- Attempt to explain what religion actually is
- try to get to the innnter core of religion, expressing its essence
- Tylor (1903) - 'belief in spiritual beings'
- Durkheim - 'a unified system of beliefs and practicised relatice to scared things, that is, things ser apart and forbidden which unite into one single moral community - called a church - all those who adhere to them'
- focuses on religion as a group activity and they way we associate symbols of religion
Criticisms of Substantive Definitions
can't define what should and should not be religious
should New Age Beliefs be classed as religious?
too heavily based on monotheistic religions
doesn't tell us what religions does, just what it is
- focus on what religion actually does, the functions it provides
- religion is a product of society and needs to be defined in its contribution to society
- Yinger (1970) 'the functions that religon performs for the individual such as assuring them of the big questions'
- too broad and include things many do not regard as religious
- also assumes religion is useful
Inclusivist vs Exclusivist
- tend to leave broad definitions
- some ideoligies that are not seen as religous can be included, i.e. football
- tend to offer restrictive definitions
- narrows down to the specifically religious
Giddens (2006) Working Definition
'religions involve a set of symbols, invoking feelings of reverence or awe, and are linked to rituals or ceremonials engaged in by a community of believers'
'concern with godlike being, concerne with the sacred, salvation, rituals/practices, belief in faith, ethical code, supernatural sanction, sacred text, religious elite and links with a moral community'
Types of Religion
- focuses on the sacred, higher, and controlling power
- this is a source of moral code and is worthy of great reverence
Monotheistic - one diving power, e.g. Christianity and Islam
Polytheistic - number of seperate gods e.g. Hinduism