Religion is a complex phenomenon that shapes the worldviews of individuals and communities. It influences beliefs, values, morality, and culture. It also plays an important role in how people interact with and understand each other. From the swearing in of a witness in court to the Pledge of Allegiance, it is present in many aspects of our lives.
The academic study of religion is a multifaceted discipline that incorporates textual, historical, linguistic, philosophical, and cultural approaches to understanding. Its study often highlights the subjective boundaries that human societies have historically placed around what is sacred and spiritual.
Anthropologists recognize two different ways that humans try to control uncontrollable parts of their environment: manipulation through magic and supplication through religion. Early magic aimed to directly manipulate the environment, for example, by drawing animals on cave walls to assure success in hunting. Early religion supplications, by contrast, were directed to gods or spirits for help.
Students should be encouraged to explore the wide range of religions and spiritual traditions throughout history and the globe. The study of religion allows them to develop an appreciation for the diversity of the global community and fosters civic participation. NCSS recommends that teachers include the study of religion in their classes, wherever possible, as part of a well-rounded social studies education.