The religion section of your local bookstore or library is a rich resource for those interested in becoming more religiously literate. But the best way to learn about different religions is by visiting a place of worship and getting to know people who practice that faith. In addition to this, many religions have websites that provide information about their beliefs and practices and have Twitter or other social media accounts where they communicate important news and events to followers.
The study of religion involves a wide variety of disciplines and approaches. Anthropologists, for example, legitimately study the diversity and unruliness of religious experience, while theologians and students of philosophy focus on the content of religion–its texts, dogma, and ideas. Social scientists adopt a more functional approach, viewing religion as whatever system of activities unites a group of people into a moral community, whether or not those systems involve belief in any unusual realities.
Religion ideally serves several functions for society: it gives meaning and purpose to life, reinforces social unity and stability, acts as an agent of social control, promotes physical and psychological well-being, and may motivate people to work for positive social change. Moreover, some research suggests that religious people are healthier and live longer than those who do not consider themselves religious.
However, religion can also cause problems such as social conflict and violence, ethnic hatred, and wars over religious differences. And in some cases, religious people have been willing to kill others or even destroy entire nations over their differences.