Meaning and Religion: Exploring Mutual Implications
Keywordspurpose, hermeneutics, systems theory, religious coping, information theory
“Meaning” and “religion” appear as deeply interlinked concepts in modern thought. Theology has often discovered religious faith as a “source of meaning” against a background of “meaninglessness”, as the XX century existentialist philosophies would remark. Beyond such an apologetic stance, some philosophies of religion have tried to better describe such a link: hermeneutics, phenomenology and even systems theory, may be accounted as main attempts to tackle this very complex framework, and to show how religion provides meaning, or is built trough structures of meaning, or is a form of “meaning-construction”. Cognitive approach may add new perspectives to better explain this implication. Recent attempts combine scientific methods and philosophical analysis to show how meaning is built and works, and how religion provides a specific sort of meaning, distinct from other forms in which meaning displays itself: moral, aesthetic, or affective. Describing religion in terms of “meaning management” helps to better understand its specific role and function in the human mind, beyond the most reductivist programs, and offers a more balanced view on its cognitive dimensions. Different attempts to connect religion and meaning are reviewed in this paper in order to offer an alternative model to the new scientific study of religion.
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