You may have noticed that many religious words originally had rather ordinary meanings. These words, usually in crossing language barriers, became more intense in meaning and then gradually restricted to their present-day usage. For example, the Latin word for shepherd has become our English word pastor.
Religion is another such word with its roots in a simple and basic definition. According to Websters New Collegiate Dictionary, the ordinary meaning of this word is: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith. This definition identifies Christianity, idolatry, and even atheism as religions.