Health Benefits of Religion – You Don’t Have to Be Religious to Benefit From These Benefits

Religion is a cultural system of beliefs, practices and values that provides people with a sense of purpose and meaning in life. Religion can also bring people together and support one another during tough times. It can also help individuals cope with mental illness and depression by giving them a reason to live and hope for the future.

Many religions have a strong emphasis on ritual, which can be understood as the enacted language through which human hopes and fears are articulated and dealt with. These hopes and fears are usually centered around questions about the past, the present and the future: the origin of the universe, the nature of gods and spirits, the consequences of past wrongdoing (retrogressive rituals to visit the past in order to relive and deal with it are common), the existence of a transcendental realm (e.g. heaven and hell) or the possibility of communication with the dead.

A common assumption is that because religion appears in every culture, it can be treated as something universal and pan-human. This is incorrect. There are a variety of functional definitions of religion such as the one of Emile Durkheim which defines it as whatever socially shared practices unite people into a moral community (whether or not those beliefs involve belief in any unusual realities).

Even though there are some positive effects of religious participation, you don’t have to be religious to benefit from these benefits. Research shows that simply engaging in healthy behaviors, forming strong connections with others and coping with stress and anxiety can provide you with the same health benefits as practicing a religion.