Religions are an integral part of many cultures around the world and are visible in our everyday lives. We see them in the turbans worn by some of our friends, in the Kosher foods we eat at the grocery store, and in the various places of worship on our streets. This global complexity makes it important to understand different types of religion in order to live in a more inclusive and peaceful society.
People have many definitions of what religion is, but most agree that it involves a belief in something sacred, such as a god or a spiritual concept. It also includes a code of behavior and an attempt to propitiate or please the object of one’s faith. Some scientists, such as anthropologists who study human societies, believe that religion developed in response to a biological need: the realization that death is inevitable and a search for a way to avoid it or to go on to a better place.
Others, such as Durkheim, use a functional approach to define religion, considering its social function of creating solidarity and the axiological function of organizing one’s values. The National Council for the Social Studies endorses this view of religion, recognizing that understanding religion prepares students to participate in a pluralistic democratic society.