Religion is a complex concept with many facets and is central to the lives of people across the globe. Religious beliefs, practices and values shape how we think about the world and our place in it. They also help us to manage conflict and stress, and make decisions about health, relationships, work and personal life.
While scholars have debated how to define Religion, most have agreed that it is a social sorting category. Some have opted for open polythetic approaches, whereas others, in the interests of focus or clarity, have preferred closed polythetic models that limit the number and set of properties that qualify a thing as religion.
The word “religion” comes from the Latin religio, which means scrupulousness, devotion, or feeling a sense of obligation. In Western antiquity, the term was used to describe a person’s relationship to gods or spirits, though it could be applied to concerns about human morality and the natural world as well.
Today, religions vary widely in their belief systems and practices but are all rooted in the same fundamental concerns: reverence for some aspect of the universe or human nature; devotion to gods, spirits, or ancestors; and a concern for ethics. While it is important to educate about all faiths, it is equally critical to promote respectful and peaceful coexistence and to prevent the spread of prejudice. That is why the NCSS recommends that religion be taught in all social studies courses.