Religion is a broad category that can encompass many diverse traditions and beliefs. It may include beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, only subscribed to by a small number of people, or appear illogical and unreasonable to others. It may also be defined as a set of rituals, music, moral teachings, and social and political actions. It can even include the belief that one’s soul survives after death.
There are over 6.2 billion religious believers in the world today. Some are actively proselytizing for their particular faith. Whether they are followers of Christianity, Islam or Buddhism there is no doubt that these religions are very influential in the lives of their members and in society as a whole.
For centuries, people have wondered about their place in the universe and why they are here on earth. The practice of religion is a human attempt to answer these questions, and it does succeed in providing its followers with structure, a code of ethics and a sense of purpose. Often, religions promise an afterlife that can provide comfort and stability to followers in the midst of life’s uncertainties.
Some researchers, like Emile Durkheim, believe that religion acts as a social glue holding societies together. Others, such as Paul Tillich, focus on its axiological function of organizing personal values. Still, most scholars agree that the definition of religion is not definitive. A more appropriate approach is a polythetic definition that recognizes many properties that are common to religions without fastening on any one of them as their essence.