Thursday, 6 November 2014

Discuss the theory of religion by Emile's Durkheim

Theory of Religion :

Durkheim says that study of religion 'is necessary to understand the society.
“Religion is an ultimate non-material social fact. Its analysis throws a new light on his social theories in a new manner.” (Johns 1986)

Durkheim studied an ancient tribe “Arunto’ of Australia for religious study because he knew that:

Firstly : It will be easy to understand the primary nature of religion in an ancient structure with the slightest effort is required.

Secondly : Ancient religion will be less obfuscate than that of modern age and there be no obfuscation in it.

Thirdly : In the "modern society religion is in changed forms whereas in the ancient societies there is intellectual and moral conformity.

Lastly : He wanted that religion should be understood for its nature with reference to an individual about its compulsory and permanent position for humanity.

He studied ancient religion to throw a better light on modern religion. He holds that in the ancient society, religion surrounds the whole life of an individual of his collective morals but with the progress of a society, the religion sector shrinks and instead of being a collective conscious of the whole society is limited to collective representation. Through it, expresses collective passions but other some institutions become a source of expression of collective morals whereas in the ancient society, this is all within the religion and remains in its circle.

Sacred and Profane :
Durkheim had the question before him as which is the source of modem religion because specialization and ideological smoke-screen creates difficulties in understanding the foundations of religion. The question was that from where ancient and modern religion came. Durkheim concluded that society is the main source of religion. The society while explaining the natural phenomena about sacred or profane, creates religion. The sacred should be kept apart from forbidden and be assured of religion whereas the rest are profane-things and actions-days, places, needs, etc. The sacred creates regard and honour in behahviour, a sense of mystery. The respect of phenomena changes it from profane to sacred.
Durkheim describes three conditions for this :

First : There should be a system of religious beliefs referring the nature of sacred things. This system also expresses the relation between the sacred beliefs and profane things.

Second : Religious. prayer system should present, explaining the behaviour of an individual in the presence of the sacred things.

Third : A religion wants such a place or class that should establish a relation between sacred things, beliefs and prayers. Keeping in view the above concepts, Durkheim explains religion in the words given below :
“A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices which unites it into one single community, all these adhere to them.” (1912-62)


Totemism is a religious system in which some trees and animals have a sacred status and called a sign of a tribe or sect. Totems are not really these things like tree, animal but are anonymous and impersonal forces, related to these things but are not limited or impersonal in these things. individuals die, races pass but these forces remain alive throughout ages. These animate today as those animated in the past and. will do so in future. Totemism is really a religion which is described from collective morals and is under impersonal forces.
Durkheim states the summary of his religion views in these words :
A “Totemism is symbolic representation of collective conscious which is
derived from society, therefore, it is a source of all collective conscious, religion concept of God and every sacred thing. Therefore, it can be said that sacred things including God and society one and the same. These were as clear and transparent in the ancient society as they are today though on the basis of modern age and its complications, these relations have become obscured.”


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