Religion is a social-cultural system, comprising beliefs, worldviews, texts, designated practices, organizations, and sanctified places. Its purpose is to promote and enhance spirituality. However, it is also the means by which people can connect with the divine.
Many religions contain profound spiritual texts. These can give rise to a sense of hope and self-worth. Religious institutions also serve as a source of moral authority. Some books are based on religious morals, providing a basis for good behavior and a sense of justice. In addition, some people might have faith in supernatural phenomena. Despite the diversity of religions, they are all devoted to a belief system, and many people have adopted various spiritual concepts.
Although religion is generally considered a positive force, it is on the downside in certain countries. For instance, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway have a relatively negative view of religion, while Italy and Portugal have a somewhat more favorable outlook on the subject.
However, a considerable share of the public is ambivalent about religion. This is reflected in a survey of adults in the United States. The survey, conducted April and November of 2016, included a representative sample of adults over 18 years old. A total of 1281 web-based surveys were administered. The sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points. During the survey, respondents were asked to rate statements on the effects of religion on their lives.
Respondents who were not religious are more likely to agree with negative statements on religion. For example, more than half of adults in Denmark and Norway believe that religion causes harm. Meanwhile, most people in Italy and Portugal agree that religion gives them meaning. However, those who say they are neither religious nor spiritual are less likely to say that they have a soul or to think that there are any spiritual forces in the universe.
Religiously unaffiliated Europeans have lower levels of engagement with folk beliefs and New Age practices than Christians. In fact, religiously unaffiliated people tend to have more negative views of religion than those who identify as Christian.
In addition, religiously unaffiliated people tend not to engage with the Bible, but instead prefer to read other books that provide moral authority. Yet, despite this lack of engagement with religious texts, a subset of these people is more likely to engage in alternative beliefs and practices.
Overall, the findings suggest that the impact of religion on people’s lives is ambiguous. Most people have a strong sense of their purpose and value in life, but fewer than half of people say that religion is a means to guide them to the right choices. Moreover, religious institutions may provide support when in times of loss, but their effectiveness is limited.
People who are not religious and spiritual can find some benefits from participating in their chosen religion, such as being connected with others who share a belief in a higher power. However, they can also experience negative emotions, such as feelings of isolation or anger. They may not be able to fully appreciate the beauty and significance of their religion, or they may be too busy to devote enough time to their religious practices.