What Is Religion?


Religion is a broad social phenomenon that consists of beliefs, values and practices. It is an important part of many cultures. It provides moral/ethical and economic foundations, as well as explanations of the natural world and human life. In its social functions, it promotes social cohesion and creates solidarity. It may also be a source of psychological and emotional strength. It is often a source of motivation and direction in life. Research shows that people who practice religion are healthier, learn more, live longer, have less stress and depression, and are more likely to exercise – behavior doctors overwhelmingly recommend for health.

The 19th century was a formative period for modern studies of Religion, as scholars developed theories based on empirical study and new scientific methods of inquiry. These contributed to the growth of archaeology and anthropology and provided for the first time systematic knowledge of cultures worldwide.

Substantive definitions of Religion — focusing on belief, personal experience and the dichotomy between the natural and supernatural — are sometimes criticised as being ethnocentric in the way that they only consider the religions of the West and fail to include faith traditions that emphasize immanence or oneness like Buddhism, Jainism (see Jaina philosophy and Jainism), and Daoism.

A functional definition of Religion focuses on the social function of creating solidarity and the axiological functions of providing orientation in life. It has also been argued that since beliefs in disembodied spirits and cosmological orders are common to all human societies, religion names an inevitable feature of the human condition.

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