Religion is a vast collection of socially significant beliefs and practices that have many components. It encompasses many types of ritual, cosmology, morality, and thought. The term is derived from Latin religio, which is also the root of the word “religious.” Religions are important in all parts of the world and are one of the most powerful forces shaping culture.
Religions help people understand their limitations and make life a little bit more predictable, even in the most chaotic places and times. They often provide answers to the fundamental questions of what humans are, why they are here, and where they are going. They can also organize large groups of people into a single community. Religious communities establish codes of recognition, which can help in potentially hostile environments to recognize friends from foes. They also give people confidence to explore their own and the world around them.
Anthropologists believe that early religious systems grew out of human attempts to control uncontrollable aspects of the environment, including weather, pregnancy and birth, and success in hunting. Unlike magic, which tried to manipulate the natural world, religion supplicated to a supernatural being or gods and goddesses for help.
Today, the concept of religion is used as a taxon for sets of social practices that have similar characteristics. It is a family-resemblance concept that includes Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Some critics argue that substantive definitions of religion are too broad in assuming belief in ghosts as sufficient to be a religion and that they fail to consider faith traditions that emphasize immanence or oneness, such as Jainism (see Jaina Philosophy and Jainism) and Daoism.