Beliefs in Society (1)



Definitions of religion 


  • Explains religon by reffering to characteristics which are unique to a religious belief system. 
  • Argues religions differentiate between the 'sacred' which are symbols of divine power and the 'profane'. 
  • Giddens; some definitions of religion do not focus solely on the relationship between the supernatural and humanity, and man do not reference the divine- such as Buddism. Therefore Substantive definitions may be seen to be too exclusive- and it is hard to define what should be included as religious- ie is magic a religion? 


  • Defines beliefs as religions if they have a positive social and physcological use for individuals and society. For example by uniting communities or explaining the purpose of existance. 
  • This is often associated with a functionalist perspective, as it assumes religion is a product of society. For example, Durkheim even argued that nationalism was a type of religion depite not having any spiritualism. 
  • Aldrige: too inclusive - for example atheism could be considered a religion. 
  • Assumes that reigions play a useful role in society.


  • Define religion by creating lists of characteristics which make up a religion. However no example will share all characteristics. 
  • This aviods the problems of the other definitions. However what is listed as a characteristic could cause disagreements. 

Types of religion

Totenism: the belief that objects or animals hold a spiritual significance and that they should be revered as representitives of the God or spirit contained within them. 


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