The Problem to Define the Concepts Religion and Secularity When Their Components Become Individualized and Differentiated

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Per PETTERSSON, Karlstads Universitet, Sweden
The concept “religion” is a multifaceted concept. It is used in very different ways in different social, cultural and academic contexts, often without specified definition. This is relatively unproblematic in daily life when talking about religion as part of private life. But the concept “religion” becomes problematic when it is used without definition in social practice like public debate, political discourse or applied in cases of conflict. Especially when it becomes decisive and affect people’s practical lives in serious ways. One significant example concern references to the principle of “Freedom of religion”, both aspects of having the right to practise your own religion, and the right to freedom from religion. Since the principle “Freedom of religion” is highly valued in many legal systems, it is of need to critically scrutinize the concept “religion” as well as it’s supposed opposite, secularity. Empirical research often implicitly define individuals’ religion in terms of belonging, believing or practicing, or by combinations of these three dimensions. Along with society’s increasing pluralisation and individualisation, the divergence between these three increase continuously. What has previously been regarded as religious practices thereby becomes increasingly visible as “secular” cultural practices, not directly linked to belonging or beliefs of a certain religious tradition or group. This highlights the questions: How should we define the concept religion? What practices should be regarded as religious? Should religion primarily be regarded as an issue of belonging and perceived identity? Or is religion in its core an issue of beliefs and confession? What should be regarded as religious rights when these three dimensions appear functionally differentiated, and an individual can be secularised in one dimension, a Buddhist in the second and Christian in the third dimension? The aim of this paper is to contribute to this critical conceptual discussion, relating it to social practice.