Re: Atheism and Religion -Reply

Sun, 12 Nov 1995 09:44:00 PST

Crapo nicely distinguishes between the different goals involved in a
legalistic definition of religion versus the status of such a concept in a
cultural/scientific framework. He also comments:

"Within cultural anthropology the question of how best to define religion
seems to have an effect similar to the question of how to define
"species" within among biological anthropologists. You have your
"lumpers" and your "splitters". The former seem to prefer one form or
another of a "functional definition" (if, indeed, it is appropriate to use the
term "definition" when classifying things by their functions), while the
latter are usually seeking some essential attribute(s) that is/are at the
core of religion wherever it is observed. "

The dichotomy he poses has widespread occurance and can also be
seen as "definition" in terms of CONSEQUENCES of structuring properties
versus definition in terms OF those structuring properties. Thus, we might
observe that belief systems we definitely agree can be called "religious"
have a belief in a supernatural. Is that belief in the supernatural a
structuring property ("a religious systems is the belief system built up
around the concept of a supernatural") or a consequence(" a religious system
is the attempt to answer questions relating to origins and this leads to
positing the existence of a supernatural as the causitive force for
origins"). Obviously, one's arguement about the "need" for a belief in a
supernatural for something to be labeled a religious belief system is
heavily affected by the status one assigns to a belief in a supernatural in
the conceptual system under question.

D. Read