The Importance of Religion


Religion is the set of attitudes and habits that make man feel he depends on, and therefore needs to honor, a free, supernatural Being. It is the life of devotion to this Being, which includes a strict or liberal acceptance of the doctrines and ceremonial practices that make up the religious traditions of the community.

It is a moral virtue, because it leads men to live in obedience to the commands of God, whose sanctifying influence over mankind is recognized as a power more than human. It is also a social virtue, because it binds men to society in a relationship of mutual dependence, based on the recognition that all duties are divine obligations and that God is the ultimate source of goodness and happiness.

The practice of religion is good for individuals, families, states and nations. It promotes health, learning, economic well-being, self-control, family stability, social cohesion and morality. It reduces the incidence of social pathologies such as out-of-wedlock births, crime and delinquency, drug and alcohol addiction, anxieties, health problems and prejudices. It improves educational achievement, job performance and the quality of marriage. It is a major cause of the high levels of family satisfaction seen in the United States.

Religious beliefs and behavior are a vital part of many people’s lives, and the practice of religion has a significant impact on our culture. It is important to understand how religion contributes to our society, and how public policies can best support the freedom of religion and the practice of faith in the United States.

Anthropologists and scientists who study human societies and human origins offer two theories as to why religion exists. One is that it was created in response to a biological need. When humans became aware of death, they sought a way to avoid it or to assure themselves of a life after it.

A second theory, also advanced by anthropologists, is that the development of religion was the result of man’s ability to think about the nature of reality and his place in it. This led to the ascription of mystical qualities to the natural world and the idea that there is a spiritual world beyond the physical.

Whatever the true origins of religion, it is a fundamentally important aspect of human life. It is impossible to live a happy, fulfilling life without it. For most, it provides a guide to moral behavior and a sense of purpose and meaning in life. This is especially true for children, who can benefit from the example of a caring adult and the teachings of religious texts. Even for those who do not subscribe to any particular faith, there is often a sense of awe and wonder that comes from the contemplation of natural phenomena and the universe. This may serve as a kind of religion in its own right.