Colorado Technical University
What is religion? A very broad definition according to Understanding religion is: religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that relate humanity to spirituality and sometimes, to moral values. Some religions place emphasis on belief while others emphasize practice. However it is described, religion plays an important role in our society. Religion can be described as having three major functions in society. First, it provides social cohesion to help maintain social solidarity through shared rituals and beliefs. This is important as it helps us unite in a common belief no matter what station in life we are. Religion also exerts some indirect social control by enforcing religious based morals and norms (Understanding religion). Some examples are how religion teaches of values like higher qualities of love, mercy, generosity, and kindness to each other. Finally, religion can help offer meaning and purpose to answer existential questions.
Religion also impacts society in other ways. Studies have shown that religious people are happier and less stressed than their non-religious counterparts. Some of the reasons for this effect are more social contact. The religious group is basically another large network of support (Understanding religion ). Most church groups are very supportive of their members whether it is psychological, material, or practical. The religious group also incorporates coping strategies for individuals dealing with stress or even existential questions (Understanding religion). This is accomplished through people to just listen or offer advice. It even extends to actual counseling or even group programs through the community. In a sense a church can become a very important social center for a community offering a wide range of services and support.
Some terms used in religion are profane, sacred, faith, and ritual. Profane is defined as not sacred or holy; non-religious or secular (Merriam-Webster). It is sometimes a term used to describe when someone defiles or harbors contempt for sacred religious principles. The term is also unfortunately used when describing other religious practices if they are contrary to your chosen religious principals. In contrast sacred is defined as worthy of religious worship or very holy (Merriam-Webster). This term is used to describe places of worship or objects used in religious practices. Faith is defined as a strong belief or trust in someone or something (Merriam-Webster ). Faith is used to describe the religious system. You have to believe or trust in your religious beliefs in order to follow them. Ritual is a practice that is always done in a particular situation and in the same way each time (Merriam-Webster ). Most religions have some sort of ritual as part of their belief system. An example is baptizing children or taking communion.
Karl Marx had an interesting view on religion. According to Karl Marx, religion is only dependent economics, so much so that the actual religious doctrines are almost irrelevant (Cline, Austin). He did recognize the social cohesion and purpose that religion provided however he did not agree with the how religion operated. As a result he argued that religion was not really for the "greater good or salvation." To support his theories, Marx cited three reasons why he disliked religion. First, he stated