The Social Functions of Religion

Religion is an essential part of human societies, addressing questions about the place and meaning of life. It is also a force that shapes society and politics at the local, national and global levels.

The term “Religion” was derived from the Latin root religio, which means “to bind together.” It refers to the way humans relate to that which they regard as holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of especial reverence.

Most religions teach people how to treat other people, and how to live a good life with the welfare of others in mind. This kind of guidance, often in the form of a specific religious teaching or tenet, can be very beneficial to those who follow it.

There is an increasing body of social science research that suggests that the regular practice of religion improves health, education, and economic well-being and fosters such positive outcomes as more self-control, higher self-esteem, empathy, and compassion. It is also associated with less depression and better family and marital stability.

The social functions of religion have been an important topic in sociological thought, particularly those of Emile Durkheim. He argued that religion is a social genus in which all societies are included, even those with radically different beliefs and practices.