Beliefs in Society Introduction

Introduction to beliefs in society looks at the defintions of religion

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  • Created on: 06-02-12 10:48
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Beliefs in Society
Substantive definitions Exclusivist definitions
These are concerned with what religion IS These usually define religion in a very
rather than what religion does for its limited way referring to beliefs, actions and
members. They get at the `inner core' & institutions orientated towards supernatural
essence of religion beings/ powers
Functional Definitions Inclusive definitions
These definitions define religion in terms of
These usually define religion in a very broad
its uses and purposes (social & way whereby several ideologies not usually
psychological) for society and the considered as a religion are included. They
individual, and the social effects it has onbelieve religion can therefore take many
members. forms e.g. foodies!
Polythetic Definitions
These definitions claim that religion needs to have a set of beliefs which exhibit a number of
factors but not necessarily all of them
Southwold suggests the following factors:
· Concern with godlike beings
· Concern with sacred
· Focus on salvation from ordinary world
· Rituals and practices
· Beliefs based on faith rather than evidence
· Ethical code based on beliefs
· Supernatural sanctions if code is violated
· A mythology
· Sacred texts or traditions
· Religious elite
· Links with a moral community
· Links with an ethnic group
Functional & 1. Too wide easy to qualify as a religion!
Inclusive definitions 2. Anything performing a function qualifies as a religion e.g. war
memorials perform function of integration but no `religious beliefs'
3. What is sacred doesn't always command respect e.g. in South Italy,
Saints are reprimanded if they don't respond in desired manner!

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Substantial & 1. Too narrow and difficult to qualify as a religion
Exclusive definitions 2. Not all religions believe in supernatural beings e.g. Buddhism
3. Ethnocentric: not all cultures make a distinction between `natural' &
`supernatural' some see God and angels as very much real!
4. These definitions lead to belief that religion has declined.…read more


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