Emile Durkheim, “The Human Meaning of Religion”

  1. Basic components of all religions (60a.9)
  2. division of things into sacred and profane
  3. notions of soul, spirits, mythical personalities, divinity
  4. negative cult
  5. rites of oblation (sacrifice/offering) and communion (joining, oneness)
  6. imitative rites (ritual in usual sense)
  7. commemorative rites (re-enacting past)
  8. expiatory rites (expressing atonement)
  9. Theorists who want to explain religion in rational terms see it as a system of ideas associated with some object (nature, the infinite, the ideal, etc.) (61a.1)
  10. Only question is how/whether/should this be accorded regard next to science
  11. Believers don’t think this way. They get something real from it. No sense that they are bamboozled. S/he really does get something from it.
  12. Seems like efficacy from mere idea which doesn’t make sense. (61a.9)
  13. In most religions you have to do more than simply hold the idea or be near the object. You have to do certain things (61b.3)
  14. “The Cult” = the actions is what gives rise to the feelings of peace, serenity, strength – in other words all the stuff that is evidence of the reality of the beliefs.
  15. The rituals (cult) is NOT JUST A SYMBOL, but a means which allows believer to recreate the effects.
  16. WHOLE POINT: “unanimous sentiment of the believers of all times cannot be purely illusory” (61b.6)
  17. Now there is a challenge here: these religious practices have taken all manner of forms in different places, ages, etc. This suggest that not one of them is “just it” and that the “it” has to be sought beyond them (62a1).
  18. AND even if we grant that religion is not imaginary, it doesn’t mean that some particular religion is going to tell us what the “it” is.
  19. The answer is that “the universal and eternal objective cause of these sensations sui generis out of which religious experience is made, is society” (62a.5).
  20. Importance of cult/ritual: common actions symbolize common consciousness contents (62b.7)
  21. This is how society gets into our heads.