Substantive Definition of Religion
- Attempts to explain what religion actually is.
Durkheim - "Unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things - Unite people into 1 single moral community."
- Define religion in terms of Supernatural beliefs
Robertson - "Refers to the existence of supernatural beings that have a governing affect on life.
- Some belief systems do not contain a belief in Supernatural beings.
- Not sure which beliefs should be called religious - Ghosts? Magic?
Functional Definitions of Religion
- Define religion in terms of it's uses and purposes for individuals and societies.
- Yinger - "System of beliefs and practices by means of which a group of people struggle with the ultimate problem of life"
- Too Broad; any belief system can be included if they give meaning to a life.
Scharf - "Allows any kind of enthusiastic purpose shared by a group to be a religion"
- Assumes that religion plays a useful role in society.
- Roles and purposes of religion may vary between societies and individuals.
- Phrases such as the "ultimate problem of life" are open to varied interpretations.
- Too inclusive - It's too easy to qualify as a religion.
Polythetic definitions of Religion
Creating a list of possibly over-lapping characteristics that religion has, although no religion has all of them. Southwold;
- Based on a 'power outside of ourselves' - a belief not supported by evidence (Faith)
- A theology
- Provides a reason for existence; make sense of the world.
- Salvation from the ordinary world.
- Ethical/Moral code to aid decision making.
- Influence the social institutions that make up society.
- Objects defined as 'holy'
- Religious rituals and a religions elite
- Single Moral Community
- Not clear how many of the factors need to be shared for it to be a 'religion'
- Items on the list are a matter of judgement
Types of Religion
- Small - scale tribal societies.
- Totems - animals or plants believed to possess supernatural powers. Ceremonies organised around a particular totem, which is treated as sacred.
- Believe in Ghosts and Spirits - Good or bad.
- Believe the have a huge influence on human behaviour - cause illness and death.
- Believe in One divine power or God.
- Believe in a number of separate Gods.