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An Overview of Religion

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Religion has an enormous influence on people and societies. It is a major source of unity and cohesiveness and provides spiritual guidance and a moral framework for life. It can also be a source of stress, division and conflict in family relationships, the workplace and the wider society. It is therefore important for politicians, teachers, psychologists and psychiatrists to have a clear understanding of this phenomenon. This article provides an overview of the concept of Religion and looks at how it has evolved in history. It also explores some of the different theories about the origins and development of Religion.

It is common to think of Religion as a social taxon, a kind of cultural category that contains sets of practices with something in common. These are often defined either substantively or functionally. For example, Durkheim’s definition turns on the social function of creating solidarity or Paul Tillich’s definition turns on the axiological function of providing orientation in life.

These approaches tend to treat religion as a universal phenomenon that appears in every culture and that is inevitable in human life. They are sometimes defended by using an argument from design that argues that it is necessary that religion exists because the world needs a spiritual dimension and that this is what makes it human. Such arguments are flawed because they ignore the fact that human beings are not just a product of their environment but are also a creative and intelligent species.

In contrast to these logical and philosophical approaches is the view that religion is an experience. This involves an intuitional grasp of the transcendent or supernatural, a feeling of being thrown into something bigger than oneself or at the mercy of a greater power, and a belief that there is a reason for existence. This view is usually based on the experience of evil or suffering, which can trigger religious experiences in some people. However, there are many other experiences that can have a similar effect. For example, the experience of awe or beauty in nature can trigger religious feelings.

There is also a view that claims that the essential aspect of religion is the act of communicating with a divine agent or a deity. This can be done through worship, which includes prayer and meditation, or through a prophet. There are a wide variety of religions that fit this criteria, from monotheism to polytheism, from Christianity and Islam to Hinduism and Buddhism. It is important to note, however, that it is possible to be religious without believing in a god or having any beliefs in the afterlife.

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