KEY INFO AND DIFFERENCES TO TYLOR
- Durkheim was also an evolutionary thinker, and was also not concerned with the truth value of religion.
- His strategy difference fro that of Tyler. Where Tyler progresses by citing a vast sample of material to support his generalisation, Durkheim focuses on simple societies, in which focuses on a single case, the Australian aborigines
- Durkheim sought the origins of religion, but argues that there cannot be one sheer beginning for any social phenomena (unlike Tyler)
- He releases his central inquiry as a quest for “the ever-present causes upon which the most essential forms of religious thought and practice depend” (1912:20)
PARA 2: HIS MAIN POINT
- RELIGION IS EMINENTLY SOCIAL. IT ORDERS AND UNITES SOCIETY.
1) Religion is a natural expression of society, a moment of reflecting upon its own transcendental power
2) Religion provides society with cohesion and helps it regenerate solidarity.
- Keeps society cohesive. Can see his functionalism coming in here, the fact that religion is serving really important functions within society.
- Inherently social: the understanding that religion not only provides knowledge about the world, but also provides the form through which this knowledge is elaborated (people think through religion)
- Religious representations are collective representations that express collective realities. Religion is thus a social phenomenon
PARA 3: Categories of religious phenomena:
According to Durkheim there are two main categories of religious phenomena:
- Belief: States of opinion, consisting of representations
- Rites: particular modes of action
- Belief and rite are intricately connected. What distinguished a particular action as a rite is the object of the right, the belief that characterises it.
Belief: All known religion beliefs presuppose a classification of real and ideal objects of the world into two classes: sacred and profane.
- Sacred things are those things protected and isolated by prohibitions
- Profane things are those things that are kept separate form the sacred things through these prohibitions
Belief is this kind of separation between the scared and profane. But one is not inferior or superior to the other - they are just opposite ends of the spectrum to each other.
PARA 4: Maintenance of the distinction between sacred and profane:
- Rites are rules of conduct for how man should conduct himself with regards to sacred things
- Everything can fall into one or another of these classes and things can move between them. Such as in transformation rites, such as life to death, child to adult.
- In this sense, this is about the relations between sacred and profane things, and rites are they way in which these differences between the two are maintained,
PARA 5: EFFERVENCENCE
So for Durkheim, religious has this important function in which it orders society, and provides a mechanism for regenerating solidarity.
But if religion has this important function, what gives religion power, and how are sacred things held apart?
He explains that the awe that people feel, what he calls effervescence - depends on its capacity to energise, to transience. The rites, sets of repeated actions performed by a community, are central in the maintenance and recreation of this energy.
An example of this would be gospel Churches in the US. People come together and sing in very energised ways. Allowing religion to have power over them.
- This reading reinvigorates Durkheimian understandings of ritual and society. It is mainly speaking about the definition of ritual.
- Starts discussing Tarde’s definition of rituals: “Tarde argues that ritual is merely an expression of religious dogmas which is the most essential part of religion and is an aspect of belief”. He is saying here that ritual is an after affect of religious information and that people wouldn’t do anything unless they believed in it.
- This is in contrast to what Robbins is arguing, that ritual produces religious belief. To explain this, how looks at the western world and the spread of the Pentecostal church, which is very performative and growing fast in the world.
- He discusses the rituals and how they give people what Durkheim calls ‘effervescence’ = a concept used to describe peoples emotional energy when they’re in a social experience.
- The way these Pentecostal Christians perform ritual created a society amongst them.
- The powerful nature of it allowed it to be transcended into places where there are language barriers, because there is this emotional effervescence.
- Pentecostals create a community, through the spread of society
- Can see the social aspect to it. To relate to one another is to carry out rituals together, such as prayer, Sunday church, and praying for the sick
Quick bullet point advantages:
Durkhein - Society is based on social harmony and social Cohesion. Therefore religion acts as a social glue and it is part of societies culture.
Durkheim - The sacred and Profane - Sacred = special to the group members. Profane = ordinary, unholy objects.
Durkheim (1912) - Totemism - Australia - Groups would worship their totem poles together in the group. It brought the group together and gave them a shared identity.
Durkheim - Religion is the origin of reasoning and understanding.
Malinowski - Psychological functions - Religion helps to cope with emotional stress. Eg a funeral helps to unite the family and friends of the lost one.
Parsons (1967) - Values and meanings - It gives humanity a primary source of meaning, it answers the ultimate question.
Bellah (1970) - Civil religion - Religion can unify society. Eg In America and Nazi Germany. People have pride in their country and show this through singing the worshipping the American flag, singing the national anthem and singing the pledge of allegiance.
Quick bullet point disadvantages:
This is methodologically suspect as Durkheim provides no empirical evidence.
Wordley (1956) - There is no division between the sacred and profane. Many of the Totem clans share the same totem but may believe in different things.
It would be extremely hard to apply this theory to a large community. There would be disagreements and conflict may be caused.
Mestrovic (1997) - Postmodernist - Durkheims theory can not be applied to contemporary society as society is now to fragmented and diverse.
The functions of religion can only be met if a person is religious.
Functionalist see religion as a conservative fource, maintaining norms and values. Yet they fail to see how it also can cause major social change.
Religion can cause serious conflict between people and societies. Over time it has caused many wars and conflicts. Eg between the Catholic and Protestants and the Sunni and Shia.