Scientology and the Substantive Definition of Religion

Scientology and the Comparative Definition of Religion

Scientology and the Functional Definition of Religion

Scientology and the Analytical Definition of Religion

Sharing a Body of Doctrine

Participation in Rituals and Acts of Devotion

Direct Experience of Ultimate Reality

Religious Knowledge

Consequences in Quotidian Life

Scientology and the Emic Definitions of Religions


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Another class of definitions characterizes religion by the consequences that it holds in other areas of life. The first functional definitions of religion came out of the work of Emile Durkheim and put the stress on the feelings of solidarity which religious ceremonies evoked and its effects on social cohesion and community unity. These definitions have been criticized on the basis that, on the one hand, there frequently exist multiple religions in the same society putting in doubt the cohesive function of religion for the community as a whole and, on the other hand, other non-religious symbols and rituals, such as those which belong to the nation, the state or ethnic group, can serve the same function of creating ties of solidarity and community sentiment.

Actually a certain number of social scientists now define religion by its consequences not in social life but in the personal life of individuals. These authors define religion as “a combination of forms and symbolic acts which relate the individual to the ultimate conditions of his existence” (Bellah 1964:358) or as “a system of beliefs and practices through which a group of people faces the fundamental problems of life.” (Yinger 1970:7) Such fundamental problems would include: the perception of injustice, the experience of suffering and the awareness of what life lacks in meaning and purpose. Religions propound two types of answers to such problems of humanity. On one side, they would offer explanations for them giving them meaning. On the other, they would propound methods and programs of action directed to overcome these problems.

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