Religion and the Community Notes

Notes on Definitions of Religion and Functional understandings of religion

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  • Created on: 03-06-12 15:49
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Religion and the Community
Definitions of Religion
Definitions of religion usually suffer one of three problems:
- They are too narrow and exclude many belief systems which are generally classed as religions
- They are too vague ­ for example defining religion as a belief in God which excludes Buddhism
- They can be ambiguous and seem to include almost anything as a religion ­ for example
A general definition of religion that fits both religious and non-religious systems contains:
- belief in something sacred
- a distinction between sacred and non-sacred objects
- ritual acts
- a moral code believed to have come from a sacred or supernatural source
- communication with the divine or supernatural
- a world view either as a whole or of our individual place within it
- the organisation of life according to that view
Particular definitions of Religion
Inclusive definition
= Emphasises the universal nature of religion
= Seen through human action, social convention, tradition, culture, moral ideas, religious convictions
and belief in what is most meaningful.
= Tillich `Dynamics of Faith': religion is that which is of the utmost importance for someone; their
`ultimate concern'
= Atheism and Agnosticism can be seen as religions as it is concerned with what someone believes as
opposed to the content or the doctrines linked to it
Theological definition
= Focuses more on religious teachings
= A doctrine must have specific theological teachings including the spiritual realm, a God or gods who
relate to humanity, a system of reward and punishment, a moral code, symbols and a historic
= Achieved by comparing different world religions and finding the common strands of similar
teachings and beliefs
= Highlight that fact that religion has to do with the specific beliefs of individuals which have meaning
and purpose
= This meaning may come from an external (God) or internal source (as with Buddhism)
Metaphysical definition
= Metaphysics is the view that there is something beyond our way of life which transcends the reality
offered by science
= Concerned with the explanation of fundamental questions about our being and our world
= Seeks that which is beyond our physical reality such as the workings and nature of the universe and
the how things are linked together in creation.

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Includes metaphysical aspects such as love, sin, evil and life
= Schliemacher: behind all religion is experience, a feeling of the diving which leads to a sense of
`absolute dependence'
= Otto: mysterious feeling of awe and wonder conveyed by the ultimate holiness which enables us to
understand the beauty of creation and the concepts of truth and goodness
Reductive definition
=The view that complex things can be better understood by reducing them to their most simple or
fundamental form
= Explains religion as a…read more

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Beliefs about the nature of God are unchanging and timeless whereas society is always shifting and
is not constant
Max Weber: The relationship between religion and capitalism
= Looked at religion in the context of modern economic society
= `The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 1905': gives people an understanding and
image of the world and how they live in it
= Believed that religion provides to answer to the great human worries e.…read more

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= Marx believe humans are best guided by reason and religion hinders this reason by creating
= Maintained that only when religion was abolished would the oppressed masses by liberated and
that by loving one another rather than God could people regain their humanity
= Marx had three reasons for disliking religion:
- It is irrational and avoids facing the truth and reality of life
- It takes away the dignity of humanity and replaces it with servitude
- Religion is hypocritical as…read more


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