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Lecture 6

Studying Religion - Lecture 6

3 Pages
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Department
Religion & Culture
Course Code
RE207
Professor
Alexander Damm

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Theories of Religion's Functions  Religion functions to sustain a society (Emile Durkheim) o glue that keeps society together o allows people to work together and live together o religion supports society o Durkheim 1858-1917-  French born sociologist, lived/worked in Paris  died just before end of First World War  grew up very similar to others of his time period  industrial revolution is producing more and more goods  leading some people rich, some people poor  science becoming very fashionable  rational thinking, hypothesis as a means to progress  people naively interested in evolution  cultural Darwinism, primitive and complex societies with Europe being the epitome of complex societies  raised Jewish, but atheist  not a fan of established religion, did not see use of it  anti-religious bias, don't see it as important so there has to be an explanation o religion's function is to reinforce the power of a group  felt that religions were always seeking to make people more loyal to the group to which they belong o defined religion - concerns with things that are sacred, things that are important to a group o surveyed world's religion - clearest form of religion could be found in the "primitive" world  purest example among Australian aboriginals  if you look close enough to religion, you can see religion holds themselves together, when they worship god, they are just looking at themselves  every religion's deity figure resembles the group that worships it o if god looks similar to society, god is creation of the society  when society worships a god, they're just paying homage to itself, values, institutions ... etc  god is a cloaked symbol for power of society o can find examples of time where religion reinforces and oppresses people  cannot simply conclude religion supports society and that's it  world is more complex  has numerous other functions for different people  Analysis of Durkheim and Totemism o Totem is simply a symbol representing a deity  Why do different tribes have different totems?  deity symbolizing the unity and power of the tribe itself o most religions have their own rites and practices  coming of age, funeral rites  every religion has their own set of rites/practices  rites reinforcing the belonging to the particular community o rituals - only on surface it is religious, under the surface they are just confirming your place in a larger society  markers of belonging o all the religious institutions is just a marker for the societal bonds o people are social beings, live in communities, something needs to validate and support this sense of community o as societies values change over time, religion operates differently to change with the times  as societies become more liberal, religion reflects that, and becomes more religion o generalizes religion based off of Totemism  not a lot of evidence to back that up o Durkheim talks about Totem, but nothing about mythology  all kinds of stories about creationism, deities and things not involved with society  can be considered tunnel vision of a religion  validates his theory o only using things famil
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