Phenomenology starts with the view that religion is defined by religious experience. Phenomenologists don’t ask “does god exist” but rather, how is god present in the human consciousness. It’s the attempt at defining religion by the feelings evoked. On the other hand, functionalism embodies the idea religion is here to serve a purpose. It is defined as one truth, one definition. Religion only exists because it’s fulfilling a social need. It asks “what does religion do for people?” According to the functionalist Ludwig Feuerbach, the author of God in the Image of Humanity, people tend to view themselves as helpless and dependent when facing the challenges of life. Therefore, they seek to overcome these problems through imagination.
Religions were essentially needs and projections of the wishes and needs of humanity. He believes that eventually when people become knowledgable, religion is replaced by technology and politics. Now on the contrary, the phenomenologist Rudolf Otto believes that if one subjects everything to reason our religion will lose it’s mystery and supernatural character. He coined the term “numinous” to focus on the experience and differentiate it from reason and morality. He says the numinous embodies two feelings: the tremendum and the fascinas. The tremendum is a sense of awe or dread is described to be a feeling of awe. It is energy felt as a holy wrath, or a creature-like feeling, symbolized as a deity’s vitality or passion. While fascinas is positively attractive, and fascinating. It provokes expressions of joyful thanksgiving, praise, and adoration. Rather than attempting to define what it is to learn and practice religion, what is important is to define how it makes you feel.