Religion is a way of life that many people choose to follow. This can involve a belief in a God and praying for the wellbeing of others and the environment. It can also involve a holy text that people read and use as a guide for their daily lives.
The concept of religion has a long and complex history. It has shifted its meanings over time, and this history makes it clear that the range of practices now considered to fall within this category is far wider than was originally the case.
In the ancient world, the word “religion” was used to refer to the way people dealt with their ultimate concerns. This range of concerns included the belief in a supernatural agency (such as a god or goddess) that created and controlled the universe.
Over the centuries, a number of philosophers have sought to sort religious practices into categories according to their distinctive qualities. These categories include cosmic, polytheistic, and theistic versions.
Some of these definitions are based on a substantive approach, such as those developed by Emile Durkheim (1912), who defines religion as whatever system of practices unite a number of people into a single moral community (whether or not those practices involve belief in any unusual realities). Another such definition is based on a functional approach, such as those proposed by Paul Tillich (1957) and James Davison Brookes (2002).
One of the underlying assumptions of all these approaches is that religion provides individuals with a sense of significance, purpose, and direction in their lives. These factors are linked with better well-being and prosocial behaviour. Moreover, it has been shown that religious communities are more resilient than secular ones and continue to thrive for longer periods of time (Norenzayan and Shariff 2008; Sosis and Ruffle 2003).