<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
In this module you will be introduced to a number of definitions of religion.

Your own definition of religion

At this point it would be very useful for you to experiment with drawing up a definition of religion.

Before you do that, first warm up a bit by defining ordinary things in everyday life. To use examples, take "chair", "dog" or "mountain". Don"t jump to a dictionary right away. First come up with your own definitions. Not as easy as you thought, eh?

Develop a definition of religion. This does not exclude that you may eventually come up with one of the definitions below, or with another one held by other scholars. The important point is that you know how and why you came to that definition. So what is required, is not only the definition itself, but a thorough motivation of your reasoning behind coming to it. One or two pages will do.

A comparative look at various definitions of religion

They will simply be listed. You are not required to learn them by heart. But read them very carefully, and make sure that you understand fully what each of them means. It would of course do no harm to remember some of them. You will be required, however, to analyse and criticise them.

It would be possible to go deeply into each one of them and to study all the ideas that lie behind them and are contained in them, but that would take us too far for now. However, some of them contain ideas (such as "ritual") that you may have not studied yet. In such cases, consult a knowledgeable person or literature to clarify the meaning of such terms.

According to the following authors, arranged in alphabetical order, religion refers to:

... a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things ... beliefs and practices which unite into a single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them - Emile Durkheim

When Durkheim here speaks of "church", he uses a term that is derived from Christianity, but that is (in certain senses) used with reference to the organized, socially established forms of all religions. It happens quite often that a term originally at home in one specific religion, became useful to describe something in more religions. "Taboo" is another example.

... illusions, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest, and most insistent wishes of mankind - Sigmund Freud

... the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people - Karl Marx

... all people's serious concerns that go beyond their strictly biological needs - Thomas Luckmann

... whatever gives people a serious sense of identity - Hans Mol

... a way of entering into a relationship with the supra–empirical aspects of reality, be they conceived as God, gods, or otherwise - Thomas F O'Dea

The word "supra" means "beyond". "Empirical" means "what has to do with sense–experience". Together they refer to those aspects of life that go beyond, or lie outside, our ordinary sense experience.

... what the individual does with his own solitariness - Alfred North Whitehead

... advice about, and training in, the steps necessary for salvation - Bryan Wilson

... a comprehensive and fundamental orientation in the world. This usually contains ideas of the ultimate nature of things and of divinity, transmitted in sacred traditions, requiring social and personal commitment, and expressed in rituals and morality. It includes, but is not restricted to organized forms of religions, world views, belief systems and indigenous knowledge systems - The South African Curriculum Statement for Religion Studies

The last definition rests on and applies the South African Policy on Religion and Education, which was issued on 12 September 2003 (Government Gazette Volume 459, No 25459). We just had to include something like this to show you the difference between definitions made up by scholars and those made up for legal and administrative purposes. Note how this definition also breaks one of the first rules of definition-writing: never include the word itself in your definition! A definition of religion should not contain the word "religion" itself.

Your own definition of religion, reconsidered

Has your understanding of religion changed by reading these definitions? Is there one, or are there elements of several, that have impressed you to the point where you would like to rewrite your own definition? Go ahead, do it now.

Questions & Answers

what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
what is the k.e before it land
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
I'm interested in nanotube
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
what is nano technology
Sravani Reply
what is system testing?
preparation of nanomaterial
Victor Reply
how to synthesize TiO2 nanoparticles by chemical methods
what's the program
what chemical
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
Privacy Information Security Software Version 1.1a
Got questions? Join the online conversation and get instant answers!
QuizOver.com Reply

Get the best Algebra and trigonometry course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, Learning about religion. OpenStax CNX. Apr 18, 2015 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11780/1.1
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Learning about religion' conversation and receive update notifications?