Unit 3: Definitions of Religion (Summary)

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  • Created by: Charlotte
  • Created on: 05-02-13 18:49

Three main ways in which sociologists have defined religion:

1) Substantive definitions:

- Focus on the content or substance of religious belief.

- Weber defines religion as a belief in a superior or supernatural power that is about nature and cannot be explained scientifically -> Reflects Tylor: defined religion as animism- the belief that all things have a soul and a spirit. -> Stark and Bainbridge support Tylor's definition and agree that religion involves some ceonception of a supernatural being or force.


:) - Substantive definitions conform to a widespread view of religion as belief in God

X - Defining religion in this way leaves no room for beliefs and practices that perform similar functions to religion but do not involve belief in God.

X - Substantive definitions are also accused of Western bias because they exclude religions such as Buddhism, which do not have the Western idea of a god.

2) Functional definitions:

- Focus on the social or psychological functions it performs for individuals or society.


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