The Study of Religion


Religion is a set of beliefs and practices that serve several purposes: It provides meaning in life, gives identity, provides a framework for ethical behavior, provides a source of social stability and control, and may motivate people to work for social change. Nearly 6.5 billion people around the world participate in some form of religion. The concept of religion varies widely and encompasses Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. It also includes newer movements such as Scientology and Rastafarianism.

Religious beliefs and practices can influence every aspect of life, from the smallest daily interactions to the most grand events. Studies show that religiosity is linked to lower rates of divorce, crime, and out-of-wedlock births. It can help alleviate stress, depression, and anxiety, and can increase a person’s sense of purpose, belonging, and well-being. It is even linked to longer lives.

The study of Religion includes all the major areas of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, value theory (including moral theory and applied ethics), and the history of ideas. It is a complex and rich subject that requires sophisticated analysis.

Almost all religions include some version of the idea that there is an unseen power that makes the universe and human life meaningful. Many religions also deal with salvation, either in a literal sense such as in heaven or hell, or in a more symbolic sense such as finding peace and happiness (“nirvana”) after death. A religion may also have sacred books, a clergy or priesthood, and special days, places, symbols, and rites that are considered holy.