AQA SCLY3 Beliefs in Society - Definitions of Religion

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  • Definitions of Religion
    • Substantive
      • Substance of religious belief as a belief in God or the supernatural
      • Weber - religion as a belief in a superior or supernatural power that is above nature and can't be explained scientifically
      • Fits with what most people would regard as religion ie. Islam, Christianity etc. but also includes unconventional beliefs such as Wicca and Paganism.
      • Adopted by most sociologists
      • Clear line between religious and non-religious beliefs.
      • Excludes religions that don't involve belief in God, eg. Buddhism
    • Functional
      • Social or psychological functions that religion may perform for individuals or society.
      • Durkhiem - religion is a unified set of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things - which are set apart and forbidden contrasted to the profane - everyday, mundane world
      • Broad definition - covers a wide range of beliefs
      • Focuses on the function of beliefs in society, and the way in which things that people regard as sacred can bind societies together, through shared values.
      • Collective chanting at football matches might be integration but it doesn't mean it's a religion.
    • Social Constructionist
      • Interpretivist approach
      • Focuses on how members of society themselves define religion
      • Not possible to produce a single universal definition of religion to cover all cases as there is widely differing views about what sounts as a religion
      • Does not assume that religion always involves a belief in God or the supernatural - it gets closer to the individual meanings.


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