Definitions of religion


Substantative definition AO1

. What the religion actually is and involves a belief in supernatural

. Definitions are exclusivist as a clear distinction between what is religious and non religious belief.

. Accept that there may be a decline or growth in religious activity at various stages of history. Within this definition there are several key features that a religion should include;

. Beliefs - in a supernatural element/ God / symbols which in some way are regarded as sacred and represent these powers such as a cross or holy water.

. Theology - Set of teachings and beliefs usually based on a holy book

. Practice - Set of rituals or ceremonies to express religious beliefs (praying)

. Institutions - Some form of organisation (vicars, priests and buildings such as churches or mosques)

. Consequences - Set of moral or ethical values that are meant to guide or influence believers

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Substantative defintion AO2

. Allows us to examine only those practices that involve religious feelings and therefore we can measure the extent to which secularisation occurring.

. Makes most sense to people and therefore makes sociology accessible and understandable to non sociologists.

. The definition ignores any belief that doesn't hold a belief in supernatural element (buddhism)

. Has Western Bias as it excludes religion that don't see God in the same way as the Western World

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Functional definition AO1

.Refers to the role that religion performs for society as a whole - acting as a unifying force and brigns society together

. Inclusivist definitions looks at the practing or thereligion brings society together rather than focusing on the actual belief in God/Supernatural

. Religion is essential for society at all times as it is a necessary part of being human, however, it can take many different forms

. As well as conventional beliefs such as Christianity, would also cover football, music and celebrities as these beliefs take on a sacred quality and can play a similar role in peoples lives as religion

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Functional definition AO2

. It allows sociologists to cover a wide range of things that perform functions such as integration (football)

. Doesn't have western bias and therefore includes religions such as Buddhism

. Means that pretty much anything can be classed as a religion, just because collective chanting at a football match brings people together doesn't mean that it can provide same functions as a religion can, makes it difficult therefore to see whether religion is declining or not

. It doesn't allow for believing without belonging and belonging without believing. For example, someone may believe in a particular religion but not openly talk about it or do the things assoicated with that religion/belief.

. People may believe simply because it is the 'right thing to do' but not actually believe - it is more to keep up appearences

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Social Constructive definition AO1

. Interpretivist approach which focuses on how indivudals define religion

. It is not possible to have a single universal defintion of religion - means different things to different people

. How definitions of religion have been created by individuals (scientology)

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Social Constructive defintion AO2

. Allows individuals to provide their own meanings to religion, therefore, it doesn't require a belief in God or Supernatural.

. Doesn't assume that religion provides the same functions for everyone in all societies

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