Religion is a complex and diverse set of ideas, traditions, practices, symbols and beliefs that influence people’s worldview, behavior, morality, culture and approach to certain writings, persons or places. The line between what is considered religion and philosophy, myth, literature or culture can be a very fine one, as many religious experiences have universal features.
In a nutshell, religions meet two broad needs: they help people cope with the inescapable fact of death and they provide them with some sense that life has meaning. Many religions also offer guidance in the choice of goals that are important to humans and help them find a way to achieve those goals. Some of those goals are proximate and can be achieved in this life (a wiser, more generous, charitable, more successful, or better way of living), while others are ultimate and have to do with the end of human existence or the universe itself.
Some scientists and anthropologists, who study human cultures, believe that religion evolved as an attempt to control uncontrollable aspects of the environment such as weather, fertility, or success in hunting. This was accomplished through magic and religion, where people tried to manipulate the natural environment directly by using rituals or by supplicating to gods for assistance.
Other scholars reject the idea that religion is a specific set of beliefs, and instead take a functional approach, as exemplified by Emile Durkheim, who defined religion as whatever system of practices unites people into a moral community (irrespective of whether those systems involve belief in any unusual realities). This definition is gaining currency and influencing research on religious phenomena.