Religions are powerful social institutions that play a vital role in the lives of many people. Research shows that regular religious practice can reduce stress, increase happiness and sense of belonging, improve mental health, and foster moral behavior. The current state of our society makes it even more important to understand the role religion plays in promoting healthy societies and to discuss this issue with your mental health provider.
Scholars often use the term religion to refer to a taxon, a category-concept that encompasses all of those social structures that have beliefs and practices common to many cultures. Almost all of these structures include some notion of divine commandments, transcendent entities, and some form of sacred scriptures. They also have organizational structures that manage those groups of people and a distinctive kind of discourse that claims transcendent authority over them. These four features define religion for Lincoln and distinguish it from other social phenomena.
Some scholars have critiqued the concept religion by arguing that the assumptions baked into it skew our understanding of historical realities. Others have taken a realist approach and pointed out that the emergence of social kinds does not wait for language to develop, and that there is some validity in using the term religion to refer to a human phenomenon that would exist without it.
Learning about different religions is a great way to expand your understanding of the world around you. Many websites will provide basic background information about a particular religion. You could also ask friends who practice different religions to take you to church or a temple to learn more about their beliefs.