Religion is a social-cultural system containing beliefs, ethics, and designated practices. It is a social institution that seeks to unite people and facilitate spirituality. These beliefs, behaviors, and practices are often endowed with sacred status.
Religious institutions and their practitioners tend to be more ambivalent about the value of religion than other social organizations. Religion may be considered to be the right relationship with a divine power, but it can be the source of destruction or evil. Nevertheless, there is still some value in studying different religions and seeing what they can teach us.
People who identify themselves as religious are more likely to agree that religion has made their lives better than those who do not. They are also more likely to think that religion has helped them to choose the right from the wrong. However, those who do not believe in religion are more likely to say that religion does more harm than good.
Religion has been given a bad name by large-scale acts of terrorism such as bombings and racist rallies. This has led to a more generalized and ambivalent approach to religion. In some countries, such as Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, religion is not viewed as positive. In others, such as Italy and Ireland, there are more ambivalent attitudes toward religion than in other regions.
Despite its ubiquity, religion has not always received an unfavorable reputation. There are many religions around the world that have profound spiritual texts and teachings. Many of these texts provide moral authority and encourage people to lead more ethical and moral lives. Nonetheless, a number of professional and lay preachers live sordid lives behind closed doors, while many other worshipers show no interest in the Bible and other holy books. Despite these challenges, people still believe in religion and spirituality.
When asked about the most important aspects of religion, respondents were most likely to cite the concept of “a higher power.” Among adults who identify themselves as religious, roughly half said that religion gives them purpose. Another half cited that religion gives them moral guidance. A smaller group, about a third, agreed with statements that science or religion helps them to decide right from wrong.
Other aspects of religion include the practice of moral conduct, rituals, and worship. Those who participate in religious practices are more likely to attend church services at least once a month. For those who are uncertain about their beliefs, attending worship services can be a useful way to gain exposure and publicity.
The majority of adults agree that religion has made their lives better, but a small percentage disagree. Among those who are not religious, nearly seven out of ten say that they have a soul. But those who are neither spiritual nor religious are more likely to agree with the statements that religion does more harm than good and that science has improved our understanding of the world.
Attitudes towards religion are on balance negative in three of the five countries where the survey was conducted. While the survey found that most adults in each country agree with the statement that religion has made their lives better, these views are not dominant.