What Is Religion?

Religion is a system of beliefs, values, and behaviours that helps order human experience. It is a central part of many cultures and can be seen in literature, music, art, dress codes, and the ways in which people organise their lives together.

Religion varies widely in terms of its origins, definitions, and practices but most of it is rooted in a need for an answer to ultimate questions about life and death. These questions may concern the nature of life, a kind creator who cares about humanity, or an explanation for the afterlife.

Some scientists, including anthropologists, believe that religious thought began in response to a biological need for spirituality. Others argue that it developed out of a need to deal with fear of an uncontrollable death, a desire for immortality, and a hope that there is an ultimate purpose to life.

Sociologists have argued that religion binds people together (social cohesion), promotes behavior consistency (social control), offers strength for people during life’s transitions and tragedies, and gives meaning to their lives. Emile Durkheim was one of the early sociologists to study religion in this way and is often credited with providing the first sociological perspective on the functions that religion serves for society.

Students who learn about the many different ways of being religious will be more well-rounded citizens in a democratic, pluralistic society. This can help them become better citizens and leaders of their communities in the future.

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