Religion gives meaning to life and teaches people how to treat others, as well as themselves. It provides a sense of belonging and a purpose for living, offers guidance and moral teachings, and encourages participants to work for positive social change.
Religion also provides a way to deal with death, and what comes next. Most Religions believe in a supernatural agency that created the Universe and guides human lives. Religious practices include praying, attending worship services, reading holy texts, meditating and celebrating holidays throughout the year. Some religions allow their followers to show devotion through physical acts of worship, such as lighting candles and laying flowers on a shrine or altar.
Religious beliefs and rituals can be deeply intense, involving crying, screaming or even entering a trancelike state. Some of these experiences may be transformative, while for many people they simply feel meaningful and moving.
For some scholars, the idea that religion names a social reality rather than an interior state has sounded revolutionary. But, for the most part, this approach has remained in the realm of theory. Most attempts to analyze the concept of religion fall into one of two categories:
Many are “monothetic” in that they operate with the classical view that every instance of a thing will have a defining property that accurately describes it. But the last several decades have seen an emergence of “polythetic” approaches, which reject this classical model and treat all instances of a thing as having a prototype structure.