What Is Religion?


Religion is a system of beliefs and practices that gives meaning to life. It encourages people to choose good over evil, right over wrong, and truth over lies. It also helps people overcome fear of punishment in the afterlife. Many religions provide a moral code that forms the basis of laws in modern-day society.

Religious beliefs and practices have shaped every culture on earth. They have influenced the arts, including music, dance, drama, poetry, and art, as well as agriculture, food production, and the explorations of the cosmos that issued into what became the natural sciences.

In fact, all known societies have practiced religions, although the nature of religious belief and practice has varied greatly from one society to another. Emile Durkheim, a 19th century sociologist, is credited with being the first to analyze religion from a sociological perspective. He believed that the main function of religion was to bind people together (social cohesion), promote behavior consistency (social control), and give people strength during life’s tragedies and transitions (meaning and purpose).

Some scholars have criticized this view by arguing that narrow definitions of religion exclude important aspects such as belief in a supreme deity or the afterlife, or the practice of idolatry. Other scholars have criticized this approach by claiming that it is illegitimate to apply a scientific model to a religious phenomenon that does not fit the model, or that it is unwise to ignore the richness of religious experience in the world.

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