Defining Religion

Peter Berger suggests that religion acts as a ‘sacred canopy’ for people and that it adds meaning to events and circumstances in their life. After considering what this means for us as individuals and ways in which this could be said be to true in our own experiences, students can begin to consider what we mean by the term ‘religion’? Working in pairs or small groups students could write down features of what they feel constitutes a ‘religion’ and examples of groups they would could as being a religion.

From this provide students with the three definitions of religion provided at the start of this blog post:

Discover More Religion-science-and-ideology

This covers the substantive, functional and social constructionist definitions. Ask them to look back at the examples of religions they suggested in their pairs/groups and consider the extent to which the examples they have provided meet the criteria for a religion as suggested by the definition. They could then consider what other aspects of social life and society could be considered under each of the definitions. Examples to consider here could include being a supporter of a specific football team or being a ‘super fan’ of a particular band or singer.

As an independent learning activity, students could then be tasked with finding out more about major world religions, other than those with which they are already familiar. This is a very useful exercise to be tasked with as some examination boards note a limited range of understanding of religions other than the one they have perhaps experienced from some students.


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