‘WHAT IS RELIGION?’
There are three main ways in which sociologists define religion: Substantive definitions- These focus on the content or substance of religious belief, such as belief in God or the supernatural. Weber defines religion as belief in a superior or supernatural power. Substantive definitions are exclusive, they draw a clear line between religious and non religious beliefs. Functional definitions- define it in terms of the social or psychological functions it performs for individuals or society. Durkheim defines religion in terms of the contribution it makes to social integration rather than any specific belief in God or the supernatural. Yinger identifies functions religion performs, such as answering ultimate questions about the meaning of life. They are inclusive allowing us to include a wide range of beliefs and practices that perform functions such as integration. Social constructionist definitions- take an interpretivist approach that focuses on how members of society define religion. They are interested in how definitions of religion are constructed. They do not assume that religion always involves a belief in god or the supernatural.
FUNCTIONALIST THEORIES OF RELIGION
For functionalists, religious institutions play a central part in creating and maintaining value consensus, order and solidarity. The first functionalist to develop this idea was Emile Durkheim: The sacred and profane
The key feature of religion was not a belief in Gods or the supernatural but a fundamental distinction between the sacred and the profane found in all religions. The sacred are things that are set apart and forbidden.
Inspire feelings of awe, fear and wonder.
Surrounded by taboos and prohibitions.
The profane are things that have no special significance; they are ordinary and mundane. Furthermore, a religion is never simply a set of beliefs, it also involves definite rituals or practices to be sacred, these rituals are collective- performed by...
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