Religion serves several functions for society, including giving meaning and purpose to life; reinforcing social unity and stability; serving as an agent of social control; promoting psychological and physical well-being; and motivating people to work for positive social change. It can also promote social conflict, a fact that is apparent throughout the world’s history.
Among the first, most basic forms of religion are beliefs in spiritual beings and spirits that animate objects, places, and animals. This belief system, which is often called animism, can be found in many cultures.
It is the basis of many traditional societies and a number of modern ones, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. It is also a significant part of religious beliefs in the Western world.
The earliest form of religion was animism, the assumption that everything has an animating spirit, such as animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems, and human handiwork. This belief system has taken various forms throughout the history of civilization, and it has been present in every continent.
As mentioned earlier, there are many monothetic approaches to the concept of religion, those that ask a Yes/No question regarding one essential property. For example, Tylor’s monothetic definition of religion requires the existence of belief in spiritual beings; a form of life that does not include such a property would be classified as not having religion. Another approach is that of Durkheim, which turns on the social function of creating solidarity. Finally, there is the functional approach of Paul Tillich, which turns on the axiological function of providing orientation for a person’s life.