The Living Religion Approach


Religion is the relation of human beings to something that they regard as holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of especial reverence. It is also the way people deal with ultimate concerns about their lives and their fate after death.

Religious beliefs, practices, and rituals often involve behaviors such as prayer, meditation, and participation in collective rituals. They are often based on the belief that certain moral teachings have divine authority and that texts have scriptural status.

The definition of religion is problematic because it can drive theories and determine conclusions (Harrison 1912, Weber 1922). With new religions and revitalization movements becoming popular in modern societies, it has become important to have a well-defined concept of religion, which would allow for a more fruitful study and research of these practices.

Various scholars have offered different definitions of religion, including Durkheim’s “faith,” Tillich’s “whatever dominant concern serves to organize a person’s values,” Cooley’s “microfunction,” and Luckmann’s “self-transcending” function.

Cooley’s “microfunction” and Luckmann’s “self-transcending” functions were formulated in terms of individualist needs, whereas Durkheim’s “faith” and Paul Tillich’s “whatever dominant concern” turned on social functions.

The living religion approach changes how we define and examine religion by recognizing that it is an emergent social category that includes beliefs and rituals that people come to believe, and how they act in response to those beliefs. It is a category that people use to enrich their lives, express their identities, connect with others, cope with life’s ups and downs, and help those in need.