Taxonomy of Religion

Religion is an important aspect of life for two-thirds of the world’s population, and it plays a significant role in many people’s lives. Even though religion is a socially constructed concept, the idea of’religion’ does have some properties that can be discerned, as with other abstract concepts such as literature or democracy (see Taxonomy of religion).

Religious beliefs and practices include the belief in a god or gods, the dead and afterlife, karma and reward and punishment, right living, devotional and contemplative practice, and participation in religious institutions. Religions may also have a ceremonial aspect that includes prayer, sermons, ecstatic or trancelike states, feasts and sacrifices, initiations, matrimonial and funeral services, music and art, and sacred places.

These practices often have a spiritual, emotional, and psychological dimension. They can be a source of joy, peace, and meaning in life. They can also provide a way to deal with death, illness, and suffering. Religious teachings and practices can be used to overcome personal and societal problems such as addictions, mental illnesses, conflicts of interest, violence, wars, and poverty.

The most well-known sociologist of religion is Emil Durkheim, who focused on the functional aspects of religion, arguing that it serves as a cohesive bond in society (social cohesion), promotes consistent behaviour and morality (social control), and provides strength during tragedy and change in life (meaning and purpose). More recently, scientists have found that religion improves health, learning, economic performance, self-control, and empathy, and reduces out-of-wedlock births, divorce, crime, delinquency, depression, drug abuse, and terrorism.

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