Derived from the Latin religare meaning "re-unite". Compare with the term "yoga", which derives from the same Indo-European root as "yoke", meaning "tie together". From the perspective of society, religion ties together individual with society. That is, religion is about disseminating the social moral code to the individuals who compose society. From the standpoint of the individual, religion ties together the parts of the self: spirit, soul, body. In practice, the societal and individual perspectives merge, since it is in the interest of the individual to make peace with society, lest the individual be destroyed by society, and it is in the interest of society to entice the individual to cooperate by means of the carrot, without resorting to the stick, which involves the expenditure of effort, may destroy the individual and thus cost society whatever value the individual had to society, and runs the risk of inciting an revolt if society's hold on the individual is weak. In other words, the purpose of religion is to express the will of society and assist the individual in coming to terms with that will. This is typically done in symbolic terms, since most people are incapable of understanding abstract language. The symbolism usually involves Gods, though not necessarily. For example, yoga, psychology and secular humanism (moral values implicit in literature, film, music) are non-theistic religions. The problem with non-theistic religions is the use of abstract language, which cannot be understood by low intelligence people.

There is no conflict between religion and material science. Religion is concerned with the spiritual world, especially moral values. Material science is concerned with the world of the senses. There is conflict between traditional religion and social sciences, in the sense of competition for adherents, but there has long been similar conflict between the various sects of traditional religion. Abandoning Christianity in favor of psychology is little different from abandoning Christianity in favor of Islam, or abandoning Baptist church A in favor of Baptist Church B. Psychology and the other social sciences certainly do not "prove" Christianity or the other traditional religions to be "false", or vice-versa.

All culture, or human behavior not directly related to our animal nature, can be divided into value-oriented culture or religion ("what to do" questions), and value-neutral culture or technology ("how to do" questions). In modern society, most of what should be labelled religion is actually labelled something else.