Making Sense of Religion

Religion is a massive human enterprise that spans cultures throughout the world. The religious worldview provides people with a map of the universe, a way of understanding how it works, and a set of means through which life’s proximate and ultimate goals may be attained. The vast diversity of religions, however, complicates any attempt to make sense of them.

In the twentieth century, scholars have developed approaches that decouple them from substantive definitions and focus on a distinctive role they play in human life. These functional definitions are based on the notion that life is lived as a project (towards acknowledged but largely unknown futures).

As such, it is essential to recognize the complex nature of human religions and their influence on the development of human societies. Religiously inspired ideas, rituals, beliefs, and behaviors contribute to human flourishing in the context of social and cultural change. In some cases, the spiritual component of religiosity is a catalyst for global peace and sustainable development.

In addition, many religions have developed systems of prayer and ritual, including chanting, pilgrimage, and devotional reading of sacred texts. These practices are often considered to be the foundation of a person’s spirituality, and the basis for their moral commitment to peace and justice.

Many religions have also developed teachings on the interconnectedness of humankind and the necessity for social progress, affirming their role as a positive force in the world. Others, such as the Baha’i Faith, have a strong focus on gender equality and education, making it a leading voice in promoting global peace and prosperity.