Religion describes people’s relations to that which they regard as holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of especial reverence. It may include religious texts, beliefs, ethics, rituals, and ceremonies, along with a range of emotional and psychological states. Religion also has several functions that are important to individuals and societies. These include giving meaning and purpose to life, reinforcing social unity and stability, providing an avenue for moral and social control, promoting mental and physical well-being, and motivating people to work for positive social change.
Scholars often debate the nature of religion and how it is best defined. Some scholars use a monothetic approach that defines a religion by focusing on one essential property, such as belief in a god or spirits. For example, Tylor argued that forms of life that lack belief in spiritual beings are not religions. This definition, however, ignores many aspects of religion such as group membership and rituals.
Other scholars treat religion as a complex, analyzing its various aspects. This view is more in line with a holistic, symbolic interactionist approach to understanding human society. The more parts of a religion that are recognized as religious, the greater the potential for positive social effects.
For example, it is often found that there is a strong association between religiosity and measures of well-being such as health, education, economic prosperity, self-control, and empathy. Likewise, a person’s level of religiousness is closely associated with their self-reported daily behavior.