What is Religion?
Religion is a belief in the existence of a supreme being or gods, and is often associated with ritual and a sense of sacredness. It typically deals with salvation in one form or another, whether it is a literal sense of heaven after death, as in Christianity, or a more symbolic sense of ending suffering and finding peace, as in Buddhism. Religion also usually involves a particular organization and worship, sacred texts, holy days, rites and rituals, a clergy or priesthood that administers the faith, and a specific set of symbols and iconography.
There are a number of different theories about the origins of Religion. Some anthropologists, scientists who study human societies and cultures, believe that religion grew out of the need of early humans to control uncontrollable parts of their environment, such as the weather or the success of a hunt. They argue that people tried to do this through both manipulation, such as magic, and supplication, through Religion.
Other researchers, including psychologists and neuroscientists, have suggested that humans may have created religion to satisfy emotional or psychological needs. They argue that religious beliefs can provide a framework for understanding the world, and give people a sense of meaning and purpose. And they point to scientific studies that show that being part of a religious community can improve people’s ability to cope with stress. Blaise Pascal, a seventeenth century French philosopher, used this evidence in his famous wager that if there was even a chance that the universe was created by a God, then taking the leap of faith was the mathematically rational choice.