Usually defined as a social-cultural system, religion consists of beliefs, worldviews, organizations, rituals, morals, and texts. Organized religions have specific codes and criteria that guide the behavior of their members.
Religious institutions often guard the practice of their religion and adhere to the original interpretations of their founder’s teachings. They also often promise rewards for following their beliefs and punishments for breaking them.
While religions are often deeply rooted in doctrine and rituals, they can still serve as a social support network for people who share them. Often, the core social function of religion is to provide people with a sense of purpose and encourage healthy behaviors.
The effectiveness of religion depends on how religious belief is explained and practiced. Individualism weakens the social function of religion.
Religions often include teachings from archetypal figures, such as Jesus or Buddha. These teachings are passed down through oral tradition and written scriptures. People can also become familiar with a religious founder through a biography or parable.
The purpose of religion is to encourage people to develop character and communicate with a higher power. Religions also teach surrender to the divine. The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount amplified this message.
Religions usually contain a fear of punishment and a belief that people will face divine retribution after death. These fears can lead people to be unwilling to trust their instincts. They also can give religion a bad name.
A large number of people say that religion has a positive impact on their lives. More than half of adults in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Italy say religion gives them meaning and purpose. In Portugal, more than half say religion helps them discern right from wrong.