Emile Durkhiem’s: Thought on Religion
DR. RICHA SRIIVASTAVA, ASSISSTANT PROFESSOR, JEMTEC, SCHOOL OF LAW, GREATER NOIDA (U.P.)
Emile Durkheim has made a significant contribution to sociology of Religion. He has analyzed the origin of religion and also its role in human society. In his famous book- The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, Durkheim has given a detailed description of religion-about the Origin of Religion, its influence on Social life and other factors. He has analyzed Totemism in the Arunta Tribe of Australia aboriginals. He presented what is probably the most influential interpretation of religion from Functionalist perspective. He argued that ‘religion has no base except society’. With his theory of religion he tried to prove that religion is Social fact or social phenomenon and in this reference, morally social consciousness is a symbol of religion. He defines, that world is divided by all societies into sacred and profane and religion is based on this division. According to him Religion is a unified system of beliefs practices relative to sacred things.
Emile Durkheim has given a social theory of Religion. He begins by refuting the earlier explanation of the origin of religion. He stated that the religion theories of early time were incomplete and nonscientific. To prove this he rejected the theories of E.B Taylor (dream theory) Herbert Spencer (Ghost theory, Max Muller (Naturalism) and Frazer theory E.B Taylor related origin of religion to Soul. According to him spirit or soul is immortal and it is beyond the control of human because of this belief people started worshipping God. Taylor argued that in early time man had a need to explain dream, shadow, Hallucination, sleep and death. They believe that spirit visits when man in sleep. The primitive man believes in spiritual self, which was separable from the bodily and could have independent existence. Muller has given too much importance to early time human and their logical and philosophical views. It is not possible for early human to study soul in systematic way. Muller has related soul with our life. He believes that because of two types of experiences, first- death, second- dream- soul exists. He also believes that human worship different types of nature thunder, storm earthquake etc. In early time men scare and started worshipping the things of nature and this is how religion exist
Durkhiem, while criticizing the theories prevalent before him, said that religion is not born out of ‘Dream, Shadow, and Death ‘or biological and psychological factors. According to him religion is born from society. Durkheim emphasis, that society and religion cannot be separated’. Durkhiem analyze that society create religion by defining certain phenomena as sacred and other profane. Durkhiem sacred is ideal and transcend everyday existence, it is extraordinary potentially dangerous, awe- inspiring fear including religion belief, rites, duties, or anything socially define as requiring special. Durkhiem believe that religion is a social phenomenon which is found as a result of belief and action of people of group get organized on the basis of certain moral norms. Durkhiem argued that religion actual as a source of solidarity. Religion provides a meaning for life religion provide social control, cohesion and purpose for people as well as another means of communication and reaffirm social norms.
Durkhiem believe that social life is impossible without the sacred values and moral belief that frame the collective conscience. In their absence there would be no social order,co-operation,solidarity.In short no society .The worship of society strengthens the value moral belief, that form the basis of social life .this respect towards sacred also applies to social duties and obligation in worshipping society people recognizing the importance of social group and their dependence upon it. In this way religion strengthens the unity of group and it promote social solidarity.
Durkheim in order to find out the actual basis of religion studied the life patterns of Arunta tribe, the aboriginal of Australia. This is the most aboriginal race available on the surface of earth and on that basis of Totemism prevalent among them; according to Durkheim it was possible to present analysis of universal religion. According to Durkheim, totem is a symbol of particular clan which is represented by some animal, plant, or some objects. Every member of the clan believes that clan is born out of these symbols. Totem is a representation of the collective in a symbolic form. Aboriginal society is divided into several clan – A clan is like a large extended family with its member sharing custom, duties, and obligation ample exogamy that they will not marry with in clan, they join together to mourn the death of one of their number. Each clan has totem usually an animal or plant or some object. This totem is represented by drawings made on wood or stone. These drawings are called churingas. They are very sacred. The members of the clan observe certain taboos. On basis of these taboos, they do not do certain things. Totem is a symbol of some supernatural power and members of clan have faith and belief in it. They treat that super natural power as the wholly and accepted power. Those who transgress Totem are ostracized. The Totem is a symbol, it is the emblem of clan, it is its flag it is the sign by which each clan distinguishes it from others. This Totemism is the belief and faiths of that clan have towards thatTtotem. It is considered to be mysterious, Supernatural power which control and directs life. Through these rituals, society maintains the existence and integrates individual into Social fold, exerting pressure on them to act & think also.
Durkheim discussed that religion is the most fundamental Social Institution serving to give meaning to man’s existential predicaments. His theory is insistence on reality of religious phenomena. Emile Durkheim argues, the social forces that animate a society’s religious life are real, and are really felt by the participants, while it is a mistake for an individual to believe that this power emanates directly from the sacred object, behind the symbol manifestating the force is living and concrete reality. Consequently all religions are true and at least symbolically, they express a power that does exist, the power of society. Religion, religious belief, and the religious experience cannot therefore, be dismissed as more fantasies or illusion.