How Religion Affects the Human Person

Religion is a system of belief and practice that influences the way a person thinks about, views, and interacts with the world. There are many different religions in the world, but they tend to have similar themes. These include a belief in a higher power, a moral code that guides behavior, and an expectation of a future life. Many people find comfort and meaning in their religion. Despite the negative aspects that have arisen from religions throughout history, most believe it is a force for good in the world.

Religious people value what is most important to them and are willing to live according to that valuation, even if they must suffer or die for it. It is this intensive, all-encompassing form of valuing that distinguishes religion from other phenomena such as magic and art.

There is a movement in social science to pull back, so to speak, and examine the constructed nature of the concept that we call “religion”. Some scholars argue that to understand religion as beliefs or any subjective states would be to miss the point and neglect its power to affect people’s lives for good (cf. Possamai 2018). Others are concerned that focusing on institutions and disciplinary practices obscures the ways in which religion is actually about values, moral commitment, and power (cf. Schilbrack 2021). These arguments are legitimate but require that we address their context, i.e., the human person. The most significant impact of religion, however, is not what it believes or does but how it affects the human person in the world and in the face of hardship.