Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Religious Studies

Major Professor

Dell deChant, M.A.

Committee Member

Danny L. Jorgensen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James F. Strange, Ph.D.


Geertz, Rainbow family, Rainbow gathering, Religion, Wilson


The purpose of this thesis is to specifically address the religious dimensions of the Rainbow Gatherings. The fundamental question directing this analysis is: "Are the Rainbow Gatherings religious in character?" This thesis specifically asks whether or not the Rainbow Gatherings satisfy certain identifiable features of religion, and if doing so, do they qualify as a form of religion? I engage this question by analyzing the Rainbow Gatherings in terms of two particular definitions of religion: Clifford Geertz's "functional" definition and Bryan R. Wilson's "substantive" definition. This allows me to analyze the Rainbow Gatherings from the perspective of the two major approaches to defining religion. This thesis also explores the broader differences and implications of these two types of definitions in academia, as well as the significance this has for future studies of this sort. Conclusive results indicate that the Gatherings conform to both definitions in some ways, but not in others. The results also designate which of the two definitions the Gatherings satisfy more inclusively. Thus, this analysis not only examines whether or not these gatherings qualify as a form of religion, but also examines how these definitions of religion illuminate features of the Rainbow Gathering, and how this relates to the scholarly distinction of these two types of definitions.