Some material is to be credited to F.
Elwell of Rogers State University.
“…has to do with socially shared and
organized ways of thinking, feeling, and
acting that concern ultimate meanings
about the supernatural or ‘beyond’”
(Stark and Bainbridge in Hughes and
“Whether simple or complex, all known religious
beliefs display a common feature: They
presuppose a classification of the real or ideal
things that men conceive of into two classes—two
opposite genera—that are widely designated by
two distinct terms, which the words profane and
sacred translate fairly well. The division of the
world into two domains, one containing all that is
sacred and the other all this is profane—such is
the distinctive trait of religious thought.”
(Durkheim in Net Industries and its Licensors 2010)
The Sacred: Those things beyond the
mundane—of a strictly spiritual nature. It
becomes sacred when it is invested with
meaning by people.
The Profane are those things of the earth,
of the material world, ordinary and
Durkheim believed in a collective
conscience. This is something that exists
“outside” of the individual. But it works as
a collective bond.
It originates with society.
It exists in two forms:
This is the condition in which society is
based upon a high degree of social
integration: that is, with little
Everyone does a similar task in society.
There is a strong collective conscience.
Most behavior is governed by religion.
Because people in “traditional” societies
engaged in similar activities, they shared
a collective conscience. People were of
the “we” rather than the “I.”
But specialization occurs with the progress
of society (modernization). There comes
a “division of labor” (DOL) that atomizes
Thus we have “organic solidarity.”
People have less and less in common.
The collective conscience is diluted. The
DOL separates people’s consciousness
and society becomes more complex.
Self interest reigns.
The individual suffers from the condition of
Anomie (the loss of norms—a lack of trust
in institutions such as the family).
The individual is left to find his or her own
way in the world without the guidelines
of the group.
Religion has the necessary unifying effect
of bringing people together.
“[B]eliefs and practices which unite in one
single community called a Church, all
those who adhere to them.”
(Durkheim in Elwell)
Religion strengthens the individual and
serves to offset the effects of Organic
Religion is eternal. It is a “social fact” that
exists beyond the individual. It is
universal according to Durkheim. And so
According to Durkheim religion has the
function of cohering a society by
ensuring that people meet regularly to
affirm common beliefs and values.
By worshiping a deity, the person is
worshiping the collective conscience.
He/she is worshiping the community or
Some of the following comes from Nijole
V. Benokraitis’s SOC (2009-10)
• A group with beliefs that are outside of
the mainstream of society. Also called
New Religious Movement (NRM).
• Usually have a charismatic leader such as
David Koresh of Waco Texas infamy.
• A cult can become mainstream such as
the Church of Latter Day Saints
A religious group that has broken away
from a mainstream religious organization.
The tend to be small like sects.
Examples are the Amish, Jewish
Hassidim, Jehovah’s Witnesses and
View other religious groups as invalid.
A large and established religious group.
bureaucratic organization with offices
Roman Catholic and Protestant are typical
Often become dependent upon (rather
than critical of) ruling classes.
A subgroup within a religion.
They view other religions as valid.
Adapt or conform to society rather than
try to change it.
Examples: Protestant denominations such
as Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans…
More religious Less religious
Older people The young
Ethnic/racial groups Whites
Less educated More educated
Source: Nijole V.Benokraitis’s SOC (2009-10)
Religion is a set of beliefs and practices
generally held by a community, involving
adherence to codified beliefs and rituals
and study of ancestral or cultural
traditions, writings, history, and
mythology, as well as personal faith and
Religion is a form of culture. It consists of
shared beliefs, values,, norms, and
material conditions that create a common
Religion provides a sense of purpose—a
feeling that life is ultimately meaningful.
It is centered in beliefs and practices that
are related to the sacred as opposed to
The sacred is usually approached
through the use of rituals—social acts
prescribed by rules that dictate how we
should behave in the presence of the
Most (if not all) societies have some sort
Religiosity varies in importance from
country to country with it being very
important in Nigeria and Ghana to not
very important in Sweden and Japan and
Briefly discuss the chart on page 229.
We must consider Durkheim again. He
connected religion not with social
inequalities or power (as did Marx) but
with the overall nature of the institutions
of a society.
According to Hughes and Kroehler
Religious activity and rituals promote
social solidarity, and thus social control
by creating a shared mental state and a
shared consciousness that contributes to
a social bonding.
Marx saw religion as a source of alienation.
Religion defers happiness until the
afterlife, making people accept their lot
in life—especially the lower classes. This
teaches the resigned acceptance of
Marx considered religion to be the
“opium of the people.”
The Full Quote:
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of
real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the
sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and
the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
For Marx religion engenders a “false
consciousness” most particularly among
the working class.
This favors the status quo, i.e. conditions
which favor those already in powerful
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit
Weber saw a link between the
establishment of Protestantism and the
birth of modern capitalism.
It was the Protestants, not the Catholics,
who became the early capitalist
Much of this had to do the the doctrine of
Because the didn’t know if they were
damned or saved, they came to accept
earthly signs of aestheticism as proof of
their salvation—e.g. hard work, thrift,
restraint and avoidance of fleshy
The point is that an institution of religion,
Protestantism, has also (according to
Weber) given rise to the institution of
capitalism as we know it.
We are bound by a moralistic ideology that
is not of our making.
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