Emil Durkheims Theory of Religion

Emile Durkheim lived from April 15, 1858 to November 15, 1917/ He was a French sociologist that was very influential in the fields of sociology and anthropology. He made a name for himself with his views on social structure, education, crime, law, suicide, and religion.

In this article I want to look at Durheim’s theory of religion… Sociology classically studies religion for two main issues:

(1) How does religion contribute to the maintenance of social order? and,

(2) What is the relationship between religion and capitalist society.

Emile Durkheim in his article The Origin of Beliefs placed himself in a positivist tradition, meaning that he thought of his study of society as dispassionate and scientific. He was interested in the problem of what held complex modern societies together. He argued that religion was an expression of social cohesion. His interest was to try and understand the existence of religion in the absence of belief in any religion actual tenets. He saw totemism as the basic form of religion. It is in this belief system that the fundamental separation between the sacred and the profane is most clear… All other religions, he said are outgrowths of this distinction, adding to tits myths, images and traditions.

He thought that the model for relationships between the supernatural and people was the relationship between individuals and the community; He made the famous statement God is society writ large! He believed that people order the physical world, the supernatural world and the social world according to similar principles.

His first purpose was to identify the social origin of religion because he felt that religion was a source of camaraderie and solidarity. It was an individual’s way of becoming recognized within a society. His second purpose was to identify links between certain religions in different cultures, finding a common denominator. Beliefs in supernatural realms and occurrences may not go through all religions, yet there is a clear division in different aspects of life, certain behaviors and physical things.

Durkheim had argued that religion had been the cement of society, the means by which men had been led to turn from everyday concerns in which they were variously enmeshed to a common devotion to sacred things. His definition of religion is A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, i.e. things. things set apart and forbidden- beliefs and practices which unite in one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them This is the definition of religion still favored by anthropologists today.

Durkheim believed that society has to be present within the individual. He saw religion as a mechanism that shored up or protected a threatened social order. Although he saw religion as the cement of society he felt if when religion failed it would not leave to the collapse of society or moral implosion. He was more interested in religion as a communal experience than an individual experience… He also thought and taught that religious phenomena occurred when a separation is made between the profane the realm of everyday activities and the sacred (the realm of the extra ordinary.

Durkheim divided religion into four functions:

1. Disciplinary

2. Cohesive, bringing people together in a bond that was strong

3. Vitalizing

4. Euphoric- a good feeling, happiness, confidence.

Emile Durkheim was a learned man that had some good thoughts and ideas about religion.

(Information largely obtained from Wikipedia- the free encyclopedia n