Religion is a social genus or cultural type that encompasses a range of beliefs and practices. The term is derived from the Latin religio, which approximates to scrupulousness or adherence to taboos and promises, and a sense of obligated loyalty. Its use as an abstract taxon to sort social types has given rise to several philosophical issues, similar to those that surround other taxonomic concepts such as literature and democracy.
It is generally accepted that religion developed in response to human curiosity about the big questions of life and death, and a fear of uncontrollable forces. In its early forms, it gave hope to the individual through belief in a future afterlife, divine retribution for sins, and protection from uncontrollable natural events. It also provided community control through rituals, a structure for governing societies, and figures of authority and morality.
Some scholars argue that to limit the definition of religion to specific beliefs and practices misses its essential nature as a social glue for groups of people to come together. They would prefer to see it as a system of morality and governance, although this does not exclude the idea that a God exists.
Many scholars believe that a religious concept is a subjective one because there are no observable, empirical criteria by which it can be judged, as there are for a wide range of empirical claims in the physical world. It must be inferred from texts describing beliefs and stories, as well as the inner sentiments that these evoke in believers.