Difference between Ethnicity and Religion

Key Difference: Ethnicity is a method of classification based upon a common trait of the population, such as a common heritage, a common culture, a shared language or dialect. On the other hand, a religion is a belief in or the worship a god.

Ethnicity and religion are deeply connected. People of a common ethinic background often group themselves under the same religion, because building a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque helps them to establish their ethnic identity, and community.

Ethnicity is a method of classification based upon a common trait of the population, such as a common heritage, a common culture, a shared language or dialect. Ethnicity may also be based on common ancestry and religion. Some ethnic groups may be marked by little more than a common name. However, ethnic groups have a consciousness of their common cultural bond. The bond develops because of their unique historical and social experiences. This becomes the basis for the group’s ethnic identity.

Each ethnic group is different from the other. They have different cultural practices, different society norms, different mannerisms, and behaviors. They may or may not have different languages, dialects or accents. Each ethnic group has a different culture, tradition and customs. That which may be accepted in one ethnicity, may be taboo or frowned upon in another.

Religion is one of the factors that help define culture, and thus ethnicity.While no one definition can completely sum up what religion is, following are some definitions through which we’ll come to know what ‘Religion’ is:

  • "Religion: A general term used... to designate all concepts concerning the belief in god(s) and goddess (es) as well as other spiritual beings or transcendental ultimate concerns." ~ Penguin Dictionary of Religions (1997).
  • "Religion: Relation of human beings to God or the gods or to whatever they consider sacred or, in some cases, merely supernatural." ~ Britannica Concise Encyclopedia (online, 2006)
  • "Religion: Human beings' relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, spiritual, or divine." ~ Encyclopedia Britannica (online, 2006)
  • "Religion: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices; a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith." ~ Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (online, 2006)
  • "The religious response is a response to experience and is colored by the wish to provide a wider context for a fragile, short and turbulent life." ~ Philip Rousseau, the Early Christian Centuries (2002)

Religion is a man’s interpretation of God. The religious tradition is responsible for the creation of such concepts and practices as Heaven and Hell, Yoga, Ayurveda, Vastu, Jyotish, Yajna, Puja, Tantra, Vedanta, Karma, etc. Religion divides the world because the spiritual man is more concerned about another life and always puts his efforts to get into the right path without pressure from anyone.

Comparison between Ethnicity and Religion:





The term ethnicity is usually used to define a group of persons sharing a common cultural heritage.

Religion is an important component of any cultural heritage.

Groups share


Physical features



Common belief systems, but they are not necessarily a single ethnic group.


Ethnicity is the collection of cultural behaviors celebrated throughout regions around the world.

Religion is a collection of beliefs, morals, ethics, and lifestyles.

Image Courtesy: rohingyablogger.com, news.eastvillagers.org

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