The most universal institution in human society is that of religion. It is found in all the past and present societies.
Religion traces its beginnings to the beginning of culture itself. It is one of the most ancient institutions and there is no primitive society which remains devoid of religion.
Religion arose from the intellect of man. The basis of the society traces back to religion. Some of the famous religions in the world are Hindu, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Confucianism etc.
Meaning Of Religion:
The shared beliefs and practices of humans form the basis of religion. Religion is pre-eminently social and can be found in almost all the societies. The common characteristic of all the religions is the concept of faith. This faith binds all the human beings of that particular religion together. Man is distinguished from the other beings by faith. However some of the scholars believe that reason is more important than faith. There remain many interpretations of the basis of religion.
Nature of Religion:
The representation of feelings and attitudes towards the complexities of life constitute the common characteristic of every religion. The analysis of every major religion in the world shows that there are a few significant ideals of each of these religions. These ideals are rituals, sinful acts, belief in the supernatural, belief in the holy and salvation.
Role of Religion:
Religion is intertwined with almost all the major aspects of human life like society, kinship, economy etc. the economic, political and domestic institutions have been shaped by religion. Religions help in the societal struggle survival. It gives the courage to its members for survival in those conditions which could not be explained in a rational way. Social integration is promoted by religion.
Common values and faith are those unifying forces of a religion which eventually lead to social integration. Religion acts as an agent of social control. It enforces moral expectations from its members. It does not support certain kinds of social conduct. Religion promotes social welfare. It encourages the members to help the poor and the needy and thus to promote social welfare. The philanthropic attitude of the people enhances because of religion.
This in turns leads to the welfare of the community as a whole. Religion rationalizes and makes individual suffering bearable. During times of disappointment and misery, religion comes to the rescue of man. Even if a man loses out on everything that he has, he can always fall back on his religion for help and assistance. The self-importance of a person is also enhanced. Man unites with the infinite and considers himself to be the noblest work of God.
With the changing society, even the religions are changing. Secularism is an ideal which has developed because of the modernity in the religion. The process of secularization is one of the most important components of modernization which has affected the religions in the contemporary era. However, just like modernization, this process is also a positive change which works for the welfare of mankind.