Religion is a cultural system that gives its members an object of devotion, a community with shared beliefs and values, and a code of behavior. It deals with the supernatural, spiritual, or transcendent, about forces and powers that are beyond human control. It also has a moral component that helps people determine what is right and wrong.
Religions give meaning to life, providing a sense of purpose and significance. They have provided inspiration for some of the most magnificent of human creations – art and architecture, music, dance, drama, poetry, and explorations of the cosmos that issued into natural science. They have also served as an important source of entertainment, and have offered a sense of belonging to many individuals.
They have also posed dangers, with religious beliefs and values sometimes providing the fuel for intolerance, cruelty, bigotry, social oppression and self-opinionated nastiness. And in some cases, religious zeal has led to wars and violence against other communities.
Some philosophers have criticized the concept of religion, arguing that its modern semantic expansion went hand in hand with European colonialism and that it is better to see it as a social construct that names a set of institutions rather than a category of things that can be’religious’ or ‘not religious’. Other critics argue that focusing on mental states is an old-fashioned approach and that scholars should focus on visible institutional structures.