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Essay on Religious Cults and Durkeim


essay on Religious Cults and Durkeim

immortality of the soul is thus the earliest, symbolic means whereby men represented to themselves the truth that society continued to live while they must die. Max Muller's Introduction to the Science of Religion (1873) and Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion (1878). In so far as society is literally defined in terms of collective representations (as the later Durkheim increasingly did both the causal and the functionalist claims seem simply to restate the heuristic claim, and are vulnerable to the same objection; but, in so far. Once these agents had received names, the names themselves raised questions of interpretation for succeeding generations, producing the efflorescence of fables, genealogies, and myths characteristic of ancient religions. The "very heart of the animist doctrine however, was its second part - the explanation of how souls become spirits and objects of a cult; but here again Durkheim had serious doubts. Durkheim suggested that this is the explanation for what he, and Frazer before him, had called "individual totemism" (cf. Kant's Critique of Practical Reason (1788) and Critique of Judgment (1790). Following Robertson Smith - indeed, it was probably this idea, seized upon in his anti-Frazerian mood of 1900, that so dramatically altered Durkheim's conception of religion itself - Durkheim insisted that the primitive man does not regard his gods as hostile, malevolent, or fearful. The difficulty for the empirical thesis, Durkheim then observed, is that it deprives the categories of their most distinctive properties - universality (they are the most general concepts we have, are applicable to all that is real, and are independent of every particular object) and.

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But if religion is thus a mode of action, it is also a mode of thought - one not different in kind from that exercised by science. The failure of these explanations, Durkheim added, is particularly embarrassing in that the idea of the soul itself does not seem to imply its own survival, but rather seems to exclude it - since the soul is intimately connected with the body, the death. "The really religious beliefs Durkheim could thus argue, "are always common to a determined group or Church which makes a profession of adhering to them and of practicing the rites connected with them. Since the idea of souls is inexplicable without postulating original, "archetypal" souls from which the others are derived, for example, the primitive imagines mythical ancestors or "spirits" at the beginning of time, who are the source of all subsequent religious efficacy. We have already seen, for example, how the "logic" of the Intichiuma corresponds to the intermittent character of the physical environment of central Australia - long dry spells punctuated by heavy rainfall and the reappearance of animals and vegetation. Second, and more important, he considered it unsociological; for it is an essential postulate of sociology that no human institution can rest on an error or a lie.

Second, Durkheim admitted the possibility of combining the two theories - as Fustel de Coulanges had done in La Cit antique (1864) - in which case we must decide what place to grant each. As their power grows, men increasingly consider it wise to conciliate their favor or appease them when they are irritated, whence come prayers, offerings, sacrifices - in short, the entire apparatus of religious worship.

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