Over the past four centuries, the concept of religion has undergone a reshaping that is as dramatic and as disconcerting to scholars as it is to members of the religious community themselves. This shift, as de Muckadell (2014) points out, has been accompanied by an increasing variety of practices that are said to fall within the concept.
The range of definitions has widened in two ways: first, by embracing a multiplicity of practices that are not believed to share a distinctive reality–in other words, by expanding the sense of religion to include a wide spectrum of social practices. Second, by incorporating a functional dimension into its definition–that is, by treating it as a taxon of life that can be defined in terms of its distinctive role in human lives.
This approach is in sharp contrast to the more monothetic approaches that have dominated research on religion, which operate with the classical view that every instance of a concept will share a defining property. These methods have prompted a reshaping of the study of religion that has brought to light two important philosophical issues:
What is Religion?
Religion is the process of valuing that involves intense and comprehensive efforts to make sense of the world, including human lives. It includes a series of activities that are organized and performed in a way that helps believers understand how they fit into an overall system of beliefs and values. These include worship, moral conduct, right belief, and participation in religious institutions.