Religion is a remarkably diverse and persistent phenomenon in human life. Its pervasiveness and power throughout history make the study of religion a crucial academic endeavor.
The word religion derives from the Latin nobis religio, meaning “our way of worship.” Religion, as a concept in antiquity, referred to a particular group’s scrupulous devotion to a god or gods. Over time, it came to be defined more broadly, as a social genus or cultural type. Some scholars, such as Durkheim, have embraced a functional definition, arguing that religious practices create a sense of solidarity among members of a group. Other scholars, such as Paul Tillich, have favored an axiological approach that defines religion as whatever concerns a person’s values (whether or not those concerns include belief in unusual realities).
While some people feel drawn to the beliefs and rituals of a religion, others are more interested in the sense of community and tradition that it offers. Some research has found that being a member of a religion can improve health outcomes. It may be because of the stress relief provided by religion, or because of the healthful behaviors encouraged by some religions.
For example, many people find it helpful to talk about their religious faith with friends and family, or to seek spiritual guidance from a religious leader. It is also important to read the Holy Books of a religion that you are interested in learning about. Often these texts are lengthy and complex, but they will provide you with a broad overview of how that religion is set up.