V. Modern Definitions of Religion

Law and theology are both normative disciplines, and in consequence the bias of the normative perspective to which they are committed colours their definitions and assumptions. As modern scholarship has widened our acquaintance with other cultures, so it has been recognized that what is appropriately designated as “religion” often departs in many particulars relative to belief, practice and institutional arrangements from those which characterize Christianity. In consequence a more encompassing definition of religion has been sought, and one which recognizes that other societies espouse religious beliefs, engage in religious practices and maintain religious institutions, different as these are from Christian conceptions. Increased acquaintance with numerous empirical cases rendered impossible the assumption voiced even by serious academic commentators in the nineteenth century, that peoples other than Christians, Jews and Muslims, had “no religion”.

VI. Ethically Neutral Definitions