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Interested in the role religion plays within society, not the religion itself
Looking at what the role it plays at holding a society together why does
society need religion, what does it do? Not the material, the overall
Definition of religion: a religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices
relative to sacred things
What is a sacred thing? Things that are set apart and forbidden, things we
don’t touch
Religion doesn’t have to be about the supernatural, or God
Everyone who agrees that one thing is sacred, is united into a moral
community called a church
Religion is defined in terms of how it holds society together
Does not believe society cannot do without a form of religion
What makes you belong to something, and why would you be willing to make
sacrifices for that?
Worked on religion in the beginning of the 1890’s, finished writing in the
early 1900’s and was the last book or importance he wrote
Tried to approach religion objectively and scientifically
Viewed religion as a social fact
Paradox: His notion of social facts runs up against his view of religion (social
fact: allows sociology to exist allows us to study scientifically) the social fact
that is important in his study of religion is hard to analyze, religion as the
foundation of consciousness of the group
Supposed to be about measurable things but in the last analysis he states
religion is a social fact measured by the consciousness we have of belonging
to a group
Believes natural man always has religion, religion helps create our intellect,
and our intellect doesn’t create religion.
Religious thinking is a source of science
Religion thinks in categories and divides the world into categories.
Everything has to be sacred or profane in our society most things are
profane, most things you can touch
There always has to be this division, it is absolute
The real characteristic of religious phenomenon is everything in the entire
universe has to be divided into these two classes or categories, everything
has to be sacred or profane, there can be not grey area, no single thing can be
in both categories
Religion is about a communal experience whereas magic is privatized
Totem: a natural object or animal, that is believed by a particular society to
have spiritual significance and is adopted by the society to be the symbol of
that community (the mascot)
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