What is Religion?
What is Religion? Is it a social genus, a concept of family resemblance, or an abstract code of behavior? In this article, I discuss the broader concepts of religion and how they can be applied to social science. I also discuss whether Religion is a universal or culturally specific concept. In my view, religion is a social genus, and cultural variation is a factor in its universality.
Religion as a social genus
“Religion” is often used as a taxonomic label for cultural practices. In the last forty years, many scholars have argued that religion is not a universal concept but rather an invented tool by certain people for their own purposes. In this way, religion is not a state of the soul or the interior state of the mind. Instead, it is a social reality whose members have specific practices and beliefs and impose these practices on others.
Religion as a family resemblance concept
One way of understanding religion is as a family resemblance. Wittgenstein said that people resemble each other through a series of traits. His family resemblance concept was applied to art by Maurice Weitz. He argued that the difficulty in defining art stems from a misplaced search for the essence of the work of art. Those who share the same traits and experiences are similar.
Religion as a code of behavior
Some philosophers have asserted that religion is a code of behavior. Whether or not this view is true may depend on the definition of morality. Some philosophers argue that morality encompasses the entire human community and that it is violated more often than it is honored. In other words, if one religion promotes moral behavior, it is a code of behavior, and it can be applied to any community, including the religious community.
Religion as an abstract set of ideas
Many philosophers have challenged the traditional notion of religion as an abstract set of ideas, and argued that it lacks logical coherence. The basic problem with such a view is that the content of religious claims is not verifiable or falsifiable. Therefore, the question of how to evaluate religious beliefs is an essentially philosophical one. There is a difference between logical coherence and conceptual clarity, but both require that a set of ideas be comprehensible to others.
Religion as a form of proto-science
The study of religion has been approached through various philosophical approaches. Philosophers from the fields of anthropology and sociology engage in religious studies and scientific research. The different approaches have distinct philosophical questions. A helpful scientific category has been proposed to classify religions and its practices, though this definition may not be applicable in all situations. This paper aims to answer these questions by exploring the classical canon of anthropology and sociology of religion.