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The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life
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Author(s) :
Emile Durkheim
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Edition(s) at Erowid :
Publisher :
Free Press
A problem that has aroused the interest of philosophers in all ages--a problem of interest to all humanity--concerns the definition of the origin and nature of religion.

In this classic study of primitive religions, Emile Durkheim, one of the founders of modern sociology, examines religion in society in terms of animism, naturism, totemism, myth, and ritual. Thus he takes up again the question of the origin of religion, which for him means discerning the ever present elements that underlie the essential forms of religious thought and practice.

Durkheim's choice of archaic religion as a frame of reference for the analysis and explanation of all religion was not irrelevant. Rather, it seemed to him the one approach best adapted, not only to ultimate understanding of the religious nature of man, but also to illuminating an essential and permanent aspect of humanity.

The author concludes that religion, philosophy, and morals can be understood only as products of the social condition of man: that the source of religion and morality is in the collective mind of society and not inherent in the isolated minds of individuals.