What Religion is

7 10 2007

My reading of the Introduction to religions sociology by Enzo Pace makes me knowing the thought of Durkheim about religion.

He means religion as the organized and istitutionalized form of the sacred. It is a way of generate collective norms and social conscientiousness. It is a way to gather people together. Religion comes after the experience of the sacred, which is the collective super-ego of society, a place where people rapresents and produces the symbolic imaginary. People needs to be able to administrate the sacred after the fizzy moment of its discovery and they produce the religion.

Durkheim decides to investigate this by studying the basic way of organization of the sacred in the totemic society, like that of the Warramunga tribe in Australia he goes to. The totem is a system of symbols that society uses to gather together and to have  a shared identity.  The totem signs the border between what it is sacred and what isn’t. From the totem the whole hierarchy in society originates.

For Durkheim the divinity is not the central point of religion, but the most important things are the rituals and beliefs born around the totem since he believes that the only god is rapresented by society and its collective conscientiousness. The object of religion consists of the collective life of this society.

That’s why for Durkheim religion is the matrix of society. Everything originates from religion and even culture is a super structure of religious belief.

In its book Les formes elementaires de la vie religieuse, Durkheim explores societu and religion in a double way: the social aspects of religion and the religious aspects of society.

Finally, since religion is a sacred transfiguration of collective conscientiousness that gather together the society, there is not a real difference among the “traditional” religions we know, such as Christianism, Buddism, ect. After analysing the Austrialian tribes, infact Durkheim comes back to modern society and tries to apply his discovery to western culture and religion.

I believe that in our age there is not an eclypse of religion as we may suppose, but maybe a transformation of religious contents in “social material”.

We may assist to the spread of a “diffuse religion”.

I wonder if biotechnology could rapresent the sacred, the collective super-ego of a society, around which we could organized our shared values and society.

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