Religion is a system of beliefs and practices that affect the values, laws, customs, rites and general behaviour patterns of an individual, group or society. It can play a peripheral or an integral role within a society and its structure may be as complex as any organisational bureaucracy or as simple as a two-way relationship between a person and object/subject of worship.
Religion can help answer the question of why humans exist and what they can do to make the world a better place. Often this is done through the development of structure, a code of ethics and a sense of purpose.
Many people believe that their religious practices can be beneficial to their mental health. This is why many hospitals offer counseling or other services to patients who have a religious faith.
In fact, a study recently published in Perspectives in Psychological Science showed that religious beliefs can have positive effects on morality, self-control and anxiety about dying. It also shows that people who are religious exhibit more prosocial behavior and behave in ways that benefit others beyond themselves.
However, these benefits do not necessarily translate to increased social welfare or a more stable society. In fact, studies show that religious countries score worse than secular ones on most socio-economic measures.