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Introduction

Religion is a social-cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements. However, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion.

Different religions may or may not contain various elements ranging from the divine, sacred things, faith, a supernatural being or supernatural beings or "some sort of ultimacy and transcendence that will provide norms and power for the rest of life". Religious practices may include rituals, sermons, commemoration or veneration (of deities), sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trances, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer, music, art, dance, public service, or other aspects of human culture. Religions have sacred histories and narratives, which may be preserved in sacred scriptures, and symbols and holy places, that aim mostly to give a meaning to life. Religions may contain symbolic stories, which are sometimes said by followers to be true, that have the side purpose of explaining the origin of life, the universe, and other things. Traditionally, faith, in addition to reason, has been considered a source of religious beliefs.

There are an estimated 10,000 distinct religions worldwide, but about 84% of the world's population is affiliated with one of the five largest religion groups, namely Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or forms of folk religion. The religiously unaffiliated demographic includes those who do not identify with any particular religion, atheists, and agnostics. While the religiously unaffiliated have grown globally, many of the religiously unaffiliated still have various religious beliefs.

The study of religion encompasses a wide variety of academic disciplines, including theology, comparative religion and social scientific studies. Theories of religion offer various explanations for the origins and workings of religion, including the ontological foundations of religious being and belief.

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Shroud of Turin
Credit: Secondo Pia

The Shroud of Turin (or Turin Shroud) is an ancient linen cloth bearing the image of a man who appears to have been physically traumatized in a manner consistent with crucifixion. The image can not be seen on the shroud with the naked eye and for several centuries the shroud had been displayed without it. The image was first observed in 1989 on the reverse photographic plate when amateur photographer Secondo Pia was unexpectedly allowed to photograph it. Some believe it is the cloth that covered Jesus when he was placed in his tomb. Skeptics contend the shroud is a medieval hoax or forgery.

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India's "Father of the Nation" - Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Gujarati: મોહનદાસ કરમચંદ ગાંધી, Hindi: मोहनदास करमचंद गांधी, IAST: mohandās karamcand gāndhī, [moːhənd̪aːs kərəmtʃənd̪ ɡaːnd̪ʱiː]) (October 2, 1869 – January 30, 1948), was a major political and spiritual leader of India and the Indian independence movement. In India, he is recognized as the Father of the Nation. October 2nd, his birthday, is each year commemorated as Gandhi Jayanti, and is a national holiday. He was the pioneer of Satyagraha—the resistance of tyranny through mass civil disobedience, firmly founded upon ahimsa or total non-violence—which led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Gandhi is commonly known in India and across the world as Mahatma Gandhi (Hindi: महात्मा, məhatma ; from Sanskrit, mahātmā: Great Soul) and as Bapu (in Gujarati, Father).

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