What is religion?

The 3 definitions of religion:



Social constructionist

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  • What is religion?
    • Substantive definitions: Weber.   Focus on the content or substance of religious belief, such as the belief in God or the supernatural.
      • Weber (1905) defines religions as a belief in the superior or supernatural power that is above nature and cannot be scientifically explained.
    • Functional definitions: Durkheim, Yinger.    Define religion in terms of the social or psychological functions it performs for individuals and society.
      • Durkheim (1915) defines religion in terms of the contribution it makes to social integration.
      • Yinger (1970) identifies that religion performs for individuals, such as 'answering ultimate questions' about the meaning of life and what happens when we die.
    • Social constructionist definitions: Aldridge. Focuses on how members of society themselves define religion. Arguing it is not possible to produce a single universal definitiom of religion.
      • Aldrige (2007) shows how, for its members, Scientology is a religion, despite several governments denying its legal status and soughting to ban it. Showing how the definitions of religion can be contested and are influenced by who has power to define the situation.


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