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May 1, 2018 / C H Thompson

Social constructionist definitions

  • Social constructionists take an interpretivist viewpoint that focuses on how members of society themselves define religion
  • They argue that it isn’t possible to produce a single, universal definition of religion as in reality, different individuals and groups mean different things by the term ‘religion’.
  • Social constructionists are interested in how definitions of religion are constructed, challenged and fought over.
  • For example, Aldridge shows how according to the followers of Scientology it is a religion, but some governments have denied it of a legal status as a religion and banning it,
  • therefore showing that definitions of religion are influenced by those who have the power to define it.
  • Social constructionists don’t assume that religion always involves a belief system such as believing in God or the supernatural, or that religion performs similar functions for everyone in all societies.
  • Their approach instead aims o find the meanings that people themselves give to religion


  • However, this means the nature of religion can’t be generalised as people might have widely different views about what defines as a religion.



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