Several people have offered definitions of religion, often without a true understanding of the diverse cultural and religious manifestations. Some assume religion must have to do with a god or some spiritual dimension, but many religions do not have such elements. Other definitions are much less specific, including “faith in a higher power.”
While most researchers agree that religion serves a variety of social functions, it is also very destructive. Religions have varying degrees of comfort and terror, as well as a myriad of consequences. Sociologists generally subscribe to Emile Durkheim’s notion of religion as “glue” that binds communities together, but some say it is the primary glue in societies. In 19th-century America, for example, religious communes outlasted secular ones.
Various Western religions share common ideas, including the belief that one god created the world, the beginning of time, and a final judgment day. Each human being has a soul, which separates from the body at death and is judged based on moral worth. Time itself is linear, as each individual has one period of existence. But this does not mean that every person is equal or that all religions are created equal. In many cases, religious beliefs can differ.
Christianity originated in an area of the Middle East known as Israel, where the prophet Jesus of Nazareth claimed divinity. As a poor, Jewish man, Jesus sought a more intimate relationship with God. Christianity initially developed as a subset of Judaism, but grew stronger as it gained followers. One of the first tests of the faith for Christians was Jesus’ crucifixion. By following his teachings, Christians can achieve heaven.