Topic 1

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  • Created by: Abbie
  • Created on: 04-06-13 18:12

Topic 1 - Theories of religion substansive definitions: Focus on the content or substance of religious belief. such as belief in god or the supernatural. Weber defines religion as belief in the superior or supernatural power that is above nature and cannot be explained scientifically. substansive definitions are exclusive - they draw a clear line between religious and non-religious beliefs. Substansive definitions conform to a widspread of religion as belief in God. However defining religion in this way leaves no room for beliefs and practices the perform similar functions to religion but do not involve belief in God.  Functional Definitions: Rather than defining religion in terms of specific kinds of belief, functional definitions define it in terms of the social or psychological funtions it performs for individuals of society. Durkheim defines religion in terms of the contribution it mates to social interration rather than any specific belief in God/supernatural. Yinger identifies functions religion performs for the individual such as answering 'ultimate questions' about the meaning of life and what happens when we die. An advantage of functional definitions is that they are inclusive - allowing us to include a wide range of beliefs and practices that perform functions such as intergration. Since they do not specify a belief in god or supernatural there is no bias against non-western religions such as Buddhism. However, just because an institution helps intergrate individuals into groups, this does not make it a religion.  Social constructionist definitions: Social constructionists take an interpritivist approach that focuses on how members of society themselves define religion. They argue it is not possible to produce a single universal definition of religion to cover all cases, since different individuals and groups mean very different things by 'religion'  Alan Aldridge shows how for its followers, scientology is a religion, whereas several governments have denied it legal status as a religion and sought to ban it. This shows that definitions of religion can be contested and are influenced by who has the power to define the situation. Social constructionist do not assume that religion always involves a belief in God/supernatural or that it performs similar functions for everyone in all societies. Their approach always allows them to get close to the meaning people themselves give to religion. However, this makes it impossible to generalise about the nature of religion, since people may have widley differing views about what counts as religion. Functionalist theories of religion For functionalist society is a system of interrelated parts or social institutions such as religion. society is like an organism, with basic needs that must be met in order to survive. These needs are met by the different institutions. Each performing certain functions - each contributes to maintaining the social system by meeting a need. Durkheim on religion For durkheim the key feature of religion is a fundamental distinction between the sacred and the profane found in all religions. The sacred are all things set apart and forbidden, that inspire feelings of awe, fear and wonder. the…


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