Religion is a broad term that refers to human beings’ relationship to that which they regard as holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of especial reverence. It also includes their concerns about life after death and the ultimate questions about their place in the universe. It is an integral part of many people’s lives and social relationships and influences their society and political life locally, nationally and globally.
In the history of the world, religions have been a source of social cohesion and peace; they have also been a cause of violence, hostility and discrimination. Individuals and entire communities have been ready to persecute, kill, and go to war over religious differences.
A proper definition of religion requires a careful examination of its characteristics and functions in different historical contexts. The goal is to discover a conception that is adequate for each and every one of these contexts. This task is especially difficult if the goal is to produce a universally adequate definition of religion that can be applied in all instances of human society.
The earliest social theorists examined the relationship between religion and society in order to develop an understanding of how religion affects individuals and their societies. These theorists included Karl Marx (1818-1883), Emile Durkheim (1902-1993), and Max Weber (1860-1920).
They argued that religion was an important source of solidarity and social control, but it also reflected societal stratification and inequality. They criticized religion for promoting class inequalities and economic suffering, and they warned that it encouraged social conflict and hostility.
Another aspect of religion that was overlooked in the nineteenth century was the conceptual dimension. This emphasis was common among anthropologists and philosophers of religion in the Western world. It overlooked the cultic and ethical aspects of religion, and it underestimated the structural complexity and historical complexity of so-called primitive forms of religion.
However, this emphasis on the conceptual dimension of religion was not necessary, nor was it necessarily a good idea. As a result, it has taken a long time for the social sciences and humanities to rethink this perspective.
Today, a growing number of scholars take a more reflexive approach to the study of religion. They argue that the concept of religion shifts according to a scholar’s definition, and this fact should alert scholars to the arbitrary nature of the use of the term religion in particular.
Moreover, even when the concept of religion is used in a way that is not arbitrary, the term has been abused. For example, the Puritans’ persecution of non-Puritans shows that religion can be used to coerce people into a particular social identity. It is not surprising that this tactic has led to social conflict and violence throughout history, and it is a factor in the development of modern societies.