Religion is a system of behaviors, practices and ethics that have emerged in societies. This cultural system provides guidance for moral decisions and orientation toward the moral in everyday life, and it also serves as a refuge and a sense of community to people who have lost the social support they once had.
A fourth function of religion is greater psychological and physical well-being. Several studies have found that religious people are happier and more satisfied with their lives than those who are not religious, and some even live longer.
This function may be attributed to the fact that religion often involves moral conduct, right belief and participation in social groups, which are maintained and managed by institutions (such as schools, churches, temples or mosques). It also seems to enhance social interaction with others in places of worship.
Various attempts to define religion have been made over the centuries. Many of them owe much to a particular cultural epoch and to the theories of origin and development in force at that time.
Some of these ideas are illegitimate, particularly when they are applied in an a priori, undialectical manner. The notions of monotheism, animism, and fetishism are all examples of such distortions.
A more recent approach to analyzing the concept of religion is to treat it as a polythetic class, a kind of prototype, and then to identify properties that all members of the class must have. This can be a very fruitful way of thinking about religion. Using this approach to analyze the concept of religion can yield surprising discoveries about patterns in religion, which can lead to explanatory theories.