A Definition of Religion for the Social-Scientific Study of Religion

Fenggang Yang

in Religion in China

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199735655
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918591 | DOI:
A Definition of Religion for the Social-Scientific Study of Religion

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Chapter Two presents a definition of religion combined with a classification scheme, which is needed for the political economic approach in the social scientific study of religion that examines religion and its competitive alternatives within the larger society. “A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices about life and the world relative to the supernatural that unite the believers or followers into a social organization or moral community.” “This definition includes four essential elements of a religion: (1) a belief in the supernatural; (2) a set of beliefs regarding life and the world; (3) a set of ritual practices manifesting the beliefs; and (4) a distinct social organization or moral community of the believers and practitioners. It differentiates developed religion from quasi-religion of folk religion and civil religion, and pseudo-religion of personality cults and political ideologies.

Keywords: belief; ritual; the supernatural; moral community; religious organization; magic; folk religion; civil religion; Durkheim

Chapter.  5127 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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