The development of a structured society is definitely a "function of" religion. That does not make it religion's exlusive purview, though. Religion encourages coherent societies because coherent societies encourage religion. Once that idea takes hold, it perpetuates itself. I don't think religion necessarily exists because it encourages social cohesion, and I don't think religion needs to encourage social cohesion. Both are often true, though, and neither is a concidence.
I don't know. I was thinking about this last night.
On the one hand, I'm not crazy about this definition, because it feels so broad. I don't think words should drift to become less specific over time. I reach for a defintion which mandates the supernatural, or a creator, or something. To me, the above quote could be used to, say, describe a club of marathon runners, and to legitimize running as, literally, their religion.
Then I started to wonder if you might actually hold this as a legitimate belief, that running is functionally a religion whose members aren't particularly caught up in the importance of any aspect of their religion besides just doing a lot of jogging. Maybe religions lie along a spectrum of specificity, with something like fundamentalist Islam (very strict and specific) laying on the far right, and lots of things that are more or less serious hobbies (not strict or specific, at least within a group) on the far left.
it is a very broad definition. the difficulty is that when you tighten up the definition you exclude a bunch of things that would otherwise currently be considered religions. nobody wants to have to tell a group of people, "sorry, you're not actually religious any more--we made a mistake!" the label was applied rather haphazardly in the past, but it's too late now to go back to a narrow definition and strip people of their religious identities. there is debate surrounding the extent to which certain 'ancient' religions (buddhism and shinto, for example) are modern inventions. either way, though, they are what they are now and people identify as belonging to these religions, and that ought to be respected. while it's messy and incoherent, the alternative would mean returning to something like this:
Robert Ford Campany wrote:
Well into the nineteenth century, there “were” only four religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and a fourth variously named Paganism, Idolatry, or Heathenism.
Maybe there's no real or meaningful way to define the point where religion begins and lifestyle ends; maybe the answer to that question doesn't matter very much.
it probably is impossible, but i wouldn't say it doesn't matter. as long as people speak of 'religious wars' and 'islamic terrorists' i think it is very important to give attention to what is meant by the adjective 'religious' in such cases, and to what extent a terrorist's religious affiliation is relevant to what they do.
This is really interesting... do you have some source material?
Ian Reader, Religion in Contemporary Japan, 1991 wrote:
A problem that occurs in all this is precisely what is understood when terms like ‘religion’ are used in Japan. The Japanese word generally used in surveys and elsewhere to denote ‘religion’ is shūkyō, a word made up of two ideograms, shū, meaning sect or denomination, and kyō, teaching or doctrine. It is a derived word that came into prominence in the nineteenth century as a result of Japanese encounters with the West and particularly with Christian missionaries, to denote a concept and view of religion commonplace in the realms of nineteenth-century Christian theology but at that time not found in Japan, of religion as a specific, belief-framed entity. The term shūkyō thus, in origin at least, implies a separation of that which is religious from other aspects of society and culture, and contains implications of belief and commitment to one order or movement – something that has not been traditionally a common factor in Japanese religious behaviour and something that tends to exclude many of the phenomena involved in the Japanese religious process. When tied to questions of belief it does conjure up notions of narrow commitment to a particular teaching to the implicit exclusion and denial of others – something which goes against the general complementary nature of the Japanese religious tradition. In shūkyō and hence in the idea of ‘religion’ there is a hint of something committing, restrictive and even intrusive, and, as one Japanese scholar has recently remarked, for many Japanese the word conjures up bad images of being disturbed on Sunday mornings by ladies ringing one’s doorbell and asking awkward questions.
the chinese word for religion, zōngjiào
, was borrowed from this japanese word and is made up of the same characters (宗教). it's probably the same for most of asia and africa. if you want more examples/details i can have a rummage around, but it might take a few days.