The institution of religion is universal. It is found in all the societies, past and present. Religious beliefs and practices are, however, far from being uniform. Laws, customs, conventions and fashions, etc., are not the only means of social control.
Overriding them all, are religion and morality which formulate and shape all of them. They are not only the most influential forces of social control, but also the most effective guides of human behaviour. The social life of man in addition to its economic, political, philosophical, scientific and other aspects has also the religious aspect.
Not only religion has been in existence from the beginning but also it has been exerting a tremendous influence upon other institutions. Religious dogmas have influenced and conditioned economic endeavours, political movements, property dealings, educational tasks, ideological fervours, scientific inventions and artistic developments. Religion, which is based on the cultural needs of men, has added new dimension to human life and human development.
Religion revolves round man’s faith in the supernatural forces. Religion is a concrete experience which is associated with emotions, especially with fear, awe, or reverence.
Many societies have a wide range of institutions connected with religion and a body of special officials, with forms of worship, ceremonies, sacred objects, tithes, pilgrimages, and the like. In modern civilised societies, religious leaders have developed elaborate theories or theologies to explain man’s place in the universe.
Religion is closely associated with morality and has elaborate rules of conduct. Further, the world religions-Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam-are really centres of elaborate cultural systems that have dominated ‘whole’ societies for centuries.