Religion is a collection of beliefs and practices that focus on an Ultimate Reality and that seeks to create a moral framework and understanding for life. Some form of religion is found in every culture around the world. It consists of symbols, rituals, and stories that convey the idea of an afterlife, a supreme being, and a universe that has meaning and purpose.
Religion has been studied by philosophers and social scientists. Philosophers have tried to understand why human beings have religious ideas, and what is the nature of these ideas. They have also attempted to define what is religion. A key question is whether religion is a real thing or a mere idea or illusion created by people to cope with the uncertainty of life.
In the 19th century, European social theorists Emile Durkheim and Max Weber sought to explain how religion influences society. Durkheim’s approach to religion focuses on its function as a source of social solidarity, while Weber’s view is more axiological, that is, religion provides direction in life.
There are also psychological approaches to religion, in which researchers try to find out what causes people to believe in a particular religion. This includes Sigmund Freud’s theories (Oedipus complex, Illusion), Carl Jung’s Universal archetypes, Erich Fromm’s Need for stable frame, William James’ Personal religious experience, Gordon Allport’s Immature religion, Ludwig Feuerbach’s Wishes and imagination, Rudolf Otto’s non-rational experiences, and the work of other psychologists who have focused on religious phenomena.
Another way of examining religion is to compare it with other religions. Then it becomes possible to see what features are common across the different religions and to develop comparisons of religious beliefs, traditions, and behaviors. This method is known as comparative religion.
A third approach is to study religion as a phenomenon in its own right and to consider what it can tell us about the history of mankind. This is a philosophical approach, and has been used by philosophers such as A.N. Whitehead (1861-1958), Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), John Rawls (1921-2002), and Hilary Putnam (1926-2017).
Finally, there are many other types of research into religion. For example, there are studies that use statistical methods to look at the numbers of people who belong to different religions and how this changes over time. Other research focuses on the history of religions, including their origins and evolution. There are also studies of religious texts, focusing on the words and ideas that have been passed down to us by various religions throughout history.