Religion, ideally, serves several functions for society: giving meaning and purpose to life; reinforcing social unity and stability; serving as an agent of social control of behavior; promoting psychological and physical well-being; and motivating people to work for positive social change.
Religious practices, rituals and ceremonies are often deeply intense experiences and may include crying, laughing, screaming, trancelike conditions, a feeling of oneness with those around you, and other emotional and psychological states. They can be transformative for some, while others may find them deeply distressing and destructive.
The origins of religion are debated among anthropologists (scientists who study human societies and human origins). Some scientists believe that religion originated as a response to either a biological need or as a response to death.
Other anthropologists believe that religion evolved in response to a cultural need. This is sometimes called a symbolic interactionist approach to religion. They claim that religion is a system of beliefs and practices connected to a divine or supernatural component that uniquely impacts the adherent’s worldview, behavior, belief, culture, morality, and approach to certain writings, persons, or places.
Depending on the perspective taken, religion can reinforce or perpetuate inequality and other problems in society. Some perspectives also claim that it can help to bring people together and promote community ties, but other approaches may say that it is a source of conflict and stress. Regardless of the perspective taken, religion is an essential part of our social lives and should not be excluded from our public life.