Religion is the set of beliefs, practices and values that characterize a group. The concept of religion as a social genus has been around for at least two thousand years, though the emergence of such a labeling may have begun with the development of language. The word religion itself may have been derived from the Latin religio, a synonym for scrupulousness or devotedness.
The first substantive definitions of religion determined membership in this category based on the presence of belief in a distinctive kind of reality, such as heaven or hell, an afterlife, a cosmological order, or a supernatural being. More recently, a more functional approach to this concept has emerged. For example, Emile Durkheim defined religion as whatever system of practices unite people into a moral community (whether or not those systems involve belief in unusual realities).
Another way of defining religion is to see it as the set of emotions and motivations that are established through the formulation of conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing those concepts with an aura of factuality. This is the approach favored by American anthropologist Clifford Geertz.
Still others take the position that religion is the complex set of emotional and motivational attachments that a person develops through a variety of experiences in life, such as childhood traumas or relationship problems. In this case, a person develops a spiritual belief system to deal with those traumatic experiences and may also use this spiritual system as a means of finding support and meaning in their lives.