Religions are systems for monitoring, coding, protecting, and transmitting information that is considered to be indispensable for human survival and flourishing of a kind. This information, ranging from practical and ritual to experiential and emotional to doctrinal and philosophical, covers the highest goals of humanity (such as love, compassion, trust, and bravery) as well as those that can only be attained after death, such as the experience of heaven or hell, rebirth, or a transcendent state of consciousness.
The term religion is often used to refer to a belief in and worship of gods or supernatural beings, but it can also be applied to those traditions that focus on the nature of the universe, the human community, the environment, or any other social grouping. It is not uncommon for scholars to use a range of definitions when discussing the nature of religion, as it is a very broad topic.
Anthropologists have long been interested in tribal and “primitive” societies, leading them to speculate about the origin of religions. Emil Durkheim, for example, held that religions develop to meet the needs of humans who feel the need to organize their lives and cope with a wide range of fundamental questions and concerns. The work of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung suggested that these issues and questions are rooted in the primitive images and archetypes in the collective unconsciousness that all humans share, and that these can be tapped into through religious experience.