Durkheim - Religion

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  • Durkheim - Religion
    • Studied religion in its simplest form to reveal the essence of all religions.
      • Studied the Arunta aboriginal tribe in Australia.
        • They were part of a clan system who worships a totem pole which represented their tribe.
          • When they performed religious worship, they would do so around the totem pole.
            • Durkheim argued that what is happening here is that they are worshipping society itself because that's what the totem pole represents.
              • This builds a shared identity, which creates social order and harmony and prevents society from breaking down.
          • The worship of totems is equivalent to worshipping society itself.
    • Found that religion creates a collective conscience of right and wrong which reduces social conflict and maintains social order in society.
      • For example, the 10 commandments in Christianity.
        • From the perspective of a Christian, these are the rules of the Bible, but from a functionalist perspective, these are the rules of society.
          • Therefore, when you are worshipping and learning about these ideas in church, if you are a Christian, what you are really doing is learning the rules of society - how to live your life.
      • Regular shared religious rituals also reinforce the collective conscience and maintain social integration.
        • Participation reminds members that they are part of a single moral community and reminds individuals of the power of society - without it they would be nothing, so they owe everything. They feel part of something greater than themselves.
    • Totems are representative symbol.
      • Ordinary objects can create powerful emotions and awe.
        • The significance of the object is what they worship - they must represent something.


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