Tag Archives: religion

Blog # 4- Durkheim’s Religion & Society

Durkheim talks about religion being the the cause of the idea of society. Everything about society has stemmed from what is known about religion. Religion has rituals, a central place of worship, those who teach and those who learn,  and symbols. Durkheim defines religion as “a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things… beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a church, all those who adhere to them.

To understand fully the relationship between religion and society, I compared religion to something in everyday society. Taking school as an example, Durkheim would definitely agree that it has its ideologies in religion. The first example is ritual, which is defined as “a formalized mode of behavior in which the member of a community regularly engage”. In schools, the rituals are going to class, taking notes, doing homework, studying for test, and taking exams. No matter which school you go to, this is the general ritual and schools do not deviate from it no matter the location, level of schooling, or even type of schooling. The church helps facilitates the rituals that its members part take in, so in comparison the school campus and classrooms help facilitate it’s rituals. Then there are symbols, which Durkheim defines as “a thing that represents or stands for something else”. In religion, the holy text and heaven are sacred, and the way to get to heaven is to follow the holy text. In schools, grades and degrees (diplomas) are sacred. One must get good grades to reach their degree.

With a simple comparison between religion and schools, we can see what Durkheim is talking about and relate it to modern day society.

Blog #2- Durkheim and Religion

Blog #2

According to Emilie Durkheim, religion is the functional theory of society.  Durkheim defines religion as a ‘unified (Solitaire) system of beliefs and practices related to sacred things, that to say, things set apart and are forbidden beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a ‘church’.  This theory serves the purpose in society of social solidary which, is focused on “what holds us together” as a society.  Durkheim does not argue that religion creates society.  He would say religion is the basis for uniting people.   Under his theory, individuals are encouraged to gather together and permits reinforcement of our beliefs.  It also serves the purpose of authority figures such as Doctors or law enforcements.   In order words, it allows people to socialize.

Durkheim would say that it is critical if all religions divide the world into two classes or to distinct kinds known as Sacred and Profane.  Durkheim wants to understand what is common in religion throughout time and in different places. One way to help him understand this phenomenal is by studying the simplest religion called Australian Totemism.  It is his belief system that the fundamental separation between the sacred and the profane is most clear.  Australian Totemism is recognized as supernatural divinities that are not essential to religion.  He made the following statement to better understand his idea:

If all history of human thoughts exists, there are no examples of two categories of things so profoundly differentiated or so radically opposed to one another.  The traditional of good and bad is nothing beside this…while the sacred and profane have always and everywhere have been conceived by the human mind as two distinct classes, as two worlds between which, there is nothing in common…” (P. 138).

To Durkheim, sacred class consists of something that “separate and protect things”. In other words, things that has a meaning with rules and instructions on how one should utilize something.  For example, children are the core of a family.  They grow up to be the next generation.  In today’s society, few people do not consider children to be sacred.  A lot of crimes involving children are committed daily such as kidnapping and sexual abuse and neglect.  In reference to Durkheim’s second distinct class, Profane, he would say that this category is all that is not sacred such as the everyday matters.



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: http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Z_QFRewZrw0C&oi=fnd&pg=PR8&dq=societal+dependence+of+religion&ots=XbCV5lyMHP&sig=kGPi-Ra58HMfOMavx-g6HnbQCEE#v=onepage&q&f=false ; TO PURCHASE: http://www.uk.sagepub.com/booksProdDesc.nav?prodId=Book203571&utm_source=Google%2BBooks&utm_medium=Online&utm_term=Ongoing&utm_campaign=Google%2BPreview )

Durkheim’s View on Religion

Blog #2

According to Durkheim religion is a very important part of a society. He describes religion as something that society participates in by performing rituals and using different symbols. A ritual is described as a “highly routinized act” (Sociological Theory in the Classical Era p. 135) which is carried out with a degree of reverence. For example, the activities that take place on Independence Day (in America)occurs every year on July 4th and there is a certain patriotic feeling that comes along with celebrating this holiday. People gather together with family and friends in order to have cook outs, watch fireworks or other activities meaningful to them.

Durkheim also describes how religion contains symbols which can be viewed as either sacred or profane. Using Independence Day as an example again, this holiday is considered to be sacred since it happens only once a year and it represents the day when America gained its independence from England. The activities that occur on Independence Day represents a time of celebration. Independence Day is also unique because spaces that are considered to be profane (not sacred places) such as parks, open fields, backyards, etc. are converted to a sacred area where festivities can occur. This shows that religion overall is not an individual system, it involves the whole society.

Blog 2: F*@king Sacred!


In his pursuit of establishing Sociology as a separate academic discipline, Emile Durkheim provided interesting, and novel, theories related to society and social phenomena. Many of the students in this class have already commented about Durkheim’s fascinating conceptions of both crime and suicide. I too began to think hard about these topics, and found myself nodding along as I read what initially struck me as oxymoronic stances. Crime is necessary for society? Suicide is in fact a collective phenomenon and not an individual one? Durkheim’s thorough analyses of both topics, and the way he carefully lays out his ideas as he builds toward his larger points, are nothing short of masterful. But rather than simply praising the man often referred to as “ED” in our class slides, I would like to look at the most recent aspect of society that we have read about, Religion.

It seems to me that Durkheim is most fascinating when he appears to be paradoxical, and his thoughts on religion do not lack that quality. Although you might not believe it to be true, Durkheim maintains that social life is inherently religious. There is no difference between an act deemed “religious” and one deemed “secular.” While this distinction doesn’t appear to exist for Durkheim, his theories on religion rest on one key societal division that relates to religion. This dichotomy, and the one that we spoke extensively about in class, is what Durkheim asserts is the dichotomy that is the source of all others within society, that of the sacred and the profane.

I don’t know about everyone else, but when I hear the term “profane” I think of profanity, and foul language. I happen to love etymology and the source of words, so this dichotomy had me wondering about why foul language is referred to by this term. For Durkheim, “sacred” refers to something apart from the everyday world, something that should be protected because of some value that it possesses. In contrast, “profane” refers to something that is every day, something that should be kept away from the “sacred.” Looking up the actual etymology of profane, it seems to come from a Latin root meaning “outside of the temple,” which fits in nicely with Durkheim’s conception. Some of the first usages of this term were in translations of the Biblical commandment to “not profane the name of the Lord,” which meant to not desecrate or render it unholy. Again, this supports Durkheim’s usage of the word, as the act of taking the Lord’s name in vain (treating it as regular vocabulary), causes something deemed “sacred” to join the ranks of mundane verbiage.

But what about profanity that the FCC cares about, the words that are the subject of comedian George Carlin’s most famous bit? Why do we categorize them with this label? It’s clearly not because they are mundane, because why else would they get censored or lead to a parent washing his child’s mouth out? Sure one could posit that their designation as “profanity” is not due to their everyday quality, but because they must be kept separate from other language. But most frequently these words, known most commonly by their first letter (or their letter amount), are peppered in with regular language. They might be used in order to punctuate and pontificate, to accentuate and emphasize, but their “natural habitat” is most certainly amongst the lexical laymen, not grouped with the verbally venerated. In fact, our treatment of “swear words” (phraseology with a related Biblical origin) seems to give them power. They may have their roots in the mundane, and most often be found with the ordinary, but they appear to have acquired a “sacred” quality, and maybe that’s part of Durkheim’s point. Our behavior towards these words is inherently religious because they serve such an important social function and social life is inherently religious. Maybe our treatment of “curse words” as something “sacred” is similar to the way we treat technology or yoga as “sacred.” It may not be as fully fleshed out as our breakdown of football’s “sacredness,” but it’s not hard to find special symbols (#$@&%!) and movements (flipping someone off) designated for these words. We all know them, and if we don’t we quickly learn. Isn’t this collective aspect a fundamental aspect of religion for Durkheim? It is definitely a provocative, if not humorous, topic to ponder over.

Curse words are holy? The profane is sacred? This all seems paradoxical, like one puzzling identity crisis, and I’d expect nothing less from Emile Durkheim.






Emile Durkheim, a macro-sociologist whom believed that behavior must be understood within a larger social context, not just in individualistic terms.  Take religion for example, he personally believed that society forms religion and the purpose of religion is to  integrate individuals into strong bonding groups. So he  focused on the functions of a religion performed and emphasized the role of group life, which in Durkheim’s theory of religion the existence of “god” is not essential.

Since Durkheim’s main interests was to developed a fundamental thesis to explain all forms of modern society. He traced the unusually high suicide rates throughout the history, which he developed the concept of anomie to characterize the condition of a society or group with a high degree of confusion and contradiction in its basic social norms. Durkheim believed that when the state of anomie occurs, such as the Great Depression, the suicide rate rises rapidly. Individuals are easily confuse and unable to cope with the new social environment that they may resort to suicide.

Durkheim was concerned about the dangers that alienation, loneliness, and isolation might pose for modern industrial societies. So he encouraged the creation of new social groups-such as unions- would provide a sense of belonging for members of huge, impersonal societies.

Blog #2 Durkheim

Durkheim was a very interesting sociologist. His views were a lot like Karl Marx in a sense to capitalism and labor forces, but with one huge twist. In his theory, capitalism is not a flawed system, but the collective that becomes too specialized in a certain area through forced actions make it “human.” Since population continues to increase and the collective continue to be specialized in a certain field either by their own wants/ needs, through the communities desires or through the forced actions of others in authoritative positions, a mechanical solidarity in our society are few and far between. Most of our societies have grown and are now working in more of an integrated community with the collective performing tasks to help their community and also in their own solidarity as well. This brings Durkheim to one of his biggest focuses, which was suicide.

In my opinion, Durkheim had a weird fetish with suicide, but even dark topics like these need to be researched in multiple lights to not get overlooked, and it was this observation by Durkheim that gave sociology as a field a new leg to stand on. So sociologists as a whole need to thank this man for his work on such a dark subject such as suicide. Durkheim, unlike every other person before him researched on suicide, saw this phenomenon as a basis on social facts. He saw this action as a very intimate and personal act. His studies showed that suicide rates are not at its highest where alcohol or mental illness are at its highest, but instead where their is limited to no social order/ regulation or integration. So, organic solidarity societies are at the highest risk for suicide rates, especially when people are forced to become more specialized in certain fields and become less integrated with each other. He also informed the public that suicide rates are more likely to increase where there is less religious unity/ regulated in a society. 

His final big book included a look into religion and his views. He viewed religion as not only a celebration of the supernatural, but more towards the celebration of life. He stated wherever there is society, there will be religion (and crime). He saw religion not as a spiritual celebration or based on the church or rituals etc. but instead he saw religion in a functionalist portrait. The main function of religion is to encode the system of relations in a group. 

  Durkheim was very innovative, even with most of his theories having a sociological base with others in his field, he had his own thoughts that inspired new theories there after and can still be viewed to this day as true. His view on society as a collective may be criticized, but his theories shouldn’t be as he paved a way for many sociologists to study this field in an accepted light.