A Sociological Definition of Religion
A monothetic-set definition of religion treats religion as a complex multidimensional phenomenon. This is nothing new; Christian theologians have long analyzed the way of life as fides, fiducia, fidelitas, and fidelis. Fides is the cognitive state of belief in a particular belief system. But it is not sufficient to understand religion as a mono-dimensional complex. We need to consider how religion affects human life.
Functionalist definitions of religion
Most academic definitions of religion are sociological and psychological, with a strong emphasis on how religion affects believers. A positive role for religion, such as providing meaning and purpose, is important for mental health in a chaotic world. A negative role, on the other hand, may be a form of neurosis. But which is correct? The question of what religion does must be the starting point of a sociological definition of religion.
In the definition of “theism” offered by Le Poidevin, “theism is the proposition that an intentional cause exists for the universe, which includes love and moral knowledge.” Likewise, he defines the term “intrinsic probability” to mean the probability of a proposition before any evidence is given. The probability depends on intrinsic features of content, which are a priori considerations. In other words, if a proposition is based on theism, then its probability is high.
Animists believe that all objects, places, and creatures have a spiritual essence. They perceive these things as living, animated beings. The term “animist” refers to this view. Animists believe that all things are spiritual, including plants, animals, and even other people. Therefore, they believe that everything has the ability to communicate and feel emotions. Animists also believe that the universe is alive, and that everything is in some way related to one another.
Totemism is the practice of identifying objects with special powers. The ancients often associated objects with totems with human beings. In the case of totems, this connection may have been a vestige of an earlier practice. However, there is no clear indication of how this ancestor-symbol connection developed. For this reason, it is not entirely clear if the totems of today were ever practiced by humans.
A group of spiritual practices and beliefs known as the “New Age” quickly took hold of Western society in the early 1970s. The group’s structure is highly eclectic and unsystematic. The eponymous book offers a brief overview of the New Age religion and its main tenets. There is no single, established religion and no set number of adherents, but the group aims to create a “new world” of spiritual experiences and practices.