Religion, as a belief system, impacts what individuals believe and how they view the world. Religion, as a social institution, is a pattern of social behavior organized around the ideas and practices that individuals establish to solve existential issues. Religion provides answers to such questions as who we are after we die, how should we live today, and what will happen after we get to heaven or hell. It also offers guidance on how to conduct ourselves in relationships, how to manage our finances, and so forth.
The way someone interprets reality is called their worldview. Your worldview determines what you believe about everything from science to morality to God to eternity. It shapes how you think about events both past and future, and it has an impact on your actions.
Your worldview is shaped by many things, including your family, friends, teachers, mentors, celebrities, and popular media. However, it's also possible to change your worldview through personal investigation and evaluation. You can learn about different religions with the help of teachers, parents, peers, and experts. Then, using only evidence from these sources, you can make up your own mind about which beliefs are most likely true and which are not. Only you can decide what role your faith will play in this process.
After evaluating all the evidence, you come to believe something about some topics.
Religion, according to social scientists, exists as a structured and integrated system of beliefs, actions, and conventions focused on core social needs and values. Furthermore, religion is a cultural universal that may be found in all social groupings. Religion is therefore viewed as a major force in both producing and reproducing social inequality.
The study of religion has a long history within sociology. The term "sociology of religion" was first used by August Comte in 1853. Since then, many different schools of thought have emerged within sociology with regard to how best to understand religion. Today, most scholars would agree that understanding religion requires looking at it from multiple perspectives—both quantitative and qualitative—and through the lenses of various theoretical frameworks.
One school of thought within sociology is known as the "functionalist approach". Functionalists believe that religion is an important part of any society because it provides structure and meaning to people's lives. It acts as a form of self-expression for individuals who are unable or unwilling to do so otherwise, and it helps society to function effectively by promoting morality and instilling civic responsibility. Some famous functionalists include Emile Durkheim and William Graham Sumner.
Another school of thought is known as the "confessional approach". Confessionals view religion as one aspect of a person's identity that influences their behavior throughout their life.
Religious beliefs are a broad set of concepts and values that determine how members of a religious organization perceive the world around them (see Tables 15.1 and 15.2 below). They characterize religion's cognitive element.
All religions have some beliefs about the nature of reality and the proper conduct of life. These include questions such as: What is the purpose of human existence? Is there a God who cares for us? If so, what role does he or she play in our lives? What will happen after we die? Are some people predestined to do good works, while others are not? The answers to these kinds of questions form the basis of most religions.
In addition to beliefs about the nature of reality, all religions have teachings on how to live a moral life. They include recommendations such as: Live in harmony with your neighbors. Do not kill. Do not steal. Treat others as you would like to be treated. These types of guidelines shape individuals' behaviors by providing them with an ethical framework within which to make decisions.
Finally, all religions have rituals that help construct social bonds between members of a community and give rise to shared experiences. Rituals may include prayer meetings, worship services, self-sacrificial acts such as fasting or temple service, and celebration events such as baptisms or weddings.