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Lecture 6

SOC 250 Lecture 6

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Joseph Bryant

SOC 250 Lecture 6  Example: discuss Tylor’s theory of animism  Emile Durkheim o Founder of modern Sociology o Concern with the moral order  Deeply anxious over the pathologies of modern societies  Crime and deviance, political strife, normlessness or “anomie”  Felt were rooted in the insufficient integration of the individual into the collective o Sociology of religion  Durkheim emphasizes the functional role of religion in providing normative integration, a moral binding, a basis for social solidarity o But the gods are “growing old or already dead” and secularism is on the rise  The Elementary forms of Religious Life (1916) o Religion is “an interdependent system of beliefs and practices regarding things which are sacred”  The Sacred  Profane distinction is the basis for religion  The sacred is that which is hallowed, set apart, extraordinary o The profane is the world of the everyday  So the key question is: why does a sense of the sacred arise? Where does it come from? o Method: to study the earliest or most elementary forms of religion known for these contain the foundations for later, more developed religions  = Ethnographic reports on the aboriginals of Australia, of Indian tribes of the Americas, etc.  “All the essential elements of religious thought and life ought to be found, at least in germ, in the most primitive religions”  Critique of Tylor’s animism theory (all reality is filled with spirit) and also theories of naturism  I.e. the divinities and spirits are the forces of nature o Zeus: thunderbolt o Poseidon: God of the sea and earthquakes  Durkheim argues both of these views are positing cognitive mistakes, mental errors- religion is too universal and permanent to be based on unreal imaginings-religion must correspond to something indubitably real and powerful  Neither animism nor naturism, Durkheim argues, can account for the origins of the sacred  Rather the experience and awareness of the sacred emerges out of collective life, the dependence of each individual on a power greater than themselves, a power that gives them identity; purpose, protection, meaning  And that power is SOCIETY sacredness is generated y “the collective and impersonal force that is social life”  Society instils in us a sense of the Divine, for social forces stand above and outside each individual  We must submit to its authority, rules, norms, ideals  Individuals are dependent of society  our society is our god, our divinity  “Religious interests are merely the symbolic form of social and moral interests”  “Religious force is only the sentiment inspired by the group in its members, but projected outside of the consciousness that experienced them, and objectified” o Totemism and Clan organization  Totemism is the primordial religion, which establishes the sacred-profane distinction  A totemic animal or plant Durkheim argued was the expression of the sacred and the
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