Religion is an important aspect of people’s lives. People turn to their religion for comfort, guidance and support. It also helps them develop moral values, build relationships and create a bond in society.
There are many different religions in the world, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Then there are also specific religions, such as Shinto and hockey, which are only practiced in certain countries. People often define religion by the things that they believe in, but this is not always accurate. Defining religion can be difficult because it is so personal to each person.
The question of how to define religion has long been an issue in sociology, anthropology and history. Some writers have recommended that researchers should proceed with study and fashion definitions only afterward (Harrison 1912, Weber 1922). But this approach is problematic because it can lead to an artificial separation between study and theory, and can also prevent the emergence of new religions, revitalization movements and quasi-religious pursuits.
Other writers have tended to adopt a formal strategy in the attempt to provide a definitive definition of religion. Zeldin, for example, takes as her starting point a structure of discontinuous relatedness between an empirical, mundane order and a superempirical, cosmic-level order. Others, like Lemert and Blasi, have taken a similar view, while still others, like Turner, have used the concept of religion to explain social phenomena.
A third strategy involves attempting to categorize religious facts on the basis of secondary traits. Alston, for example, developed his taxonomy of religion by looking at the ways in which religious characteristics grouped together. He suggested that, in the case of religion, there were a number of crisscrossing and partially overlapping features that could be seen as forming a family resemblance.
Some scholars have attempted to leave the three-part framework entirely and argue that religion is a feeling, not a cognitive state. James, for example, has emphasized the affective aspects of religion and played down (though not denied) the role of cognition. Others, however, have criticized the idea that religion is a feeling, because it does not explain how feelings can cause actions or influence decisions.
A further problem with the “feeling” approach to religion is that it tends to ignore the fact that most followers of a particular religion think of their faith as the best, or at least the most authentic. Similarly, most historians of religion have found that the desire to understand one’s own culture and tradition in terms of its relationship with other religions is very strong. This has led to a resurgence of interest in the field of comparative religion. This has, in turn, fueled further debate over how to define religion and how to understand it in its global context.