Religion is a broad term that encompasses a range of beliefs, practices and social interactions. It is a source of comfort and strength for many people. Research has shown that people who are religious tend to have better health and longer lives. However, researchers are unable to explain this finding, as it is not clear whether religion causes these behaviors or if the positive effects have more to do with social contact.
The concept of Religion is a complex one that has been examined by scholars from a variety of disciplines. Psychologists view religious experiences and feelings; sociologists and anthropologists study the institutions that define religions; and literary and other studies seek to elicit meanings from myths and other traditions. These disciplines may take a polythetic or functional approach to the definition of religion, seeking to identify a set of properties that are common or even universal to all religious traditions (or at least most).
Alternatively, some scholars have defined Religion substantively, treating it as an inevitable feature of human culture. This has some problems, because it would mean that the characteristics that are deemed to be part of a religious tradition will be different for every culture. It also means that if scientists try to explain these differences by reference to scientific theory, they will not be explaining Religion in general but only some particular feature of it, such as belief in gods or an afterlife.
Finally, some scholars have used a functional definition of Religion, defining it as a set of beliefs and practices that create social cohesion or provide guidance in life. This is less problematic than the previous two methods, but it has its own problems. For example, if the definition is narrowed to only include beliefs in gods or spirits, there are plenty of people who do not fit that category and it could exclude some very important groups of people.