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Durkheim and Sociology of Religion

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Sociology 2259
Pamela Cushing

Durkheim and Sociology of Religion Lecture 8 Durkheim and Religion - Some religious belief constitutes the basis of any society - Always consists of: o Sacred vs. Profane o Totemism  Collective Effervescence - “A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practises relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden – beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community, called a Church, all those who adhere to them” o Now Durkheim uses the word Church interchangeably with institution  Not that every religion is rooted in Christianity (thank God) The Function of Religion Religion for the collective - It’s a way of separating the holy from the every day world - Religion organizes o The placement and position of the sacred o The principles for how collective activity accesses the sacred Religion for the individual - Religion allows individuals to transcend their individuality – and to connect to a group perspective o Becomes communal o It’s similar to playing a sport or joining a club where you lose your sense of individuality Sacred and the Profane - The fundamental distinction in religious activity is between keeping what is sacred away from what is profane o Sacred is formed from the collective  It is isolated, distant, untouchable o Profane is constituted by individuals  It is the everyday, the normal - As a collective we end up worshipping a symbol of something sacred  not what is actually sacred o Therefore religion is worshipping the society of itself o Very self-justifying if I do say so myself Left and Right sacred - Robert Hertz (1909) developed Durkheim’s (1899) distinction of the sacred and the profane o Left sacred (malevolent, evil) o Right sacred (good) o BUT WHAT IF YOU WHACK OFF WITH YOUR RIGHT HAND, that’s bad religiously m’kay - Anyway, Hertz keeps saying that consistently, right is good, left is not Sacred and the Profane - Say this right and left idea was translated to religion o You have right and left sacred  Left sacred  evil, demons  Right sacred  Good, group, religion  Profane  just us I suppose o Binary as fuck - Boundaries policed by religious authorities Individuals and the Sacred - Worship, performed in the appropriate group setting, can lead to religious ecstasy o Something beyond the profane  Through worship you move beyond the normal way o Individual is re-energised  Makes you feel like a religious champ  “Re-energized” conscience collective - Not Magic o Magic is individual o “There is no Church of magic”  paganism? Right? o The magician has clientele, not a following  some people follow magicians religiously though right?  think about people who follow Houdini wanting to jump his bones Rites - Religious practise requires adherence to the core aspect of rites o Rituals are the means to maintain the separation of the sacred and the profane o Rituals are both belief and structure together o Consciously act a specific way Three Categories of Rites - Positive rites: initiation, sacrifice  baptism, communion, barmitzvuh (Sp? What?), circumcision ;) - Negative rites: taboos  incest is neat because it’s bad pretty much everywhere (unless you’re
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