Religion grew in human beings’ curiosity about life and death and in their fear of uncontrollable forces. These two aspects of humanity’s experience transformed into hope in the form of the desire for immortality or life after death, a loving creator who would watch over humans, and an ultimate meaning to life. Religions are the guardians and transmitters of the accumulated information that has been tested and winnowed through generations. They create worlds of confidence for people, bringing order to societies, often organizing hierarchies, and extending beyond the tribe and kin group to make communities that include all humanity. Religions establish codes of recognition and expected behaviour, even beyond the scope of ethics. They bring order to family relationships by making it possible to recognize who members are and why they are related. They provide hope for those who live in hostile environments by giving them the possibility of religious success.
Religions also produce art and architecture, music, dance, drama, and poetry. They are the source and inspiration of most of humankind’s explorations of the cosmos that eventually issued into the natural sciences. And, most of all, they have been entertainment.
Realists take a broad view of the concept of religion, seeing it as a taxon of social structures that have existed without being conceptualized since prehistoric times. Social constructionists argue that the concept of religion is a Western invention and that the idea of defining the phenomenon of religious systems as such is biased.