The Nature of Religion
Religion is a system of thoughts, feelings, and actions that are shared by a group. It gives its members an object of devotion, usually a god or spiritual concept; it also involves a code of ethics by which individuals may judge the personal and social consequences of their behavior.
Religious beliefs are based on concepts about forces and powers beyond human control. They give people a sense of meaning and purpose in life, reinforce social unity and stability, and serve as agents of social control.
A number of theories have been proposed to analyze the nature of religion. Some have emphasized the psychological, such as Freud’s obsessional neurosis theory. Others have focused on the social, such as Durkheim’s functional approach.
Symbolic interactionists, for example, look at rituals and other forms of religious behavior as symbols that convey the meaning of religion. These may include tears, laughing, chanting, screaming, trancelike states, and feelings of oneness with the people around you.
Critical theorists, on the other hand, see religion as an institution that helps maintain patterns of social inequality. They argue that religion has been used to support oppressive monarchs and justify unequal social structures, such as India’s caste system.
Religion is a complex phenomenon, and it can be difficult to define precisely what counts as religious. Attempts have been made to identify a central element that distinguishes all religions, but many of these attempts have failed. It is also important to note that, even if a definition were established, there are many religions with different characteristics.