Religion is the name given to a set of beliefs, practices and rites that includes a worldview and often a morality. It is a significant element in the life of most people and it plays a role in their decisions about their work, marriage, family, health, education, and social behavior. It is also a source of strength and hope for two-thirds of the world’s population. Totally secular approaches to public policy, psychotherapy and other professions do not fully recognize this important dimension of people’s lives.
Religious belief varies greatly, but some form of religion exists in all known cultures. It may be a natural religion such as the belief in spirits and forces of nature, or it may be a supernatural religion. It is a fundamental aspect of most human societies and, according to Edward Burnett Tylor (1871-1910), it names an inevitable feature of the human condition.
In the higher religions man finds a spiritual communion with a Deity in which he hopes to find help, relief and happiness. He is led voluntarily to make certain acts of homage and to conform his conduct to recognized standards of morality.
Emile Durkheim (1915) stressed the social functions of religion and the importance that it has for a society. This perspective is a major one in sociological analysis today, but there are other theories of religion as well. German philosopher Friedrich Hegel, for example, saw it as a stage in the evolution of mankind; and French sociologists Auguste Comte and Ninian Smart have developed a positivistic approach to the concept.