Religion is a broader category that encompasses the practice of faith, a group of people united by a common belief in a deity, or spirituality. Its purpose is to build character and shape beliefs, attitudes, and actions. Unlike other social institutions, religions place more emphasis on individual soul-development than adherence to rules.
Religions vary in their effectiveness at influencing behavior. Studies have found that people who are less religious are less likely to follow a religion. Most people who are not religious, however, do not subscribe to a particular religion. In the United States, there are eight percent of adults who consider themselves spiritual, compared to 11 percent of adults who don’t consider themselves religious. Most religious Americans are Boomers or Gen-Xers.
Critics of religion tend to focus on abuse, hypocrisy, and extremism. While these issues are often related to large-scale acts of terrorism such as bombings and racist rallies, many religious groups are also plagued by small-scale secret terrorism. These incidents are often hidden from public view, and are characterized by spousal abuse, threats against non-compliant children, and inaccurate readings of sacred texts.
A belief system is essential for a religion. A person’s set of beliefs evolves as he studies spirituality. The most important role of a religious group is to uphold its belief system and not to veer from it. Religions often discourage people from following their own instincts.