• Created by: JessieB97
  • Created on: 23-09-15 11:15

Substantive Definitions

Focus on content of religious belief

Exclusive- draw clear line between religiougs and non-religious beliefs.

Max Weber(1905)- Religion is a belief in a superior or supernatural power that's above nature and cannot be explained scientifically

Conform to widespread view of religion as a belief in God

Accused of Western bias because they exclude religions such as Buddhism,which do not have the Western idea of God

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Functional Definitions

Define religion in terms of social and psychological functions for individuals or society

Emile Durkheim(1915)-defines religion in terms of contribution it makes to social integration

Milton Yinger(1970)- Function of religion for individuals e.g answering 'ultimate questions' about the meaning of life etc

Inclusive- Includes a wide range of beliefs and practices that perform functions like integration

No bias against non-Western religions

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Social Constructionist Definitons

Interpretivist approach

How society themselves define religion

Not possible to produce a single universal defintion of religion because individuals and groups mean very different things by religion

Interested in how definitions are constructed, challeged and fought over

Alan Aldridge(2007)- for followers, Scientology is a religion, whereas government don't agree. Defintions are influenced by who has power to define it in the situation

Don't believe religion always involves a belief in God or supernatural

Approach allows them to get close to the meanings people give to religion

Impossible to generalise about nature of religion, people have widely differeing views about what counts as one

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Durkheim: Sacred and Profane (Functionalism)

Sacred and Profane:

Sacred things set apart and forbidden and surrounded by taboos

Profane things have no special significance

Religion involves definite rituals or practices in relation to the sacred, and these rituals are collective(performed by social groups)

Sacred things evoke powerful feelings in believers, this is because they are symbols representing something of great power

Believes people in reality are worshipping society itself(only thing powerful enough to command such power)

Sacred symbols unite believers into a single moral community

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Durkheim: Totemism (Functionalism)

Studied religion in simplest form-clan society

Studied Australian Aboriginal tribe, Arunta

  • Arunta clan consists of bands of kin who come together periodically to perform rituals involving worship of sacred totem
  • Totem is clan's emblem, e.g animal or plant
  • Totemic rituals reinforce groups solidarity and sense of belonging

When clan members worship their totemic animal, they're subconsciously worshipping society itself

Totem inspires feelings of awe in members because it represents the power of the group on which the individual is dependent

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Durkheim: Collective Conscience

Sacred symbols represent groups collective conscience or consciousness

Collective conscience is shared norms, values, beliefs and knowledge that make social life and cooperation between individuals possible

Regular shared religious rituals reinforce CC and maintain social integration

Participating in shared rituals reminds members they are part of a single moral community to whom they owe their loyalty

Religion reinvigorates and strengthens us to face life's trials and motivates us to overcome obstacles that would otherwise defeat us

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