Religion and Collective Representations
In Durkheim’s view, religion was a mirror of man’s relationship with society and nature, and he saw it as such in religious texts. Religion is more than just believing in God. Some faiths don’t seem to have a God behind them. In addition, there are essential aspects of existence that are not in any way connected to a particular god in any of the world’s major religions. These include things like food, drink, the human body, and the physical environment, among other things.
Religion is ingrained in the fabric of everyday life in human culture. Durkheim is credited with explaining both the social foundation of religion and the religious basis of society. The sanctification of society may be attributed to religion. At its most fundamental level, religion represents man’s regard for society. This respect is communicated via an intense level of symbolic activity. A mirror of society, and more especially of collective representations, is seen in religious practice.
On one level, Durkheim’s explanation of the nature of religion was founded not just on the concept of the sacred but also on the communal. The distinguishing feature of religious thinking is categorizing the universe into two different domains: one contains everything that is sacred, and the other contains everything that is profane. Beliefs, myths, dogmas, and legends are all types of representational systems that are used to convey the nature of the qualities and powers that are associated with sacred objects. They also symbolize the connections that exist between things that are sacred and profane.
In addition to the idea of the sacred, Durkheim drew attention to the compulsory nature of the religious beliefs that underpinned the various religious activities. A society exerts pressure on its members to keep them from straying from the religious beliefs held in common by all members of the society. As a result, religious phenomena are composed of organized systems and collections of mandatory beliefs combined with specific actions corresponding to the objects presented in the beliefs.
The individual’s submission to society’s moral authority is required for the person to adhere to religion. Therefore, society dictates to the believer the particular beliefs and ceremonies they are expected to follow. Consequently, the rituals and beliefs are products of the culture. Therefore, the makeup of society is the primary factor determining the causes of religious occurrences. The modifications that take place throughout history in the social organization of a society are the root cause of the change and development that takes place in many forms within religious beliefs and practices, as well as other aspects of religious life.
Durkheim believed that by examining the “conditions of collective existence,” one may get insight into the genuine character of religious belief. The representations of religion need to be understood as the product of the nature of the collective conscience. They contribute to developing ideas and foster a more profound interest in the collective representations found in social life.
Even the most mundane thing may be transformed into the most powerful sacred entity via the power of collective representation. Even though they are founded on a concept, the abilities bestowed onto an item in this way make it seem as if they are real. They have a comparable effect on men’s behavior, as does the use of physical force. As a result, societal thinking can gain the obligatory power that prevails over individual thought. Depending on the conditions, social thinking may either contribute to the reality at hand or take away from it. In this manner, a concept may develop into a functioning component of the social realm. Therefore, thoughts or beliefs that are religious are firmly rooted in any tangible items that might symbolically represent them.
The feelings instilled in a community’s members most often serve as its primary source of religious influence. It is something that exists outside of the mind of individual people. These religious feelings grow attached to a certain thing, and that thing eventually becomes sacrosanct. Any object may carry out this function. Religious belief has nothing to do with the characteristics already present in the item that is worshiped. On top of the things of worship is the universe of religious beliefs, which is added and layered. It’s as simple as saying they are the symbolic forms of communal representations.
Members of a clan in an ancient civilization have the sense that they are connected in some way by a shared symbol, which might be a plant, an animal, or an item. One group goes by the moniker “Crow,” while another is referred to as an “Eagle” or a “Snake,” while others adopt the name of a specific location. They benefit in a variety of ways from having this name. They hold the totem in high esteem and approach it with reverence. They will not do any damage to the plant or animal in question. Before putting it to death, if there is a critical situation, they will first adore it and create a communal reason for their actions. They keep their totem sign alive via a series of ceremonies that they perform. The totem of a clan is an external manifestation of the totemic principle, which is a higher force.
On the other hand, it is also the emblem of the resolute society, commonly known as the clan. It is the banner that represents the clan. The distinguishing mark sets this clan apart from all the other clans in the area. It is the outward manifestation of the clan’s distinctive character. Therefore, it is both the emblem of the supernatural and the civilization in which it exists. Because of this, the clan itself serves as both the totemic principle and the clan’s deity. The totem, which may take the shape of either an animal or a plant, is used to personify the clan and provide a visual representation of the clan to the imagination. Cults are groups that meet regularly to worship a deity or a sacred object.
The concept of religion is said to have originated in and continues to exist inside and via collective representations of beliefs, ideas, values, and religious thinking, as well as being practiced by the community of believers through cults and rituals.
The link between man, society, and nature was something that Durkheim pondered. He observed that the study of nature was being increasingly eclipsed by scientific inquiry. The growth of scientific knowledge, therefore, reduced the realm of religious practice. In the past, religion was a representation of all types of knowledge, both sacred and secular. The expansion of scientific knowledge led to an increase in the secular realm. In earlier times, morality was seen as a religious obligation. The religious component of such responsibility was something that Durkheim did not accept, and he placed his confidence instead in secular morality. According to him, the foundation for the moral order in society would be provided by secular morality in the modern times of human civilization. Therefore, secular morality has the potential to develop into a new kind of group consciousness.