While there are many different types of religion, all major ones have some common traits. These include their origins, purposes, myths, and rituals. Let’s examine these traits in more detail. Basically, religions were developed out of curiosity about life and fear of uncontrollable forces, and transformed these fears into hopes for immortality, a kind creator, and life after death.
One theory argues that religion evolved after morality. It expanded the social scrutiny of individual behavior to include supernatural agents who resisted selfishness and built cooperative groups. This adaptive value enhanced group survival. However, Rossano also points out that individual religious belief is not ethical.
Religious beliefs have multiple purposes. For example, Buddhism and Hinduism both strive for moksha (enlightenment) and nirvana (purification). Christianity and Islam are motivated by the hope of eternal life with God in the kingdom of heaven. According to Islam, the goal is to achieve salvation or bliss in paradise through submission to Allah’s laws.
Myths of religion are a significant aspect of human society. They provide a justification for rituals and social customs. At the turn of the 20th century, many scholars began to view myths as accounts of social customs and values. Sir James Frazer argued that myths and rituals together provided evidence of the earliest preoccupations of humankind.
Rituals are outward expressions of religious belief, and they serve several purposes. They are a means of expressing beliefs, reaffirming beliefs, and communicating with others and deities. They also communicate information about the performer or group.
Values of religion are a core part of religious communities, yet there is a wide diversity of their views. Recent studies in this area have shown that there are significant differences among religious groups in terms of their values. However, this diversity does not preclude religion from being a relevant research topic, and it actually encourages more granular research.
One theory of religious diversity is the pluralist theory. This theory holds that religious diversity is a good thing. It encourages tolerance and respect for other religions. It also supports anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism. On the other hand, the non-pluralist theory holds that religious diversity is a bad thing.