Why “Definitions of Religion”?

Any genealogy of religion must, as a threshold issue, define its primary term.  There are many definitions of “religion” and some are better than others.  Among Western scholars, there has been a pervasive tendency to define “religion” in terms that correspond to geographically distinct and historically recent forms of organized religion.  Definitions that include references to systems, doctrines, morals, the sacred, the afterlife, and gods all betray a peculiarly Western idea about what religion is or should be.  This Category will examine the many different definitions of religion, and discuss which definition(s) best fits an effort to locate the origins of supernatural thinking in deep time and trace its development into what is recognized as “religious” thinking today.

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