The United States has a diverse religious population. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly a third of American adults identify as religious. However, the majority of those who are religious have a positive opinion of religion. In general, younger adults and women have a more positive attitude toward religion than older adults and college graduates.
Religion is an organized system of beliefs that guides behavior. Its leaders carry out rituals that emphasize core beliefs and lay the foundation for a person’s life. Like a social network, religion has practical implications that influence daily living. For example, members of a particular religion often follow distinct dress codes, moral codes, and actions mandated by a supernatural being.
Religion and spirituality are related but distinct from one another. While spirituality is a personal experience of the divine, religion involves a group of people who are united by a common belief system. While spirituality seeks to explore a sacred destination, religion focuses on building character and fostering community. It is often associated with rules and observance of certain values, while spirituality focuses on the individual’s experience of the divine.
Religions have played a significant role in imposing limitations on human action and protecting the physical and psychological integrity of human beings. As such, they have contributed to the development of human rights. However, religions have not been immune from criticism. Many religious philosophies may be contradictory or promote harmful practices.