Can religion be adequately defined? Free essay! Download now
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Can religion be adequately defined?
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| Words: 1804 | Submitted: 20-May-2011
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Descriptionan essay using various theories on whether religion can be truly defined
Can religion be adequately defined?
This essay will attempt to explore the issue of whether religion can be sufficiently defined. Many religious academics have noted the difficulty of this subject. This essay will explore the sociological, anthropological and theological definitions of religion. There are many scholars in various fields who have attempted to define religion. These have included definitions based on its function, its content or what it consists of (eg rituals, traditions etc). Thakur discusses that an adequate definition of religion needs to satisfy many conditions. It has to be universal in scope and descriptive. Thakur notes that an adequate definition should not be ”excessively theocentric, nor reductionist, and that it accommodates non- institutionalised and personal expressions of religiosity..”(Thakur,S, 1981, p 21) When studying religion, one must be able to differentiate between what is religious and what isn’t and to be able to do this, the student must have an adequate idea of what religion is, which is why a definition is significant. When studying the various definitions of religion, one can acknowledge that they have a tendency to be either to limited; excluding various religions, or to indistinct and vague. This form of definition leaves one to believe that anything that effects an individuals life in some way, can be classified as a religion. Connolly (1990 p 2) discusses that conflicts surrounding defining religion, revolve around issues of scope- what can and cannot be reasonably incorporated when attempting to come to a definitive, adequate conclusion.
Chryssides/ Greaves notes that when attempting to define religion, there needs to be some distinction between ‘substantive’ and ‘functionalist’ definitions. A functionalist description describes what religion does for those that follow it. Substantive on the other hand, seeks to define religion in terms of what it is. Those who concur with functionalist definitions of religion believe that religion is about what religion does. For example if an individuals beliefs/ views has a distinct meaning in that persons life (socially/ in society etc) then it is defined as a religion. An example of this is something which connects a community. Connolly argues that some functionalist definitions are not adequate as the boundaries of the term ‘religion’ are too generalised. He argues that some are so broad that it can be associated with many other activities, for example football can be deemed religious. Religion therefore becomes likened to whatever is most important to that person. Connolly comments that “...that surely is an over- extension of the terms meaning” (Connolly, 1990, p4). Indeed there are similarities between the devotion of a sporting fan and a practising religious individual: the idolisation of a sporting personality, the ritual activities of that particular team/ sport and loyalty towards them. The ...
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