Religion is a social taxon that contains the beliefs and practices of a broad range of human communities. Whether it’s Christianity, Hinduism, or Buddhism, it is estimated that over 6.2 billion people on earth claim to be religious. These religions often have a holy book that contains teachings, stories and other important information about the faith. Some religions, such as Islam and Buddhism, are more tolerant towards other faiths while others such as Christianity and Hinduism are more dogmatic in their views.
Many textbooks take a standard “dates and doctrines” approach to religion, which may help students with standardized tests but doesn’t adequately prepare them to live in a religiously pluralistic society. Look for resources that teach about the variety of modern-day beliefs and traditions, as well as how to connect with people of other faiths. Try reading the Holy Books of religions that interest you, or even better, have a conversation with someone who follows those beliefs!
The study of religion is important because it contributes to understanding human cultures and negotiating differences in the public square. It is also essential in preparing students for citizenship in a religiously pluralistic world and forging public policies that serve the common good.
Throughout history, different scholars have defined religion in different ways. Some scholars, such as Durkheim and Paul Tillich, have argued that religion is whatever beliefs and practices create solidarity in a group or provide orientation for one’s life. This functionalist approach is often viewed as pan-human, meaning that it can be found in every culture.