chapter  8
36 Pages

Religion: Problems or Definition and Explanation

ByMelford E. Spiro

Most functional definitions of religion are essentially a subclass of real definitions in which functional variables are stipulated as the essential nature of religion. The adaptive function of religion, in satisfying the desire for the attainment of goals, provides—as Marxism has stressed–a most important basis for social stability. Conversely, while religious beliefs are not always of ultimate concern, nonreligious beliefs sometimes are. This raises a final unwar-ranted conclusion, viz. that religion uniquely refers to the ‘sacred’, while secular concerns are necessarily ‘profane’. Most theorists seem to agree that religious statements are believed to be true because religious actors have had social experiences which, corresponding to taught beliefs, provide them with face validity. Religious belief systems provide the members of society with meaning and explanation for otherwise meaningless and inexplicable phenomena. Religion, it is argued, not only satisfies certain functional requirements of society, but it is a necessary condition for their satisfaction.