Whether you think religion is a good thing or bad thing, religion can influence your life. It can offer you a sense of meaning and purpose, and it can help you determine which actions are right and which are wrong. Religion is also a source of social support. But if your religion is too rigid, it can become an oppressive institution.
The effectiveness of religion depends on how it is explained, and how people behave in the name of it. Research suggests that the benefits of a coherent belief system flow from a sense of purpose and existential meaning. Religious belief can also enhance health. People who are religious overwhelmingly agree that religion gives them a sense of purpose and meaning. However, less than half of people say religion helps them decide which actions are right and which are wrong. In some countries, such as Denmark and Norway, more than half of adults believe religion causes harm to people.
In countries where religion has a negative influence, people are hesitant to claim that their religion does harm. The counter-trend is towards increasing religious fundamentalism. In this type of religion, people are taught to believe in the literal truth of religious texts. Religious fundamentalism is often criticized because it cedes too much power to religious authorities. People who practice religion are afraid that their actions will have consequences after they die. They usually follow rituals to make sure they are living according to the rules of their religion.
In Portugal, a majority of adults express positive views about religion. But in Sweden, only one-third of people agree that religion is good. In Italy, more than half of adults believe religion gives people meaning. In Austria and Ireland, most adults express positive views about religion. However, in Denmark and Sweden, more than half of adults say religion causes harm.
Europeans who are neither religious nor spiritual generally agree that there are no spiritual forces in the universe. In contrast, people who are religiously unaffiliated are more likely to believe in a higher power, although they are less likely to say they have a soul. The majority of religiously unaffiliated Europeans also agree that religion does not do more harm than good.
Although religion does not have a panacea for health, it can provide a basis for social support and can make ingredients for health more accessible. It also provides incentives to lead a healthy lifestyle. However, religion can also become a source of intolerance, stifling people from listening to their instincts.
In Africa, traditional religion is still important. However, there are a number of different belief systems, and different cultures can affect how people express their spirituality. In some African contexts, spirituality is regarded as a belief system, while in others it is considered a subdomain of religion. For example, many Africans believe in the soul. Unlike religion, spirituality does not have a pre-defined belief system, and people’s sets of beliefs often evolve as they study it.