Archaeologists have found evidence of influence of religion on mankind as early as 60,000 years ago. Religious belief and practices are known to contemporary societies. Edward Taylor believes that religion originated when human speculated about dreams,trances and death.The appearance of dead persons in dreams led the people to believe that the souls of the dead were still around.Tylor used the term animism to refer to the belief in souls.His views were criticized for not dealing with emotional component of religion.
According to Marett animatism which Freud believed that people would turn to go to God during times of uncertainty and in course of time would outgrow the need for religion.Malinowski believed that religion is born when humans are under stress and their efforts to overcomes some problems are of no avail.By performing religious ceremonies people could communicate with the dead and derive a measure of comfort.
Religion along with its rituals and beliefs meet the psychological need of people.The religion originates in society and serves social needs. Emile Durkheim is of the view that humans are pushed and pulled in society by forces of public opinion, custom and law and the experience leads them to believe in religion which gives people to gain confidence to live amicably in society.
There are variations in the details of religious beliefs and practices. There are differences in the kinds of supernatural beings or forces and the character of the beings. They also differ in their structure and what they do. An example is mana a supernatural impersonal force of malayo-polynesian origin. The concept of mana is prevalent in many societies.
Two broad categories of supernatural beings including those of non-human origin and human origin are recognized. on human supernatural beings include Gods and spirits and those of human origin consist of ghosts and ancestral spirits. Gods are often conceived in the image of a person for instance in Hinduism many gods are represented in human form. Though many societies believe that the world was created by God, the opinion is not universal. Monotheistic religions like Islam, Christianity and Judaism believe in one God but they include some supernatural beings like angels and demons. Getting in touch with the supernatural is a universal problem and the different ways in which it is attempted include prayer, performance of rituals and sacrifice. In some societies sacrifices are made either to attract the goodwill of God or avert evil. Animal sacrifices has been common throughout history and carryout in most of the religions.