The Concept of Religion

Categories : Gembing


Religion is a human need for meaning and value. It enables people to be willing to live according to and even die for what they value. It serves as the primary source of valuation for the human species and it answers fundamental questions about life.

While scholars have studied the concept of religion for decades, it is only recently that a sense of scholarly urgency has emerged with regard to this very complex phenomenon. The emergence of this field of study has been driven by the recognition that there are many different religions and that the study of these religious traditions is critical for understanding other cultures in an increasingly global world.

The challenge for scholarly inquiry with regard to this subject matter is that there are no clearly defined boundaries to the concept of religion. The word has been used to describe everything from scrupulous devotion to an organized system of beliefs, and this broad range makes it difficult to determine what this term really means. Some definitions have attempted to fix this problem by using what are called “substantive” or “lexical” definitions that seek to determine membership in the category of religion based on the presence of certain specific kinds of belief.

Other scholars have opted for functional definitions of religion that avoid the need for such a strict criteria for categorization. For example, Emile Durkheim argued that whatever system of practices unite people into a moral community should be considered a religion (even if the practices do not involve belief in unusual realities). Other scholars have taken a pragmatic approach and used Ludwig Wittgenstein’s theory of family resemblance to argue for a very loosely construed definition of the term.