- He used secondary data gathered by anthropologists who studied Aboriginal Australians.
- He believed that all religions are based on the division of the sacred and the profane.
- He also believed that religion is based on sacred symbols and what they represent.
- "Totemism" = based on the worship of symbols/totems.
- All religions have a collective conscience.
- The collective conscience is the rejection of individualism and promotion of social solidarity.
Durkheim - Criticisms
- Theory may only apply to small-scale societies with a single religion.
- May explain social integration within communities, but not the conflict between them.
- No sharp division between sacred and profane.
- Different clans share the same totems.
- Even if Durkheim is right, it doens't mean he has discovered the essence of all other religions.
Mestrovic (1997) Postmodernist
- The ideas cannot be applied to a contemporary society because increasing diversity has fragmented the collective conscienc; so there is no longer and single shared value system.
- Date from small literate societies.
- Anthropologist in Papa New Guinea.
- Sees religion as reinforcing social norms, values, and social solidarity.
- Sees religion as concerned with the specific areas of life. (Not all areas).
- Sees religion as relating to areas of emotional stress that threaten social solidarity.
- Death, birth, marriage, and puberty.
- Prayer provides a sense of confidence and control.
- Religion unifies society, especially multi-faith USA.
- USA is unified by a "civil religion".
- Human action is directed and controlled by norms provided by the social system.
- Cultural system gives guidelines.
- For example, the Ten Commandments.
- Having general principles and moral beliefs gives consensus.
- When problems occur, they fall into two categories.
- Being hit with unforeseen circumstances.
- Everything can be given meaning from religion. Overall it creates stability.
Criticisms of the Functionlist Approach
Emphasises positives while ignoring dysfunctional aspects.
Glock and Stark = history of Christianity is full of bloodshed and murder.
Ignores division in religious communities, for example, Catholics and Protestants (Christians) in Ireland