Religion is a belief or set of beliefs about life, death and the afterlife, that are taught and practised by a group. It deals with the supernatural, or things that are beyond human control, and it also involves a moral code, or ways to be good.
Most religions have a central figure, often called a god or goddess, that believers pray to and worship. Other religious aspects include sacred places and objects, sacred actions or rituals, codes of ethical behavior, and a community of believers with shared values and experiences. Many religions believe that there is a heaven and a hell, where people will be judged after they die.
People may need religion to give their lives meaning and to help them deal with the fear of death. Anthropologists believe that early religion developed out of a combination of human curiosity about the world and what happens after death, and a fear of uncontrollable forces. People hoped that a god or gods would watch over them and make sure they got to heaven, or that if they did something bad they could be forgiven.
Sociologists studying religion have developed formal definitions that are intended to capture the essential features of a particular religious phenomenon, or at least those that are most important in different religions. For example, Durkheim argued that a religion needs to have an ultimate goal, that it must involve a community of believers with shared values and rituals, and that it must have a set of beliefs about the divine.