Megan LeMaireDr. Dominic SurRELS 101020 January, 2018The Critical Theory of Religion The definition of religion is a difficult task to complete. Religion is subjective and its definition can vary depending on the person due to personal bias of religious views. In Craig Martin’s book, “A Critical Introduction to the Study of Religion”, he explains that although there have been many attempts to successfully define religion unbiasedly, no scholar has been able to achieve this without finding issues within the definition for every single religion because it is not a neutral term (13). Because the definition of religion is hard to agree on, it is important to study religions without biased views to gain a proper understanding of what each religion practices and their reasonings behind its practice. This can be made possible by adopting the critical theory.The critical theory is a great way to examine religious concepts. It creates a pathway to help people utilize different tools that can limit their subjective views. The goal of the critical theory is to clarify the concepts of religion and how they affect social components. This theory uses functionalism and hermeneutics of suspicion to provide a new way of approaching religious studies.Functionalism is a great tool to critically analyze religions. This view sums up the meaning of religions based on how they’re used, especially within social elements. Martin highlights how the doctrine of the “divine right of kings” in Europe is a good example of functionalism. This is an interesting circumstance because this doctrine claimed that kings were appointed by god. This was essentially used to give them more authority over the popes of the catholic religion. However, if we look at this with a functionalist view, we can identify that this doctrine was primarily created to keep the power within the hands of royalty in Europe. The doctrine was able to manipulate people purely through religion for personal royal agendas by reducing the amount of power of popes because of the high authority that kings had. (22). Within this example Martin shows us that using functionalism helps us to identify how social factors could be altered due to cultural and religious ideals. Functionalism is a great approach to the academic study due to its ability to make people connect meaning to it and properly determine the reasoning behind why things are the way that they are.Hermeneutics of suspicion is another tool of critical theory which provides a skeptic outlook towards religions and their practices. By studying religions with this view, we are able to approach religions with skepticism, which helps us to identify other possible explanations as to why something is happening (25). This method refrains from giving people the benefit of the doubt. For instance, Martin uses the example that if someone states that god made them do something, with hermeneutics of suspicion, we would have the opportunity to search for other possibilities such as psychological disorders. Rather than just assuming that the claim is true, Hermeneutics of suspicion seeks to gather more information and possible alternative routes for the reasoning. Through the use of the critical theory and a combination of functionalism and hermeneutics of suspicion, we can make justified and unbiased reflections during the study of religions. By using an outsider view during the academic study of religion, we can create functionalist ideas and use skepticism to determine the meaning of religions and their practices. It’s important to refrain from falling into previously conceived ideas of a specific religion to eliminate misunderstanding, especially in an academic setting. However, the critical theory minimizes this issue. By critically analyzing various concepts of religions, we can be more respectful and successful when academically studying about the different religions around the world.