Anthropological anthropological religious theories attempt to explore the origin and function of religion. These theories mainly attempt to explain particular universal features of religious practices and beliefs. This paper will explore Mircea Eliade’s “The Sacred and the Profane and Durkheim’s “Elementary Forms of the Religious Life to illustrate how Durkheim agrees with Eliade’s analysis of religious functions and explain how he interprets them sociologically. The paper will briefly describe how Malinowski used Durkheim’s theory to recommend an anthropological approach and lastly analyze the Aranda’s Myth of the Great Father from Durkheim’s perspective.
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Durkheim stated that the scientific study of religion assumed that the different religions we compare are all species of the same group, and thus have certain elements in common: “At the basis of all systems of cults and belief,” Durkheim hence argued, there have to necessarily be a certain number of basic conceptions or representations of ritual attitudes which, regardless of the diversity of forms they have taken, have similar objective and accomplish the same functions everywhere. These are the eternal elements that comprise that which is everlasting and human in religion; they form all the intended contents of the thought that is expressed when one speaks of religion in general (Durkheim 5).
Durkheim, Emile. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, trans. Karen E. Fields New York. 1995
Eliade, Mircea. The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, trans. Willard R. Trask Orlando, 1987