This is just an excerpt from what I wrote in my April 17th, 2005 journal entry "World views and religion".
"What I've been building up to is religion, religion has alot to do with worldview doesnt it? I surely think it does, religion requires you to accept underlying principles that no one can prove which only make sense to those with other certain assumptions of the world. Assumptions, if you will, are the building blocks of our worldviews. For instance if I were to assume that humans were just animals and that our social interactions were based solely on our own needs and wants to survive I could come to the conclusion easily that families are simply means to a selfish end. However, if I assumed that humans were not animals and that we are too intricate to evolve from anything so we must be divinely made and divinely made to have families and love them and have love as an end in itself, then my worldview would be very different just from a few underlying assumptions. These assumptions don't come out of nowhere, parents affect them and experiences do as well but mostly learning from parental figures and friends."
If we wanted to start from the most basic break-down of this, I think the best place to start is to examine this question: What are the characteristics of a religious belief? Religious beliefs... [generally thinking of judaism and certain derrivatives of judaism, i.e. christianity and islam]
[*] Are generally vague and/or untestable.
[*] Explain where humanity came from and where it is going and why.
[*] Explain everything that is made to seem unexplainable.
[*] Generally provide controling rules to empower humanity with protection from a mystical entity.
[*] Provide a basis for a division of humanity into parts: believers and unblievers (classes).
[*] Provide rules for "ethical" behavior, this may be a subset of contoling actions but I tend to think alot of these rules are just a guideline for how to "give yourself" to your religion and follow its philosophy completely, which has little to do with the religion providing "saving" guidelines for a person in these religions.
[*] Provide general reasons for living. i.e. providing punishments for suicide; providing unlimited amounts of love from a deity that is greatly powerful.
[*] Provide social benefits for following popular religious beliefs through the class system. i.e. only wanting to marry in your belief system; provide jobs that are held by religious people for other religious people because religious people are percieved to be "better" and more "ethical".
More to come.