Substantive definitions of religion determine the inclusion into the category based on the presence of a belief in a distinct reality.


Schilbrack, K. (2022). The Concept of Religion. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2022). Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.

Despite this murkiness, all three of these versions are “substantive” definitions of religion because they determine membership in the category in terms of the presence of a belief in a distinctive kind of reality.

Whether a common element can be identified that will coherently ground a substantive definition of “religion” is not a settled question.