The Definition of Religion in Comparative Perspectives
Religion is an important part of human society, and it deals with questions about the place of humans in the universe and the meaning of life. It is a powerful force that influences social and political life locally, nationally and globally.
In the past century, there has been a debate about how to define the concept of religion. Some scholars have claimed that it is an invented category, and that it has been used to reinforce social inequality and social conflict in many societies. Others argue that it is a tool used by people for their own purposes.
A key criterion in sociological thinking about the functions of religion is Emile Durkheim’s idea that it serves a variety of social purposes. He argues that religion is important for sustaining social order, promoting social equality, and influencing the values and practices of people.
The most common definition of religion is the belief in spiritual beings, such as gods or spirits. Other functional criterion monothetic definitions include ultimate concern or the sense of a divine force that provides meaning to one’s life.
Regardless of the criterion, religious experiences and beliefs vary widely among individuals. Some are very involved in their religion’s theological beliefs and rituals of worship, while other are more interested in the community and culture that surrounds them.
This diversity has been recognized by a growing number of researchers in the humanities and the social sciences. They have been pushing back against the elitism that often characterizes the use of the term “religion,” and they have been developing new conceptual categories for discussing religion in a comparative context.