Religion*(from O.Fr.*religion*"religious community," from L.*religionem(nom.*religio) "respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods," "obligation, the bond between man and the gods") is derived from the*Latin*religiÅ, the ultimate origins of which are obscure.
One possibility is an interpretation traced to*Cicero, connecting*lego"read", i.e.*re*(again) +*lego*in the sense of "choose", "go over again" or "consider carefully".
Modern scholars such as*Tom Harpur*and*Joseph Campbell*favor the derivation from*ligare*"bind, connect", probably from a prefixed*re-ligare, i.e.*re*(again) +*ligare*or "to reconnect," which was made prominent by*St. Augustine, following the interpretation of*Lactantius.*The medieval usage alternates with*order*in designating bonded communities like those of*monastic orders: "we hear of the 'religion' of the*Golden Fleece, of a knight 'of the*religion of Avys'".
In the ancient and medieval world, the etymological Latin root*religiowas understood as an individual virtue of worship, never as doctrine, practice, or actual source of knowledge.
The modern concept of "religion" as an abstraction which entails distinct sets of beliefs or doctrines is a recent invention in the English language since such usage began with texts from the 17th century due to the splitting of Christendom during the Protestant Reformation and more prevalent colonization or globalization in the age of exploration which involved contact with numerous foreign and indigenous cultures with non-European languages.
It was in the 17th century that the concept of "religion" received its modern shape despite the fact that ancient texts like the Bible, the Quran, and other ancient sacred texts did not have a concept of religion in the original languages and neither did the people or the cultures in which these sacred texts were written.
For example, the Greek word*threskeia, which was used by Greek writers such as Herodotus and Josephus and is found in texts like the New Testament, is sometimes translated as "religion" today, however, the term was understood as "worship" well into the medieval period.
In the Quran, the Arabic word "din" is often translated as "religion" in modern translations, but up to the mid-1600s translators expressed*din*as "law".
*Even in the 1st century AD, Josephus had used the Greek term*ioudaismos, which some translate as "Judaism" today, even though he used it as an ethnic term, not one linked to modern abstract concepts of religion as a set of beliefs.
It was in the 19th century that the terms "Buddhism", "Hinduism", "Taoism", and "Confucianism" first emerged.
Throughout its long history, Japan had no concept of "religion" since there was no corresponding Japanese word, nor anything close to its meaning, but when American warships appeared off the coast of Japan in 1853 and forced the Japanese government to sign treaties demanding, among other things, freedom of religion, the country had to contend with this Western idea.
According to the*philologist*Max MÃ¼ller*in the 19th century, the root of the English word "religion", the*Latin*religio, was originally used to mean only "reverence for God or the gods, careful pondering of divine things,*piety" (which*Cicero*further derived to mean "diligence").*Max MÃ¼ller*characterized many other cultures around the world, including Egypt, Persia, and India, as having a similar power structure at this point in history. What is called ancient religion today, they would have only called "law".
Many languages have words that can be translated as "religion", but they may use them in a very different way, and some have no word for religion at all.
For example, the*Sanskrit*word*dharma, sometimes translated as "religion", also means law. Throughout classical*South Asia, the*study of law*consisted of concepts such as*penance through piety*and*ceremonial as well as practical traditions. Medieval Japan at first had a similar union between "imperial law" and universal or "Buddha law", but these later became independent sources of power.
There is no precise equivalent of "religion" in Hebrew, and*Judaism does not distinguish clearly between religious, national, racial, or ethnic identities.
One of its central concepts is "halakha", sometimes translated as "law"", which guides religious practice and belief and many aspects of daily life.
The use of other terms, such as obedience to God or*Islam*are likewise grounded in particular histories and vocabularies.