Substantivist (or “essentialist“) definitions tend to be overly specific, narrow or limited as it is most difficult to find a single characteristic that is common in all religions.However, functionalist definitions tend to have the opposite problem—being overly broad, providing a function of religion that is also shared with things that are not religions. Theories of essentialism differ with respect to their conception of what it means to say that a property is essential to an object. The aim is to provide readers with an arsenal of critical concepts for studying religious ideologies, practices, and communities. Oxford Dictionaries defines religion as the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. ESSENTIALIST DEFINITION - looks at what is the essential nature of religion. … Starting with his essentialist definition of religion, E.B. This approach defines religion as a system of beliefs and behaviors that characterizes the relationship between people and the supernatural. A Critical Introduction to the Study of Religion introduces the key concepts and theories from religious studies that are necessary for a full understanding of the complex relations between religion and society. Tylor develops his understanding of religion by focusing on: Studying "primitive" peoples (indigenous religions) to understand the origins of religion. The definition of religion is a controversial and complicated subject in religious studies with scholars failing to agree on any one definition. Essentialism is the view that every entity has a set of attributes that are necessary to its identity and function. 2. In so arguing, I provide a response to the view that there is nothing distinctive about religions, as well as to the recent claim that essentialism: that it is a politically necessary shorthand; or even, in some arguments, a psychologically inevitable feature of the way human beings think. what is the focus of the functionalists definition of religion? Melford Spiro (1920-2014) was an American anthropologist and specialist in religion. Essentialism definition, a doctrine that certain traditional concepts, ideals, and skills are essential to society and should be taught methodically to all students, regardless of individual ability, need, etc. FUNCTIONAL DEFINITION - focus on what religion does either socially or psychologically (one problem with this is that the definition could be applied to beliefs and behaviors that are not religious in nature) 3. He is also remembered for shifting attention in religious studies away from essentialist views of religion to functionalist theories, notably in his contribution to a collection called Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion.. Spiro always had a keen interest in religion and psychology. Essentialism, In ontology, the view that some properties of objects are essential to them.The “essence” of a thing is conceived as the totality of its essential properties. Diana Fuss (1989) has argued that the essentialism/ constructionism binary blocks innovative thinking, providing people with too easy a basis for unreflective dismissal. that essentialist definitions of “religions” are inadequate, and that religions should be construed, instead, as possessing a number of “family resemblances”. Gayatri Spivak (1988) This definition starts off as “essentialist,” asserting that the essential characteristic of a religious belief system is the “search for meaning beyond materialism” — if true, however, it would include a multitude of personal beliefs which would never normally be classified as religious. 12 Essentialist Oversimplifications About Religion Badly in Need of Theory 01/26/2015 01:09 pm ET Updated Mar 28, 2015 The Raw Story published a post with the deliciously satisfying title, " These are the 12 worst ideas religion has unleashed on the world ."