identifiable as such than others, these nine broad value systems are treated as religions in the context of this Project: Local religions (animist), Bahá’í Faith, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islam, Jewish and Taoist as well as the Humanist traditions which include Agnostic, Spiritual and Atheist groups.

While the traditions in the first group may be readily identified as religious or spiritual traditions, adherents to the Humanist traditions may understandably find the term inadequate. Nevertheless, all of these traditions are inherently dependent upon references to either some form of ultimate truth, goodness or other-ness.