Religion is a system of beliefs, values, and practices concerning what a person holds sacred or considers to be spiritually significant. Many people agree that religious beliefs are an essential part of their lives.
It is a social institution that is based on shared beliefs and values, and it is an integral part of culture. It also has a strong influence on the way we organise our lives, our culture and our politics.
Typically, religion has four major features: belief in something, the use of disciplinary practices to regulate behaviour, a unified system of belief and practice, and a group of institutional structures to manage the religious community. The classical view is that each of these features has a defining property that makes it count as a religion.
Durkheim, the founder of sociology, argued that religion is about community: it binds people together (social cohesion), promotes consistency in behaviour (social control), and offers strength for people during life’s transitions and tragedies (meaning and purpose). In addition to these social benefits, religion has been shown to improve mental wellbeing.
Some of the benefits of religion include:
Most Americans have at least some faith in some form or another, and most people attend a church, synagogue or temple at some point in their lives. But it’s important to distinguish between the intrinsic practice of religion – that is, religious belief and practices – and the extrinsic practice of religion – that is, participation in a mass religious practice or joining a religious group.