Summary of the Mandatory Literature
Psychology and Sociology of Religion THB1-
Before you start
This summary is prepared by one of the students following the course of Psychology and
Sociology of Religion of 2020-2021. While the author is confidents in the content of the
summary, any grade cannot be guaranteed. This document cannot replace the original lectures
and mandatory readings. The author will not be liable for any kind of typos, mistakes or
misunderstandings. This material is subject to copyright. ©
Furseth & Repstad, Chapter 1 Sociological perspectives on religion
1.1 What is sociology?
In describing sociology, we may say that this discipline has the explanation and the understanding of human
action as its core interest. n order to explain human actions, then, we will distinguish between explanations of
personal quality, of social relations, and of social systems.
An explanation of personal quality states that an event takes place due to the qualities of the individual, which
are viewed as relatively stable.
The social sciences offer several arguments against explanations of personal quality. One argument is that such
explanations tend to be the result of tautologies: people are involved in religion because they are deeply
religious. Sociologists will, however, take this issue further and ask why people become religious. In answering
this question, they frequently rely on relational explanations: a fact or an event must be understood through the
social relations in which people engage. Explanations of relations – also called social explanations – are by
some found to be the best explanations in the social sciences.
The word “relations” may signal a certain modicum of permanence in personal relationships. Social relations are
not always direct; they can be indirect or mediated: passed on through mass media, such as lm or TV. This issue
points to a contemporary debate within sociology.
A major focus in sociology is the study of the interactions that take place between individuals and societal
forms. The term “societal form” is here used in a wide sense. On the one hand, individuals are capable of
changing societal forms, especially when they are acting within a goaloriented and coordinated organization. On
the other hand, individuals are also born into a pre-existing society that affects them in various ways.
Societal forms are material and non-material. Material and social factors reinforce each other, as when a
religious elite expresses its power and significance through spectacular buildings and splendid garments.
Although non-material societal forms are invisible, they still have an impact on individuals. In a religious
context, for example, traditions that are perceived as morally true and right are often experienced as being as
strong as a brick wall.
On the one hand, sociology tends to be critical towards society. On the other, the sociological understanding of
the complexity of society represents a corrective to social engineering. When it comes to the role of religion in
society, sociology has – along with other modern disciplines – contributed to a decreasing validity of religion. In
other words, sociology has in itself a secularizing effect.
1.2 The sociology of religion and general sociology
It is important to know that the sociology of religion does not inherently differ from general sociology.
Generally, sociologists of religion have an interest in religion’s effect on society and society’s influence on
The gap between the sociology of religion and general sociology may also be due to the fact that sociologists of
religion have tended to focus on internal church matters. The reason is that much sociology of religion has been
conducted in close relationship with established churches. Thus, not only religion is affected by its social
context, but also the sociology of religion.
1.3 Sociology as science
The claim that sociology is an empirical science is based on the idea that there must be consistency between
systematically collected and analysed data and the conclusions. The idea that sociology will produce one truth
about society is frequently called positivistic. It implies an optimistic and ambitious view of sociology and its
possibilities which is commonly found among the classical sociologists.
Positivism has been subjected to severe attacks during the past forty years, with the result that few believe in an
objective sociology today. A common argument is that society is changing, and analytical tools that proved to be
useful a few decades ago are of little help in trying to understand contemporary society.
Furthermore, scientists too are members of society and they have their own personal, religious and political
sympathies and frameworks for interpretation. When scholars focus on some issues, other issues remain in the
Today, most sociologists attempt to find a middle position between the old positivistic view and the new critical
relativism. However, few are fully prepared to accept the postmodern view that one interpretation is of equal
value to any other.
An additional requirement is that the empirical data must support the scholar’s conclusions. This does not imply
a naïve notion that empirical data are unambiguous entities that can be taken from a reality “out there” as nal
Although there are no distinctive methods in the sociology of religion, sociologists who study religion will, at
times, face a distinctive set of challenges. The researcher may find it difficult to decide which informants to
These methodological problems do not differ dramatically from other branches of sociology.
1.4 The sociology of religion versus other disciplines that study religion
Sociology has a more general sphere of study than other social sciences, which tend to focus on specific sections
A profound distinction is found between theology and the social sciences. Theology is often labeled a normative
science, because it attempts to prescribe how human beings should act. In contrast, the social sciences are
perceived to be descriptive, because they give information as to how humans actually are. Although useful at
times, such a distinction is too simplistic.
The social sciences operate with several implied premises regarding notions about the common good, about
normalcy and abnormalcy, and about possibilities for change.
A simplistic description of the difference between the sociology of religion and the psychology of religion will
state that psychologists of religion focus on questions related to the individual’s religious life, whereas
sociologists emphasize the role of religion in society. Yet these boundaries are fluid and the common area of
interest seems to be growing.
The last discipline considered here is the history of religion or religious studies. Generally, the approach taken
within the history of religion focuses in more detail upon the history of world religions and its content than does
the sociology of religion. This does not mean that the sociology of religion lacks an interest in the content of
religious ideas, rituals and other religious practices.
1.5 Classical sociology–a comment
The sociology of religion should give ample room to the classics and at the same time include contemporary
theory. The same is true for the sociology of religion. As religion undergoes change, the sociology of religion
also develops along new trends. The scholars who preceded us have reflected upon the issues of religion and
society, and the fact that their work may be fruitful to our studies should fill us with a sense of humility – a
suitable virtue for sociologists of religion, who are hardly able to explain everything about their object of study.
Nelson, Chapters 1.4, 1.5
1.4 Psychological Approaches to Religion and Spirituality
1.4.1 What Is Psychology?
Psychology then became seen as the scientific study of behavior, and this definition is the one found in the
contemporary textbooks and scholarly articles written by most psychologists.
In the US, behaviorism was the dominant paradigm in psychology for the first half of the 20th century.
Behaviorists believe that human behavior can be explained largely on the basis of learning and reinforcement
from the environment. Secondary to this was the psychodynamic or psychoanalytic school of thought, which
sees behavior as determined by internal and often unconscious forces and structures. The discovery of
antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs in the 1950s led to increased interest in neuroscience theories that
explained behavior on the basis of biological and genetic factors affecting the brain. Finally, progress in design
of digital computers invited comparisons with the mind and helped fuel the development of cognitive
psychology, which uses scientific methods to study mental processes like language, reasoning, and memory.
While many early psychologists were interested in or sympathetic to religion, none of the four dominant
approaches to psychology has been particularly friendly to religion
1.4.2 Early American Psychology of Religion
Many of the founders of American psychology had interests in religion, as well as personal religious
184.108.40.206 William James
William James (1842–1910) was the founding president of the American Psychological Association. Originally
trained in medicine, he moved into the field of psychology and become the first American professor of the
subject. His The Varieties of Religious Experience remains one of the great classics of psychological and
220.127.116.11 The Clark School
Hall and the reinterpretation of Christianity. Hall is best known as a developmental psychologist and an early
advocate of genetic psychology, which held that the development of the individual was a recapitulation or
repeat of prior stages in the development of the human species. He thought genetic psychology and secular ideas
could help restructure Christianity, preserving essential psychological truths while rejecting intellectually
unrespectable beliefs such as supernaturalism.
Leuba and the triumph of science over religion. Leuba had abandoned personal religious beliefs prior to
beginning his professional work and became a sharp critic of traditional religion, although he viewed spirituality
in a positive light. He concluded that “disbelief in a personal God and in personal immortality is directly
proportional to abilities making for success in the sciences”. He believed that all behavior is instrumental,
designed to achieve gratification of needs and desires, and that religion was about how we relate to and use the
powers of the psyche. Religion is thus a psychological phenomenon, and should be studied by psychological
By the 1920s, behaviorism and positivism had become the dominant paradigms in psychology; workers in these
areas had little interest in religion, and it was marginalized in academic psychology.
1.4.3 European Developments
European investigations in psychology and religion during much of the 20th century have both parallels and
divergences from US work. A main parallel would be a strong interest in phenomenology and religious
experience, which can be seen in the early 20th century work of German authors like Friedrich von Hugel,
Rudolf Otto, or Friedrich Heiler, the French author Joseph Mareshal. Also, the religious climate in Europe is
marked by much lower levels of religious participation and higher levels of unbelief, so psychologists of
religion working in Europe have a significantly different object of study. Within European academic circles
there are also differences between national traditions.
1.4.4 Psychodynamic Approaches
18.104.22.168 Sigmund Freud
One year before the publication of William James classic Varieties of Religious Experience, an unknown
medical researcher named Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) published The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. Freud
became the founder of psychoanalytic psychology and wrote on a variety of topics, including religion. In
general, Freud saw religion as something that fostered illusion and prevented people from coming to grips with
22.214.171.124 Erik Fromm
Erik Fromm (1900–1980) was a psychoanalyst who had substantial impacts on humanistic psychology,
transpersonal psychology, and the dialogue of psychology with Zen Buddhism. In his view, the key to healthy
spirituality is to reject all authoritarian religion and belief in a power greater than ourselves, such as that
traditionally held within Christianity. In his view, we should accept a humanistic religion “centered around
man and his strength” in which God is understood only as a symbol of human power, “what man potentially is
or ought to become”. Fromm was pessimistic about the social role of religion. He thought traditional religion
was an “empty shell” that was no longer useful
1.4.5 Humanistic and Transpersonal Approaches
In the 1960s, humanistic psychology joined psychoanalysis and behaviorism as a “third force” within the larger
field of psychology. In general, humanistic psychology argues for a weak interpretation of transcendence, an
individualistic and subjective view of the human person, and anti-traditionalist views of religion (Sutich, 1969).
The three most prominent founders of the movement were Carl Rogers (1902–1987), the existential
psychologist Rollo May (1909–1994), and Abraham Maslow (1908–1970). Maslow is important because he was
vocal about religious issues and was a central figure in the creation of transpersonal psychology, a movement
within humanistic psychology focusing on potentials for human development and experiences that extend
beyond what is typical for the individual person.
126.96.36.199 Abraham Maslow
He believed that people act to meet certain basic needs (e.g., food, safety) and that once these are consistently
met we have the ability to develop further and begin seeking after higher needs. In his theory, the highest need
and goal of life was the drive for self-actualization. Satisfaction of higher needs would lead to better physical
and psychological functioning. He felt that while religion might have a role in helping people satisfy lower
drives like safety need. One of Maslow’s most famous contributions was his study of self-actualizers, reported
in the classic book Motivation and Personality (1970). He found self-actualizers were not religious. A key
characteristic reported by his self-actualizing subjects was the presence of peak experiences—an ecstatic state
of nonpossessive and self-transcending perception of the universe as an integrated whole. The peak state is the
core of all religious experiences, he believed that all religions are in essence the same and apparent differences
can be safely ignored
188.8.131.52 The Transpersonal Psychology Movement
In this field, investigators begin with the assumptions that:
higher levels of human functioning and potential are most evident in our ability to reach more
advanced levels of human consciousness
while religions contain transpersonal elements, they also contain much specific content that is culture-
specific and irrelevant to transpersonal concerns.
This latter view is sometimes known as the perennial philosophy, the belief that all religions have a common,
universal core. Along with these is a further assumption that:
humans have untapped human potential which can be released and developed with sufficient effort and
Transpersonal psychologists have also tended to focus on only those Asian traditions with minimal theistic
content and ignore versions of even the same religious tradition with a more devotional orientation), thus
potentially biasing their work.
1.4.6 Social and Personality Approaches
In the early to mid-20th century, some psychologists became interested in studying religion as a dimension in
personality or as a form of social behavior. Much of the modern field of psychology of religion has evolved out
of this work by social psychologists interested in the scientific study of religion, especially their study of
religious beliefs and behavior.
184.108.40.206 Gordon Allport
The most important early figure in this school is Gordon Allport (1897–1967), a social psychologist and
personality trait theorist. In his studies on the authoritarianism and prejudice, he was surprised to find that many
religious people displayed high levels of prejudice, even though the beliefs of their religion were opposed to that
type of attitude. He found that some people were attracted to religion for instrumental or extrinsic reasons as a
way of achieving specific goals, and that these people were more likely to be prejudiced than those who had an
intrinsic attitude and pursued religion for its own sake. Richard Gorsuch and his colleagues has conceptualized
the intrinsic and extrinsic stances as reflecting types of basic religious motivation, according to the work of
Allport. Thus it is now common for social psychologists to talk about three dimensions of religious motivation:
1. Extrinsic or means dimensions: The use of religion to meet self-serving ends such as dealing with
feelings of weakness and impotence. Research indicates that this is a common religious orientation but
is associated with no beneficial effects and perhaps some negative ones.
2. Intrinsic or ends dimension: Religious commitment is used as a “master motive” for life, part of a
coherent worldview. This orientation may have positive and negative consequences, although research
has generally connected it with positive outcomes.
3. Quest or seeking dimension: An “open-ended readiness to confront ultimate, existential questions,
coupled with a skepticism of definitive answers to these questions). Batson argued that questers have
the positive benefits of religion without having to tolerate the loss of freedom he believes is implicit in
intrinsic religious commitment.
Schaefer and Gorsuch (1991) have argued that religious motivation is a central factor in religion. They have
proposed a Multivariate Belief-Motivation Theory of Religiousness that divides religion into three interacting
domains: motivation (intrinsic-extrinsic), beliefs such as our concept of God, and problem-solving or coping
style. Social psychologists like Allport and Gorsuch wrote from a perspective sympathetic to religion and have
frequently pointed out positive aspects of religious behavior on both personal and social levels
1.4.7 Integration and Dialogue
In the post World War II period, many Christians entered psychology either as academic teachers and
researchers or as clinical practitioners. Psychology had become a secular religion that was anti-Christian,
perhaps hostile to most religious traditions, and that this bias was causing negative effects on individuals as well
as society. He concluded from this that humanist selfism is not scientific and is simply a religious position, a set
of values that gain scientific prestige through their inclusion in psychology. Research studies have found that (1)
psychologists have substantially lower levels of religious belief and participation than the general population,
(2) few psychologists receive significant information or training in their graduate program related to religion or
spirituality, and (3) very little psychological research concerns religion.
220.127.116.11 The Christian Integration Movement
The term integration began to be used in the 1950s as a way of describing theory and research that attempted to
combine psychological and theological perspectives. While there are a wide variety of approaches within the
integration movement, there is broad agreement among its members that psychology and Christianity have the
potential to illuminate each other. Translation of Christian ideas into psychological categories thus has the
potential to distort or alter theological beliefs and practices.
18.104.22.168 Biblical Counseling
Biblical counselors generally believe that self-will, pride and personal sin are at the root of many problems.
These factors are thought to lie behind our excessive focus on achievement and acquisition, problematic desires
for superiority and control, and avoidance of the needs of others, all of which eventually lead to worry and
anxiety. In this view, freedom comes when we give up attachments to power, set aside our pride and become
more focused on others.
22.214.171.124 Asian Dialogues
The other two main psychology and religion dialogues that have taken place involve Buddhism and Hinduism.
Conversations with Hinduism have largely been limited to appropriating specific techniques like yoga for use in
clinical situations. The dialogue with Buddhism has been more extensive, probably due to its perceived
commitment to a nontheistic view of the world and its complex understanding of human psychology.
126.96.36.199 Approaches to Integration
Types of models. Ideas about the relationship between psychology and religion can be described according to
several characteristics including congruence (how well do psychology and religion fit together) and priority
(should psychology or religion be counted as more important). There are three general positions that can be
taken with regard to congruence—separation, conflict, and complement. In the separation model, it is assumed
that psychology and religion each have their own areas of interest and approaches to truth and that both are
necessary for a complete picture of reality. Opposed to this is the conflict view, which holds that science and
religion do have overlapping areas of interest (against the separation model) but that they provide different and
conflicting truth claims (against the integration model). A third position is the complement view, which holds
that science and religion deal with some of the same questions (against the separation model) but are congruent
or complimentary (against the conflict model). The complement model can be further divided into weak and
strong versions. A weak position holds that some congruence is possible between psychology and religion but
that in other areas there might be separation or conflict. In contrast, a strong complement model holds that it is
possible to develop a single seamless system of truth that encompasses both psychology and religion.
The second issue in integration involves priority, whether psychology or religion will receive privileged status
in the interaction of the two fields. Three positions can be taken here: confessionalism, which privileges the
perspectives of a specific religious tradition over those of psychology; scientism, which argues that science is
the superior or only way to gain true knowledge and thus should be privileged in the relationship with religion;
and dialogical integration, which tries to give equal respect to each field, although the methods and
conclusions of one might be preferred in certain areas.
Current status. It can also be argued that the integration movements have had a significant role in changing
negative views toward religion and spirituality within the profession of psychology, although clearly other
factors have been involved as well. However, there is tension and less dialogue than one would like.
1.5 Religious and Theological Responses to Psychology
During the early part of the 20th century the theological response to scientific psychology was muted.
1.5.1 Paul Tillich
Tillich adopted an apologetic approach to theology that began with human experience and tried to make the
Christian message appealing to contemporary thinkers. Tillich called his apologetic approach the “method of
correlation”. He showed how the Christian message provided answers to modern questions
188.8.131.52 Tillich and the Human Existential Situation
Existentialism tries to understand the human person by looking at their connection to the ultimate
characteristics of existence. Tillich emphasized the transcendence of an infinitely free God who is not only the
ground of all nature but beyond it as well. The transcending possibility of spirit and freedom means that religion
cannot be reduced to psychological dynamics or moral self-integration.
184.108.40.206 Tillich and Depth Psychology
Tillich used psychoanalysis to help articulate the psychological dynamics involved in dealing with ultimate
concerns. However, Tillich argued that this ideal balance can never be realized because we are finite and unable
to assimilate the many conflicting demands of existence. It is our awareness of this situation of finitude, lack of
meaning and helplessness that leads to ontological anxiety. This anxiety is different from neurotic anxiety that
is caused by psychological problems and is open to psychological help. However, through the religious life and
support of a spiritual community, people could embrace a capacity for transcendence and by making appropriate
“moral” choices develop a genuine sense of identity. He appreciated and accepted Freud’s work, although he
observed that it had limitations
220.127.116.11 Tillich, Fromm and Rogers
Tillich agreed with Fromm that selfishness and self-hate rather than self-love are the basic human problems.
However, Tillich saw that these problems could not be solved apart from God, while Fromm wanted to
eliminate God talk from the conversation altogether. Rogers and Tillich both saw inner conflict or
selfestrangement as a basic human problem, but they had different ideas about the nature of estrangement and
how acceptance helps.
1.5.2 Reinold Niebuhr
Prominent 20th-century theologian. Niebuhr approved of some of Freud’s positions and had a number of
criticisms of Freud. Niebuhr believed that each of us is finite and thus bound by the laws of nature, but at the
same time we are free and able to transcend our situation; we are “a unity of finiteness and freedom, of
involvement in natural processes and transcendence over process”. In Niebuhr’s view, the tension between our
two natures has important consequences. It causes anxiety, which can be a source of creativity or a motivation to
hide our finiteness and freedom. When we avoid our finiteness, we ignore our limitations, leading us to
overestimate ourselves as individuals or as a race. This can lead to arrogance and fanaticism, either in rationality
18.104.22.168 Avoidance in Freud
Niebuhr appreciated the fact that Freud recognized our finite nature, but criticized him for his naturalistic stance,
which made it impossible for him to recognize the presence of freedom and transcendence. Freud rejected the
possibility of transcendence or freedom, because he attributed all behavior to human drives, developmental
events, or culture, leading to pessimistic views on individuals and society. Niebuhr saw this as an incoherent
position, as the ego and even Freud’s id, which was supposedly ruled by blind instinctual forces, showed
themselves to be wily and smart, revealing “subtleties and strategies that are not part of nature”.
1.5.3 Hermeneutic Writers: Don Browning and Paul Ricoeur
Browning based his approach in part on the interpretive or hermeneutic approach to understanding found in the
philosophy of Paul Ricoeur. According to Ricoeur, any kind of understanding—including a psychological
theory—comes into being through an interpretive process involving a series of dialectical relationships that
move the interpreter from their original view of the world to a new understanding. This starting point is known
as our pre-understanding. In the hermeneutic view of things, knowledge is not some single verifiable fact but a
set of new ideas “opened up” by our attempt to move beyond a pre-understanding. Browning has utilized a
hermeneutic approach in a couple of ways. First, he has attempted to uncover the pre-understandings of the
various schools of psychotherapy and subject these to a Christian critique. Second, Browning has attempted to
use the hermeneutic model to develop what he calls a practical theology that looks at how religious practices
actually function in real life.
Furseth & Repstad, Chapter 2 Religion as a phenomenon – definitions and dimensions
2.1 Defining religion–not just anacademic issue
All disciplines that study religion debate how the phenomenon should be dened. Sociologists and psychologists
tend to focus on how fruitful the definition is, meaning how well suited it is to detect the characteristic features
of the object of study.
The ways in which we define religion will actually affect a country’s legal codes and public policy. More
intangible, but no less important, various definitions of religion will influence groups differently, especially
when the definitions have an ethnocentric form, that is, when they are based on local standards for what is
considered to be religious.
In the sociology of religion, this debate often takes the form of a discussion between substantive and functional
denitions of religion.
Substantive definitions include characteristics of the content (or substance) of religion. This content is usually
based on the human belief in extraordinary phenomena, that which we cannot experience with our senses or
grasp with our intellect. Functional definitions describe the utility or the effect that religion is supposed to have
for individuals and/or society. Simply stated: substantive definitions tell us what religion is; functional
definitions what religion does.
2.2 Substantive definitions: The common content of all religions
Edward Tylor (1832–1917) is described as the founder of British social anthropology. He presented a
substantive definition of religion as “a belief in spiritual beings.” Tylor’s (1903) theory is that human beings
develop religious beliefs in order to explain dreams, visions, unconsciousness and death.
Tylor’s theory of religion was later criticized as naïvely evolutionary and ethnocentric. He attempted to find a
common denominator for all religions and to detect the relationship between religious belief in primitive and
Substantive definitions tend to specify the object of people’s faith, although this object is described in various
ways. “Belief in divine beings” is a possibility. Such a definition has the advantage of being relatively similar to
ordinary people’s idea of religion. However, this definition is clearly ethnocentric, because it excludes
significant Eastern traditions from the religious sphere.
The American sociologist Roland Robertson proposes a substantive definition of religion by using the concept
“supra-empirical.” For Robertson, religious culture and religious actions arise out of “a distinction between an
empirical and a supra-empirical, transcendent reality.” A similar denition is found in Michael Hill’s introduction
to the sociology of religion. According to him, religion is “The set of beliefs which postulate and seek to regulate the
distinction between an empirical reality and a related and significant supra-empirical segment of reality; the anguage and
symbols which are used in relation to this distinction; and the activities and institutions which are concerned with its
The word “empirical” is often defined by that which is based on experience, and in some instances, based solely
on the experience of the senses.
The advantage of Hill’s definition is that he includes beliefs, language, symbols, practice and institutions.
Robertson’s denition is somewhat problematic.
Several scholars of religion have attempted to avoid ethnocentrism in their definitions. The American scholar of
religion, Melford Spiro defines religion as “an institution consisting of culturally patterned interaction with
culturally postulated superhuman beings”. Spiro continues by defining “superhuman beings” as beings believed
to possess “power greater than man.”
Moreover, there is a long tradition of including the concept of the sacred as a core concept in substantive
definitions of religion. Indeed, Émile Durkheim’s classic definition has substantive and functional elements: “a
unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden –
beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to
them”. The substantive elements in Durkheim’s denition are systems of beliefs, practice, sacred things that are
set apart and forbidden, and a church.
The concept of the sacred may be useful. A division between the natural and the supernatural points to qualities
in the object of worship. A division between the sacred and the profane points to the attitudes of the practitioner
of religion: the sacred is that which is met by awe. This definition is criticized as the concept of the sacred
mostly has a Western source and a denition that has the sacred as its core concept is difficult to use in empirical
research on religion.
Some scholars who use substantive concepts of religion tend to characterize phenomena that are similar to
religion as quasi-religions or religious surrogates. Communism, fervent nationalism, and hooliganism are often
described by such concepts.
According to Malinowski (pioneer of social anthropology), magic is practiced in order to obtain something else,
whereas religious practice is a goal in itself. However, he admits that in real life religion and magic tend to
appear in mixed forms, a fact that is not always recognized in popular science. Here, religion is frequently
described in positive terms, such as piety and devotion, whereas magic is portrayed as manipulating, technical,
and selfish. The use of concepts such as superstition demonstrates even more ethnocentricity, especially when
one’s own religion is described as belief and the religion of others is described as superstition.
Syncretism is a concept that previously was used in religious studies, but is now criticized for its ideological and
ethnocentric implications. Critics maintain that syncretism presupposes the idea that some religions are pure
(meaning superior), whereas other religions are mixed (meaning inferior).
2.3 Functional definitions: The effect of religion on individuals and/or societies