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· Hamilton- religion comes about as people often ask big
questions about their place in the world & about things
that are beyond their everyday experience &
understanding. EG what happens when we die, why
there is suffering & what is the purpose of human
existence.…read more

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Defining religion
·Most sociologists define
religion as an organised belief
system composed of religious
knowledge (theology),
traditions & rituals which give
the world meaning for
individuals.…read more

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Belief systems
· In western societies up to the 18th century religion was central
to social life. However in the 21st century religion now
competes with other non-religious belief systems which also
hope to answer big questions that humans ask.
· Scientific belief systems- medicine, evolution, big bang theory
· Political philosophies- Marxism, socialism, capitalism,
nationalism, communism etc.
· Philosophical belief systems- existentialism (analysis of
human existence and the centrality of human choice)
secularism (Secularists believe that there is no heaven or hell
only the life we live in, argue this is based on empirical and
rational proof. They reject the dualist view of life that there is a
soul and a body), humanism, atheism, agnosticism etc.
· There are disagreements among sociologists of how systems
of belief are organised.…read more

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The substantive perspective
Sociologists who have adopted the substantive perspective on
religion generally believe that for a belief system to qualify as a
religion it must have 3 characteristics.
· A notion of god, spirit or supernatural power needs to be
· This power is seen as greater than humanity or society &
shapes the past, present & characteristics
· Worship focuses on objects which are seen to have sacred
value & represent the divine or supernatural power
The substantive definition of religion has been criticised as it is
unclear about what can be or cannot be defined as
`supernatural' and therefore religious. Should belief in magic,
ghosts, crystals etc. be considered a religion?…read more

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Religion gives people purpose
·Some sociologists argue religions
can be defined as belief systems
which give purpose to people's lives.
From this perspective, a belief
system can be defined as religious if
it functions to explain to social
groups the purpose of their existence
& explain `ultimate' problems such as
the purpose of human life, the
difference between good & evil, what…read more

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