Definitions of religion & society highly contested
religio relegare relegere
relegare connotes obligation and literally means to bind
relegere suggests subjective apprehension
Collection of individuals who come together for a common purpose such as the collection
A distinct object that cannot be reduced to the elements that compose it
Functional approach: what religion is, at least in part, is what religion does
Durkheim: What is religion? And what are its functions for society?
Durkheims social context
Durkheims definition: a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden beliefs and practices which united into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them (1995: 44).
Religion as an eminently social thingreligion exists, for
Durkheim, because human beings exist only as social beings and in a
humanly shaped world
Society as Church
Magic in contrast to Religion
Religion as grounded in the real
Common characteristic of religious beliefs: everything is classified as either sacred or profane
All religions are about the sacred
Animist and Naturist theories of religion
Durkheim rejects their individualistic frame of reference
Religion is not mainly or fundamentally about the individual; its about the collective
Totemism: a system of collective representations
The name of the totem symbolizes the group, like the flag of a nation
A specifically social object
The totem symbolizes both god & group
Source of the sacred character of the clan: society
God equals society? Structurally but not in terms of identity
Collective Representations: shared meanings, values, ideas, ideals through which human beings collectively view themselves, each other and the natural environment
Collective Effervescence: a powerful social energy generated during religious rituals and civic ceremonies that breaks or erases the boundaries between individuals and creates a social world. It creates the symbols (e.g., totems) of social life, holds members of society together and is that out of which religious ideas and cultural ideals are born.
Sacred symbols participate in the reality for which they stand
The scientific or the political, Durkheim asserts, wont eventually outgrow the sacred. Religion may take on different forms but it wont go away.
Implications for secularization theory?