Understanding Religion

Though no one is currently able to prove the existence of one (or many) god(s), much evidence exists of the power of religion. Religion—from the Abrahamic religions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism to the Dharmic religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism—has shaped our cultures, our laws, and our lives for thousands of years. While experts disagree on what exactly constitutes a religion, most agree there are several thousands worldwide. Over half of religious people currently adhere to one of the three major Abrahamic religions, with Dharmic and East Asian religions claiming significant numbers as well.

Organized religion has inarguably been responsible for many of history’s wars, atrocities, and injustices, but it’s not all bad. Religion can help us make sense of our confusing world, provide motivation, encourage altruism, and bind communities together. In fact, though the causal link is currently unclear, some evidence suggests that religious people may be physically and mentally healthier than non-believers.

Since many holidays, customs, and pieces of art stem from religion or deal with religious themes, faith factors into our everyday functioning—whether you’re religious or not. Still, it may be best to keep your mind open when dealing with dogma.

Why We Believe

Humans ask questions: It’s what we do. For hundreds of thousands of years, we’ve wondered where we came from, why we’re here, and what it all means. Religion, by and large, represents society’s attempts to answer those questions. While it isn’t always able to achieve that goal—many religious claims can be disproven by science—it often succeeds at providing followers with structure and a sense of purpose. In certain parts of the world, but particularly in Western culture, organized religion’s influence appears to be on the decline. But even people who don’t believe in any type of god will continue to ask the complex, unknowable questions that religion aims to answer.

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