The Study of Religion

Religion is a cultural system of beliefs, practices and ethics. It is a major factor that influences people’s lives. It is often viewed as a source of social conflict and violence and it encourages people to believe in miracles, spirituality and immortality. It is also seen as a guide to moral behaviour and an aid in the pursuit of happiness.

Generally, the study of Religion involves examining and analysing religious ideas, rituals, symbols, myths and beliefs and it is concerned with the structure or overall unity of religions. There are 12 classical religions in the world: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Baha’ism, Confucianism and Shinto. Each has various aspects including scriptures, priests, doctrines, rituals and ethical, social and emotional.

Some scholars, like Emile Durkheim, take a functional approach to religion where it is defined as the belief and practice that generates social solidarity. Other scholars, like Paul Tillich, use an axiological definition of religion where it is defined as whatever dominant concern helps to organize values in one’s life.

Some scientists, notably anthropologists, take the view that there is a biological origin to religion. They suggest that religion is an evolutionary adaptation that has emerged as a result of humankind’s need for meaning and purpose. Others, however, argue that there is a cultural or sociological origin to religion. In this view, humans created religion as a response to an environmental need or in order to control the uncontrollable.