Religion is human beings’ relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine or worthy of especial reverence. It is also commonly conceived as the way people deal with ultimate concerns about life and death, and about the nature of reality. In some traditions these concerns are expressed in terms of a god or spirits; in others, as an understanding of the broader universe or the natural world.
Religious belief offers the highest and most efficacious motives for the upbuilding of character in man, for the conscientious fulfilment of his moral duties. It supplements and completes the purely secular motives such as love of virtue, hatred of vice, self-respect, regard for public opinion and fear of legal sanctions.
Religion on its subjective side is essentially an affair of the will; the will to acknowledge by acts of homage man’s dependence on the free and supreme supernatural Being, in whom he recognizes the source of his perfection and happiness. It calls into play not only the will but also the imagination and emotions. The recognition of a transcendent end engenders hope; the consciousness of a powerful helper stirs confidence.
The objective side of religion includes a series of rites and other acts of worship. In the ancient world these were accompanied by an extensive literature which contains both speculative and practical elements. It included traditional myths and legends of the providential dealings of the Deity with his people; epic poems; laws regulating social and domestic life; texts of the sacred rites and prescriptions for their exact performance; and speculations concerning the nature of the Deity, the soul, retribution and the future life.