Blog #4: The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (Durkheim)

ImageDurkheim explains the moral of religion. Durkheim use religion to distinct from the whole belief that religion has to be part of everyone’s life but it has to part of society to exist. Durkheim states that if there is no religion in a society there is not type of foundation to have a society and it the society will easily crumble because in society people must have a belief that this is what I can do for the future of your family (society). He mentioned that the celebration of religion was worshipping social life and that in any society has religion. Also Durkheim states that believing in god and spirits or just worship is the force of social group and over an individual. What I believe that Durkheim was trying to imply that religion is the beginning of the social structure and the self (what an individual going to do in that society, decisions and what they are going to be). In addition Durkheim is actually trying to say that the greater power is not religion but society itself.

Durkheim states that religion is not a “churchly” or institutional things but a symbol of which people in the community believes in. People must feel that they are part of a group which they feel reaffirm to the rules in that society. Durkheim mentioned about ritual which is part of the function of religion that is taken part of some people socialization in the society. He mentioned about communion how it has historical and the participation of being in a group of other people who believes in the same system as you do. The people that are involve in an communion event is showing an identity as a whole community such as, Independence Day or praying.

As I can see, Durkheim central idea that he is trying to portray is the practice and the experience that shape the person independence that they are going to be in society. In addition their experience and their focus (dedication) of the ritual of their beliefs will impact their future self in society. However, Durkheim mentioned about the function of communal in religion has a symbol attached. The definition that Durkheim states of symbol means that it is a representation of thoughts, ideas and meanings of the collective. An example of a symbol that I grew up with is the cross and the image of Jesus. Finally, Durkheim states that in religion there are objects are sacred. These items that are sacred is ‘above and beyond’ (Edles & Appelrouth, 137) in ordinary world. On page 146, Durkheim states “we see society constantly creating sacred things out of the ordinary ones” which is kind of true. An example would be, as mentioned in previous class, that the Virgin Mary appeared or was by the area of Fresh Meadows park and people consider that place a sacred place because of her biblical history of Jesus (Christ) mother.

In additional note, there is an author by the name of Bryan Turner who discusses Religion and Social theory and how religion involves social control for people to know the consequences. In addition, the idea of religion states that before hand there is an idea that families consists of father and mother (family unites), inheritance, and private property (Turner, 8 [PDF]).


Edles, Laura and Appelrouth, Scott. 2010. Sociological Theory in the Classical Era: text and readings 2nd edition. Pine Forge Press Sage Publications.

Turner, Bryan S. Religion and Social Theory 2nd edition. Sage Publications. Citiy of University of New York. (FREE VERSION: ; TO PURCHASE: )


3 responses to “Blog #4: The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (Durkheim)

  1. I found your blog post very interesting. I do agree with you that Durkheim is essentially saying that the greater power is not religion but in fact society and the sense of belonging to a group or community. I think you’re right in the sense that “religion is the beginning of the social structure and the self (what an individual going to do in that society, decisions and what they are going to be)” because Durkheim stressed the importance of a group but also making apparent the importance of individuality within a society which we talked about two classes ago. At the same time, if this is true, what can be said about the people that don’t really have that religious aspect in their life? Does that mean that they are lacking the social structure that people who embrace religion encompass or do they just get it from elsewhere?

  2. I find Durkheim’s description of religion fascinating!! I never really understood why religion? and was quite curious about it. However I became uninterested when I felt it was being imposed upon me. Despite all my rebellious thoughts about religion, I can clearly understand why people are so attached to their religions and their churches in particular. The sense of belonging is something we all need even if we deny it. When we don’t want to “belong” to a certain group we search in hopes to find “ourselves” but finding ourselves is really trying to fit in, be part of something. I myself went on a search for a new religion. I didn’t understand what I was searching for in a religion because I didn’t seem to find one that fitted or satisfied or filled the emptiness I felt. I believe this is what Durkheim was referring to, I wasn’t searching for God, I was searching for “home” a place to belong to and where I felt welcomed!! And to realize that “God” was already within myself and the ones that surrounded me brought me the peace I was searching for . It took understanding this concept to understand that one can find peace within, without necessarily having to go to church and praying several times a day. I once hear from a catholic that “the people are the church”.

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