Polythetic approach to religion
The Polythetic Approach to Religion is a way of thinking about religion that avoids essentialist dichotomies. Instead, it acknowledges that all religions are hybrids and recognizes their common traits. The polythetic approach to religion is flexible, and can be used by scholars of different religions.
Smith rejects the phenomenological school of his day and calls for a polythetic approach to religion. He uses two operations to make this classification: first, the scholar must identify a single taxic indicator that serves as a discriminating agent within the religion. Second, the scholar must map this indicator through various materials to determine how it applies in the specific context of the study.
Alternative definitions of religion
Alternative definitions of religion challenge the traditional conception of religion. Some are more specific than others, but all share some common elements. Atheists and agnostics, for example, do not believe in God. Many religions classify some members as agnostics. Historically, religion has had a profound impact on politics and society. For instance, in India, Hindu nationalists have targeted minorities and lower castes. Other countries, like Japan and China, have become more secular.
According to Durkheim, religion is a social force that helps maintain a value consensus and fosters moral behavior. The Ten Commandments are a well-known example of this. Religion also brings people together and encourages interaction and communication.
Social taxonomic approach to religion
Taking a social taxonomic approach to religion entails taking into account the social and cultural effects of religion. Instead of viewing religion as a monolithic subject that is unchangeable, Smith emphasizes the need to look at religious studies as an analytic construct.
Social theorists such as Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber have all used a taxonomic approach to study religion. They believed that religion reflects social stratification and is a force that perpetuates the status quo.