Philosophy of Religion by Durkheim

Durkheim’s personal experiences substantially altered his outlook on religion. For instance, he initially thought that human communities might function without religion but later realized that it is a crucial component of the community (Durkheim 25). He made the case that religion is an integral aspect of human situations and that it does not alter over time in the same way that other components of populations do. Even though his point of view on faith is so controversial, it provides insightful information about the numerous facets of religion as a practice and ritual.
According to Durkheim, religion is not the result of heavenly intervention but rather human behavior. He does his analysis of faith-based on ethnographic data that was available during the most primitive religion times, called the totemic religion of Australian aborigines (Durkheim 32). The decision to use such kind of faith was critical in helping him understand the essential elements of life in a manner that would help him understand religion better.
Durkheim did a lot of investigations to understand the origin of religion and how it came to the part of human life. However, the process has not been spared by critiques who have questioned the work from the perspectives that it undermines traditional religion and misinterpretation of the ethnographic data that represented such times (Durkheim 33). Nonetheless, Durkheim’s assertion that religion is a fundamental foundation of human life as well as other elements of his theory has attracted support from other philosophers.
Durkheim’s theory of religion defines religion as “religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden–beliefs and practices which unite in one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them” (Durkheim; 1995: 44). From the definition, it is clear that religion is a social process that involves sacred things and forbidden beliefs that binds the Church together. Apparently, three critical aspects of religion include holy objects, a set of beliefs and practices, as well as the existence of a moral community.
More often than not, religion revolves around the notion of being sacred. Sacred means connected with God and is meant for a religious purpose hence needs veneration (Durkheim 53). The concept of Collective effervescence (CE) was introduced by Durkheim and describes a phenomenon where a society or community may sometimes come together; communicate similar thoughts and participation in similar actions at the same time.
For example, the formation of Churches even today reaffirms the phenomenon. All members of different Churches cannot be put together as one big Church because of various forms and aspects of collective effervescence that each group underwent before formation (Durkheim 51). In essence, religion is a social process that involves collective effervescence as one of the primary factors of its foundation. It is the same region why different faiths profess different faiths.
The sacred aspect of religion is critical in the sense that it forms the basis upon which religion revolves and rests. The holy tag of faith is what has inspired great respect and admiration of worship by members of the society (Durkheim 63). Durkheim contrasts sacred and profane thus making opposition of the two the central elements of Durkheim’s theory. By likening sacred to profane, Durkheim also emphasizes the social aspect of religion as he focuses on forms whose principal arguments are against those theorists like Edward Tylor who attributed the origin of religion to psychological phenomena such as storms and dreams.
Durkheim argues that attaching the origin of religion to psychological phenomena is only possible with analysis of an existing religion rather than trying to uncover the source of morality before any religion existed (Durkheim 71). He further argues that belief comes into existence through moments of collective effervescence from where belief derives its legitimacy and presence and position in the social fabrics of society. Collective effervescence is characterized by the performance of rituals using sacred objects. Such moments are also marked by the collective emotional excitement that finally culminates into extra-personal force, a core element of religion that makes people feel as if they are in contact with they are full of extraordinary energy.
For example, the sacred objects that exist in modern churches include the cross, rosary, communion, thurible, altar, and tabernacle among many others that are used in various denominations to perform religious rituals (Durkheim 33). The respect and admiration that religion commands across the world are a consequence of the sacred elements that are examined in Durkheim’s theory of religion.
Durkheim’s theory, however, provocative offers crucial insights into various elements of religion that includes sacred, sacred objects, a set of beliefs and practices, as well as moral community (Durkheim 61). The concept of collective effervescence is critical in explaining the origin of religion and offers the empirical experience of daily religious practices. The theory presents faith as a social process and goes beyond claims to show how its elements influence the ultimate beliefs and moral behavior of the people involved in the process.
Works Cited
Durkheim, Emile. “Sociology.” Its subject, method and purpose. Moscow: Canon Publication (1995).

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