Why Studying Religion Is Important to Today’s Society and the Workplace

Religion is a subject that challenges students to think outside of the box and explore cultures that may be different from their own. This type of learning helps to create well rounded scholars and students that understand the diverse world we live in. Studying Religion encourages real life skills that can be applied to all aspects of society and the workplace.

The term “religion” refers to human beings’ relation to that which they deem to be holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of especial reverence. In a number of traditions, such concerns are articulated in terms of one’s relationship with or attitudes toward gods and spirits; in others, they are framed in more humanistic or naturalistic terms, often in terms of a person’s relations with the broader human community or with nature itself. In most religions, there is also a sense of a set of values that are considered to be the foundation and essence of life, and a belief in an afterlife.

Traditionally, scholars have attempted to define religion in terms of beliefs about the existence of supernatural beings and of a cosmological order or hierarchy that governs the universe and all its parts. These definitions, however, are problematic in that they presuppose the existence of a particular set of beliefs and practices. As a result, many academics have shifted to a more functional definition of religion that drops the substantive element and defines the concept in terms of the social functions it serves (whether or not those functions involve belief in unusual realities). One example of this approach is Emile Durkheim’s definition, which turns on the social function of creating solidarity; another is Paul Tillich’s definition, which turns on the axiological function of organizing a person’s values.

There are a wide variety of religious practices that are classified under the concept of religion, and the number of practices that are thought to fall under this umbrella is constantly growing. This proliferation of practices raises questions about whether it makes sense to understand religion as a social genus. If so, the emergence of such a concept might require that we move away from a taxonomical view of this phenomenon and instead focus on its family-resemblance properties.

Religions are early, successful protective systems that, for millennia, have successfully tied people to their environments and their potentialities. As such, they provide the context within which sanctions and rewards, approval and disapproval, inspiration and ideation are held in common; a context in which people can find a way of being with themselves and their societies. This kind of exploration is sometimes referred to as somatic exploration (from Greek soma = body), and is at the core of all religious experiences. It is in this context that religions give their followers the confidence and security to pursue their own exploration of human possibility. This is a vital component of our humanity, and it is what gives religions their power. Without such exploration, it is impossible to know what lies ahead of us.