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I.5 Religion

Emile Durkheim
A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things (things set apart and forbidden) which unite into one single moral community called the church, all those who adhere to them.

He emphasized three aspects of religion.

I. The Sacred Aspect

    1. Religion according to Durkheim includes the Sacred
      Phenomena only
    2. Each society distinguishes between two levels of reality;
      the Sacred and Profane
    3. The sacred is the extraordinary world which is
      supernatural in existence
    4. The profane is the ordinary every day natural world

II. The Social Aspect

  1. Religion according to Durkheim has Social Significance
  2. Religion exists in a social context – implies that religious beliefs are an expression of the way a society orders its way of life
  3. Religion explains to the human kind the reasons why the society, the world and the universe exist the way they do
  4. Religion justifies the social order that people believe in

III. The Moral Basis

  1. It imposes a Moral Pressure on the people to act in accordance with what is believed to be right and proper
  2. Religion offers a guide to behavior among people
  3. Thus, religion is an important mechanism of Social Control

1. The Holy

  • Religious belief or experience is usually expressed in terms of holy or sacred
  • The holy is usually in opposition to everyday life
  • It carries with it a sense of supreme value and ultimate reality
  • Holy may be God or a diffused power
  • It is in reality a projection of human mind or some sort of illusion

2. Response:

  • Response to holy takes form of participation in customs or rituals of a religious community
  • Response can also be a commitment to faith
  • Faith is not nearly a belief but also involves a commitment to the holy
  • Faith tends to shape all of a person’s life and character

3. Belief:

  • As religious traditions develop, they generate a system of beliefs with respect to both practice and doctrine
  • Belief makes the world intelligible vis-à-vis the holy
  • In primitive religions, beliefs take form of Mythology and in modern religions they take form of Theology.

4. Rituals and Liturgy:

  • Religious traditions invariably involve ritual and liturgical forms
  • They may take the form of sacrifice, sacrament or passage rites, prayer, fasting and also pilgrimage
  • Participation in communal rituals marks a person as a member of the religious community

5. Ethical Codes:

  • Ethical Codes are incumbent upon members of a religious community – Caste and Hinduism
  • Some religions believe righteous acts as true expressions of religion rather than cultic acts
  • Sometimes religions get totally absorbed in morality.

6. Community:

  • Religion has a social aspect that leads its adherents to form a community with organized structure
  • Earlier religious communities were part of larger communities
  • But, as societies evolved, religious communities have become distinct from civil societies and even came into conflict

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