Descriptive definition of religion

Create a 5 pages page paper that discusses descriptive definition of religion. Defining religion is a perfect example of the philosopher’s problem. Sociologists, philosophers, theorists, and psychologists have for centuries offered their unique definitions, almost all of which are contradictory to one another. For instance, Emil Durkheim, the founder of sociology, described religion as “social”, in contrast to philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, who described religion as what an individual does with his solitariness. Most definitions of religion ultimately leave something out, and they characteristically reflect the bias of the definer. Thus, there is a need for a coherent yet nuanced description of what religion is in general. After giving this definition, there needs to be an application of this definition to religions in specific: to the actual practices of such faiths as we find in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Only in that context can we judge whether the definition is sufficient in accomplishing the goal of supply such a coherent yet nuanced account of religion.

When we approach the history of defining religions, one could recognize three general kinds of answers to the question “what is religion?” The first kind of answer is an essential definition or one that tries to find some characteristic center to religion that can be used to measure the various manifestations of such practices. Just as being rational is an essential characteristic of being human, so there must be some essential characteristic that makes a religion a religion. The second kind of answer is a functional definition or one that tries not to localize what religion is but what it does relative to the individual or to the group. The function of a knife is to cut, and so too there must be a function of religion for various peoples. The third kind of answer is a descriptive one or one that tries to describe religion from an outside perspective. 

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