Types of definition of religion

  • Created by: teddyk00
  • Created on: 17-09-19 14:34

Functional definition of religion

 What this means:

Functional definitions of religion define it in terms of the social or psychological functions it performs for individuals or society as a whole.
Examples: Durkheim (1915) defines religion in terms of the contribution it makes to social integration rather than any specific belief in God or the supernatural.
Yinger (1970) identifies functions religion performs for an individual, such as answering "ultimate life questions" about the meaning of life

Advantages:

  • Functional definitions are inclusive of beliefs and practices
  • There is no bias against non-Western religions such as Buddhism

Disadvantages:

  • Integrating individuals does not make something a religion
  • It is too wide of a definition
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Substantive definition of religion

What this means:

These focus on the content or substance of religious belief - what something has to have in order to be considered a religion.

Advantages:

  • This definition gives a clear line between religious and non-religious belief.

Disadvantages:

  • This definition has a Western bias since religions without a god, such as Buddhism, are not considered as religions.
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Constructionist definition of religion

What this means:

This definition looks at how members of society thmeselves define religion. Sociologists who choose to define religion through a constructionist definition do not assume that religion always involves a belief in god, or that it performs certain functions for individuals or society.

Advantages:

  • This definition does not assume a belief in god or the supernatural, which makes it inclusive of non-Western religions such as Buddhism
  • It also recognises that different people define and use religion in different ways

Disadvantages:

  • This definition cannot be generalised to wider society since it argues that different people's experiences and understanding of religion is different
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