Definition of Religion

The usual form of definition in scholarly work puts what is to be defined into a larger category and then narrows it down to what distinguishes it from other items in that category. Theologians, for example, may see religion as a virtue (larger category) whereby one tends to render to God what is owed God (narrowing features). This cannot be done in a discipline that prescinds from such matters as whether religion is virtuous, whether people owe anything to God, and whether God exists in the singular, plural, or at all. Consequently, sociologists who try to define religion, and many do not, use other definitional strategies. This entry reviews four major definitional strategies, observes some of their strengths and weaknesses, and notes the importance of ...

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