Religion is a set of ideas, aims, activities and experiences that are passed from generation to generation. It moulds human life and regulates it in many ways.
It enables people to make sense of the world, creates social bonds and brings them closer to God. It also adds meaning and purpose to their lives and gives them hope for the future.
A religion is a belief system about one or more deities that includes rituals, ceremonies, ethical guidelines and life philosophies. It may have a large impact on a person, group, community or nation.
There are two general approaches to defining religion: functional which tends to have broad, more inclusive definitions and substantive which tends to have narrower, more exclusive definitions of religion.
Functionalism defines religion as a ‘belief system that affects values, laws, customs, rites and general behaviour patterns’. This can be a very broad definition but it is still too wide because almost any movement that has a belief system of any kind and a committed group of followers would classify as a religion – for example, communism, nationalism and even atheism.
Sociologically, the function of religion is to rationalize and soothe the emotions of individuals in times of suffering or disappointment. It also enhances self-importance, helps knit the social values of a society into a cohesive whole and provides a form of social control by prescribing certain behaviors that are consistent with the values, norms, and beliefs of that faith and of society in general.