The Role of Religion in Modern Society

Religion provides a framework within which the experiences, values and beliefs of humans can be organized and understood. It also plays a very important role in society by encouraging ethical values, self-control, social service and providing an overall sense of meaning and purpose in life. Religious practices help to a large extent to inoculate individuals against a variety of social pathologies such as suicide, out-of-wedlock births, alcohol and drug abuse, crime, depression and marital problems. It helps to reduce poverty and improve health, learning and economic well-being. Religion is often the source of family and community support and can provide a basis for moral criteria and good judgment.

When scholars use the term ‘religion’ they refer to a complex of beliefs and practices that are common to many human societies. It is sometimes assumed that, because of this, the concept is universal and pan-human. However, the assumption that religion is a universal concept is problematic and should be challenged. It tends to obscure the fact that different religions have very different effects on people.

In general, religion tends to make people more ethical and tolerant of others, it reduces stress by giving them an internal locus of control (the belief that God is in charge of their lives and knows their fate) and it can increase their sense of belonging and self-worth. It can also increase their sense of wellbeing by providing them with a number of different methods for dealing with life’s stresses.

Research into the effect of religion on morality, self-control, anxiety about death and health and wellbeing have shown that people who are religious are less likely to engage in antisocial behaviour such as stealing or murdering and more likely to help those in need. This is because all religions emphasize the importance of caring for fellow man.

It is also possible that religions help to give people a sense of meaning in their lives by allowing them to belong to like-minded communities, which can be a very supportive and enriching environment. Some researchers have suggested that this is because religions provide people with a narrative for their lives and make their stories available to them in various ways such as scripture reading, sermons, preaching, ritual, folk narrators and pilgrimage. Other researchers have argued that it is because religions allow people to feel that their lives matter to other people, which can be an extremely empowering feeling.