Understanding the Concept of Religion
Religion is a complex and important social force that shapes the lives of people. It can help people to learn self-control, improve their health, reduce social pathologies and enhance their sense of community. It also provides a sense of security for those who believe in it.
A History of the Concept
Over time, the definitions of what counts as religion have shifted dramatically. The term originally meant scrupulous devotion to a particular god, and later it was used for a variety of other social practices.
It can be argued that these shifts are not arbitrary but reflect the nature of the term, which was invented for a specific set of purposes and then imposed on others. In addition, the concept’s ambiguous character has led some scholars to call religion a “non-representative” or “unproblematically “there” object.
A Theory of Religion
The study of religion is often based on the work of Emile Durkheim, who stressed that it is a social practice that serves a society even if the beliefs are not necessarily shared by all members. This approach is useful because it focuses on the social function of religion rather than on what religious beliefs are preferred by different societies.
A third approach to the study of religion aims to explore the ways in which individual religious experiences can be interpreted. This view focuses on what makes religious beliefs and practices sacred, what they mean to individuals, and how they relate to their lives and the lives of those around them.