Religion is accepted to be simply close to home matter. That is the reason religion has a significant spot in the existence of a person. Since it fulfils the social, mental and otherworldly requirements of a person. In most customary social orders, religion assumes a focal part in life. The religious institutions and beliefs are so large in number that it becomes difficult for sociologists to arrive at a single definition of religion. Max Weber and Emile Durkheim are sociologists who have highlighted the social importance of religion. On the other hand sociologists like Karl Marx and Sumner highlighted the negative roles of religion.

Religion has both positives and negatives as well as functions and dysfunctions. Religion has been defined generally as a system of beliefs in sacred things and rules which govern the  individual’s behaviour. There is a difference between religion and magic. To believe in supernatural powers, life after death, hell and heaven is not a essential part of religion. Religion is present in all societies, but religious practices are different in every culture.

From past to present, religion can be found in all the societies. Religion is present in all the preliterate societies. No primitive societies are there without religion. It is not necessary for religion to be monotheistic (belief in one god). Instead, polytheism (belief in multiple gods) is also accepted in many religions. There are also religions like Confucianism, which don’t recognize gods at all. We talk about theism as a belief in one or more gods but this is not the case. As we can see, that religions like Buddhism believe in reality of spiritual forces instead of a particular God. 

Today, the most widely practiced religion in the world is Christianity. Christians account for 31.11% of the world’s population. The second most practiced religion in the world is Islam. Muslims account for 24.9% of the world’s population. In India, the most widely practiced religion is Hinduism and accounts for 79.8% of the total population. The second most practiced religion in India is Islam and its followers account for 14.2% of the total population.

Origin of religion :

The phenomenon of emergence of religion is not recent. The date of the origin of religion is unknown to people. The evidences of burial practices and artefacts of Neanderthal man indicated that humans were religious long before history began. In the 16th and 17th centuries the concept of religion emerged. Traces of religious symbols and ceremonies have been found in earlier societies, of which archaeological remains are the only evidence. We don’t know exactly when, how and where religion came into being. It’s origin is hidden in the past.

The archaeological proof of religious ideas dates back to several thousand years. The texts from pyramids in Egypt are the oldest religious texts in the world and dates back to 2400 BCE. Vedas of Hinduism, composed in 1500-1200 BCE, are the oldest records of Indian religion. Chronology of religion can be studied through a timeline. 2000 BCE is said to be the start date of Hinduism, 500 BCE of Buddhism, 100 CE of Christianity and 622 CE of Islam. There are few theories which discuss the origin of religion :-

Fetishism – It is the primal form of religion and is defined both as religion and as magic. Fetishism is the worship of things on the basis of their mysterious power. The power assigned to these things is called ‘mana’, and belief in mana is called ‘animatism’. This theory is also called ‘Animatistic theory’.

Animism – Animism is a belief in the spirit of the dead. The early people has no explanation for dreams, sleep, hallucinations, shadows and death. And the need of understanding this occurrence led to the belief in the existence of souls. A sociologist stated that religion originated in ghost fear.

Totemism – Totem is a species of animal or plant. In Totemism, a tribe is connected to an object regarding which they act in a respectful way by adopting its name and offering sacrifices.

Fear Theory – Fear is considered to be the root of religion. Fear of natural forces leads an individual to believe in god. The foundation of religion is found in man’s admiration and fear of the mysterious.

Meaning of religion :

Religion deals with shared beliefs and practices of humans. It is the reaction of humans to those components of life which are far away from their ordinary comprehension. The word religion has been derived from a Latin word Rel (l) igio . The Latin word has two roots. The first root is Leg, which means “together, count or observe” and the second root is Lig, which means “to bind”. The first root refers to belief and practices and the second root refers to the activities of humans which link them with the supernatural powers.

So, the word religion refers to the beliefs and practices which are the main feature of all religions. The concept of faith is central to all religions. Religion is known as an organisation of faith. Faith differentiates man from other beings and also binds us together. Religion is not a matter of morality but of rites, rituals and ceremony. Religion is a way of preserving the values of life. It is a way to become a better person in life. It intends to explain the meaning of life and origin of the Universe. We have around 4,200 religions in the world. Some religions have their own definition, organised behaviours and set of beliefs.

Religion is understood differently by different people. Opinions of people differ from religious leader down to an ordinary person. We do not have consensus about the nature of religion. Scholars have failed to find a single definition of religion.

Functions of religion :                         

Religion is there in every part of our life and performs functions both for religious groups and for the society. It helps in struggle for societal survival. It has played a significant role in the formation of primary civilisations like Egyptian Mesopotamian, Middle American, Indian and Chinese. Religion in these societies gives the courage to its members for survival in unfriendly environment and gives clarification to certain aspects which cannot be described in a simple manner. It gives a sense of security in this changing world.

Religion helps an individual to forget the hardships and sorrows of life, lessens the unrest for the proper functioning of the social system. It promotes social integration in many ways and develops common values and norms. It promotes moral principles and equality, and acts as the primary source of social cohesion. Refrains man from unsocial activities and requires him to accept limitation upon his desires. All the religions of the world promote love and nonviolence. It acts as an agent of social control and makes offenses not only against society but also against God.

Religion promotes social welfare by encouraging people to help the needy and poor. It develops philanthropic attitude in the people of the society. It helps to soothe an individual in times of his suffering and unrest. Religion enhances the sense of self importance in an individual. It shapes the domestic, political and economic institutions. Religion has performed some other services like, the spreading of education and creation of a leisure class. Living without religion would have been next to impossible in this world.

With so many positive aspects of religion, there are also some dysfunctions of religion. Besides religion working as an integrative force, it may also prove to be disruptive for the society as a whole. Religion can discourage protests and obstruct social change. Protests can become necessary to bring out changes in the world. By obstructing protests it may postpone reforms. It makes people to depend upon religious leaders and institutions. But does not develops an ability in its followers to bear individual responsibility. Religion supported evil practices such as slavery, untouchability and animal sacrifices in its time of development.

Dysfunctions of religion :                     

Religion increases the dependence on fate. This function of religion was called by Karl Marx as ‘the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of the soulless conditions. It is the opiate of the people’. It is the source of superstitions who have caused harm to humans. These superstitions cause poverty and hinder welfare of human beings.

Religion leads to inter-caste conflicts. Many people lost their lives in wars which were fought in the name of religion. It creates differences among people in the name of god. It makes people dumb and deaf to the reality of the world and promotes blind faith in God. It has made people bigots and fanatics. Religion retards social change and scientific achievements. Religion’s role with respect to an individual development is highly problematic.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

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We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.

We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge

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