Whether you believe in a personal God or in the idea of a cosmic, infinite energy, religion has a common denominator – the feeling of dependence upon something beyond the self. Different people describe that factor in different ways: modern theologians call it personal God, evolutionary philosophers call it Infinite and Eternal Energy. But all philosophy is a product of partial interpretations – no one can predict the final conception of the world or the final idea of God.
Defining religion is a tricky subject in the field of religious studies. Many scholars fail to agree on a single definition. According to Oxford Dictionaries, religion is the belief in a personal god and the worship of a superhuman controlling power. This definition seems too limiting to most people.
The concept of religion has changed over the centuries. In the past, it referred to scrupulous devotion to a particular god. Today, it is far more complex. It is a broader concept than it was in ancient times, and there are many new religions and revival movements emerging in modern societies. Quasi-religious pursuits are also on the rise. The authors of Defining Religion discuss these issues and define the concept of religion.
Defining religion in terms of desire
Defining religion is a problematic exercise, since the concept of religion can take on many forms and is thus susceptible to a number of different interpretations. Some definitions are driven by theory and are not appropriate for the study of religion, and others are based on the empirical evidence. Moreover, new religions and revival movements are emerging and quasi-religious pursuits are becoming more common in modern societies. To better understand the complexity of these issues, it is necessary to first define what religion is.
According to the “family resemblance” model, religions share some common characteristics with each other. A common attribute is belief in a supernatural power or divine being. This definition is also widely applicable across cultures, but is too narrow to be applicable to every situation.
Defining religion in terms of social taxon
Many attempts to define religion have sought to incorporate two concepts into one, namely the concept of religion as a social taxon and the concept of the spiritual. The latter concept is used to refer to beliefs about a power higher than man and the belief in pleasing these powers. The attempt to outline these two concepts as a single category reflects an awareness of the multifaceted nature of religion, but is inconclusive. Nevertheless, it is possible to see the relationship between religion and colonialism.
In the case of religious beliefs, ritual behavior is generally associated with a society’s prosociality. Likewise, belief in high gods has been linked to increased economic growth and social stabilization.
Defining religion as a family resemblance concept
There are several different ways to define religion. Some consider it to be a substantive concept that requires that people have a belief in a separate reality while others consider it to be a system of practices that unite people. Regardless of which definition you favor, the important thing to keep in mind is that each definition has its strengths and limitations.
The anti-essentialist approach to religion was developed by Ludwig Wittgenstein. He argued that some concepts have no single defining property but share a family resemblance. This approach rejected the idea that a concept should only have one criterion in order to be meaningful.