Religion is an organized system of beliefs about God, or other deities and spiritual concepts. It usually involves a moral code, rituals and prayers. It may also include a belief in reincarnation or an afterlife. People who believe in religion often try to live a good life, avoiding harmful behaviours such as murder and stealing, in the hope of earning rewards from God or in their afterlife.
Some scientists, especially those who study the brain and the nervous system, argue that religion is a response to a deep-seated human need. They say that the experience of a religious ‘high’ can fill a psychological need for meaning and purpose in life, or to find a way to cope with death and other fears. Other scientists take a different view, saying that religion is a socially constructed phenomenon. They suggest that it arises when groups of people share a common cultural history and a set of values. These values can be a source of moral guidance, including the importance of charity, trust and forgiveness.
Anthropologists, scientists who study ancient societies and human origins, suggest that religion may have a biological or a cultural origin. They say that it developed as a result of humans becoming self-aware and realizing that they would die. People then created a belief in a supreme being to help them overcome the fear of death and to give them a sense of purpose in life. In addition, anthropologists point to the fact that all religions involve some kind of ritual, and that rituals are accompanied by a set of beliefs or a code of behavior.