SOC-UNIT3: Religious beliefs-Topic1

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  • Created by: adaaeze
  • Created on: 02-02-16 19:14
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  • What is religion?
    • Substantive definitions
      • Substantive definitions focus on the content of religious belief, such as the belief in God or the supernatural.
      • Substantive definitions are exclusive- they draw a clear line between religious and non-religious beliefs.
      • They conform to a widespread view of religion as belief in God.
        • However, they don't take into account beliefs and practices that perform similar functions to religion, but do not involve belief in God.
      • Substantive definitions can be accused as Western bias because they exclude religions such as Buddhism, which do not have the western ideas of God.
      • Weber (1905) defines religion as a belief in a supernatural power that is above nature and cannot be explained scientifically.
    • Functional definitions
      • Functional definitions define religion in terms of the social or psychological functions it performs for individuals or society.
      • An advantage is that they are inclusive- allowing us to include a wide range of practices and beliefs that perform functions, such as integration.
      • There is no bias against non-western religions (eg Buddhism)  as they do not specify in the belief in God or supernatural.
      • Durkheim(1915) identifies functions that religion performs for individuals.
        • for example answering 'ultimate questions' about the meaning of life and what happens when we die.
      • However, helping to integrate individuals into groups does not make it a religion.
        • For example, collective chanting at football matches may give you a sense of integration, but this does not mean it is a religion.
    • Social constructionist definition
      • Social constructionist take an interpretivist approach that society focuses on how members of society define religion.
      • They argue that it is not possible to produce a single universal definition of religion- Different individuals and groups mean very different thing by 'religion'
      • social constructionist are interested in how definitions of religion are constructed, challenged and fought over.
        • Aldridge(2007) shows how scientology is a religion due to its followed, whereas governments have denied it legal status as a religion and sought to ban it.
          • This shows that definitions of religion are challenged and are influenced by who is in power to define the situation.
      • Their approach allows them to get close to the meanings people give to religion.
        • However, this makes it impossible to generalise about the nature of religion, since people may have widely differing views about what counts as a religion.
    • There are 3 main ways in which sociologists define religion; Substantive, functional and social constructionist
  • Their approach allows them to get close to the meanings people give to religion.
    • However, this makes it impossible to generalise about the nature of religion, since people may have widely differing views about what counts as a religion.

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