Religion is a complex set of beliefs, values and practices that influence the way people think about the world and their place in it. It includes rituals, rites, symbols, and myths as well as prayer, moral conduct, and belief. It often combines with art, music, architecture, and social institutions to form the backbone of many societies’ welfare networks. In addition, it may offer guidance and support for those struggling with illness or death. But, despite its ubiquity, it is hard to define. In the past, scholars have approached the definition of religion in a number of ways. Some have favored the notion that religion is a taxon, a category concept whose paradigmatic examples are the so-called world religions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Others have favored the notion that religion is primarily a phenomenon that manifests itself in social institutions, and that it is impossible to understand religion without considering these social structures. Still others have tried to develop a theory of religion by studying the structure and function of religious institutions.
Psychologists and neuroscientists have also made important contributions to our understanding of religion. They suggest that religions evolved as a response to human curiosity and fear of uncontrollable forces and provided people with hope by promising life after death, a god watching over them, or a meaning for their lives. This hope can provide a sense of stability and belonging to people, as well as a framework for ethical behavior.