The Study of Religion


Religious life is a series of beliefs, practices and values that unite members of a particular religion. It includes such elements as worship, moral conduct, right belief and participation in a religious institution, such as a church or temple.

The study of religion is an essential part of any curriculum and, increasingly, a necessary component in any society that wants to understand other cultures and their beliefs. It is also a powerful tool for developing a pluralistic, peaceful democracy by teaching students the deepest values, social identities and aspirations that shape the world.

A unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is, things set apart and forbidden – the religion or belief system consists of beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them.

According to Durkheim, a religion is an “extension of a given belief in a particular order of existence” (47). He also notes that there are several different ways of defining religion, ranging from an empirical approach that relies on evidence, to a holistic and intangible definition that considers moods, motivations and underlying attitudes.

An empirical approach aims to identify the main components of a religion and, as a result, can help make sense of a complex social structure like a religious society. It can also allow a researcher to determine what makes a religion unique in its particular culture.

The earliest forms of religion, such as those in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, were polytheistic. These belief systems were based on a variety of sources including tribal totems, ancestor worship and beliefs in guardian and protective gods.

Some anthropologists suggest that early forms of religion grew out of human curiosity about the big questions of life and death and out of the fear of uncontrollable forces. They also believed that religion developed out of human attempts to control their environment through rituals and magic.

However, others argue that religious beliefs emerged out of a need to understand the process of life and to deal with death in a manner that would not be destructive to the individual or the group. This view is supported by many scientists who specialize in the study of human history and biology.

In practice, humans often use religion to control the uncontrollable and provide comfort and security. This could be in the form of a religious ceremony or ritual, such as a wedding or funeral, or a belief that gods or goddesses are watching over people or that their souls can go to heaven after they die.

These beliefs and practices have evolved over time in societies around the world and across early human species, reflecting the changing needs of a population and their experiences on the ground. Some societies are very organized and have a highly structured religious and spiritual life, while others are less organized and more flexible in their religions.

Religion has a strong impact on the cultural landscape, and is reflected in art, music, literature and dress codes. It is a driving force behind the formation of many social institutions and organizations, including hospitals, educational institutions, and charitable organizations.