What is religion?

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  • What is religion?
    • Substantive definitions
      • These attempt to explain what religion actually is.
      • Tylor (1903) defined religion as 'belief in spiritual beings'.
      • Durkheim (1915) introduced the idea of practices into his definition.
        • Group activity.
        • Certain symbols are linked with a sacred power.
    • Polythetic definitions
      • These define religion by creating a list of possible characteristics that make up a religion but accept that no one example will share them all.
      • Southwold (1978)
        • A concern with the sacred.
        • Rituals and practices.
        • Link with a moral community, e.g. church.
        • Supernatural sanctions if the code is violated.
    • Functional definitions
      • Yinger (1970)  "Religion is a system of beliefs and practices by means of which a group of people struggles with the ultimate problems of human life.
      • Too broad + assume that religion plays a useful role in society.


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