Organized religion (or organised religionâ€"see spelling differences), also known as institutional religion, is religion as a social institution, in which belief systems and rituals are systematically arranged and formally established. Organized religion is typically characterized by an official doctrine (or dogma), a hierarchical or bureaucratic leadership structure, and a codification of rules and practices.

The term organized religion is frequently used in the mass media to refer to the world's largest religious groups, especially those known by name internationally, and it also refers to organizations with which one can legally or officially affiliate oneself or not.

Organized religion is distinguished from the broader idea of religion especially in anthropology, sociology, and philosophy. American philosopher William James describes that

Religion... shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude... in relation to whatever they may consider the divine. Since the relation may be either moral, physical, or ritual, it is evident that out of religion in the sense in which we take it, theologies, philosophies, and ecclesiastical organizations may secondarily grow.

James further comments that the essential elements of "institutional religion" are "worship and sacrifice, procedures for working on the dispositions of the deity [i.e.] theology, and ceremony and ecclesiastical organization."

Organized religion seems to have gained prevalence since the Neolithic era with the rise of wide-scale civilization and agriculture. Organized religions may include a state's official religion, for example reified by a state church; however, most political states have any number of organized religions practiced within their jurisdiction. Due to their structured, standardized, and so easily proliferated form, organized religions comprise many of the world's major religious groups. The Abrahamic religions are all largely considered organized (including Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Bahá'í Faith), as well as some schools of thought within Indian religions (for example, some schools of Hinduism and Buddhism). Religions that are not considered organized, or only loosely so, include many indigenous and folk religions, such as traditional African religions, Native American religions, and prehistoric religions, as well as personal religions including most strands of Hinduism. Even though a few Hindu monasteries and religious institutions have organized themselves, these are local to the organizations affecting only their adherents and have very little impact on the rest of the religious practices.


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