Durkheim and Eliade’s Analysis of Religious Functions


Emile Durkheim and Mircea Eliade believe the sacred is a defining factor for any religion because of its ability to influence the behavior and perspectives of individuals towards the recommended religious practices. Even though differing from Durkheim, Eliade believes the sacred aspect of religion is enforced by a supernatural being instead of a clan or other influential individuals in the community. However, both Durkheim and Eliade agree that religion is an integral aspect of every society because of its role in shaping people’s attitudes towards life. From this realization, the definition of religion is associated with the sacred theme that sets the boundaries regarding the behavior of individuals and their ability to overcome various situations influencing their way of life. Notably, religion unites societies by demonstrating how religious beliefs and values can enhance social experience. Therefore, the sacred aspect of religion manifests itself through people’s beliefs towards various outcomes in life.

Separating Religion from the Profane

Both Durkheim and Eliade portray sacred as an aspect that manifests itself wholly from other societal realities. Notably, Eliade believes that the sacred concept in religions stands out because of its unique identity that provokes the thought process of individuals (Eliade). Given its abstract nature, believers who utilize its different thematic concerns in shaping their interactions with other people witnessed the sacred aspect of religion. According to Durkheim’s analysis of the sacred identity of religion, society relies on the ability of individuals to embrace their belief systems to overcome challenges affecting their perspectives towards life. Therefore, Durkheim’s dependence on social facts enabled him to define the ability of individuals to respond differently to external pressures of life.

Social Solidarity

Since individuals have defined roles and responsibilities in the community, Durkheim’s review of the community’s functionality presents a challenge that lowers the quality of relations among individuals. From this realization, Durkheim develops two concepts, mechanical and organic solidarity, to enable the society to understand the importance of maintaining healthy relations to accomplish its desired goals and objectives (Geertz and Michael). Communities with mechanical solidarity have a higher level of religious commitment, while those defined by organic solidarity are more individualistic. From this realization, Durkheim’s examination of solidarity creates a distinction between established and developing nations.

Durkheim’s Sociological Interpretation

In understanding society’s functionality, Durkheim views the community as scientific and lacks passion for healthy interactions among individuals. In this regard, Durkheim’s focus on religion creates an enabling environment for people to experience how the concept defines various communities (Čorić). Notably, religion defines collective consciousness before limiting individuals to a specific thought process that creates a personalized set of beliefs and values. Hence, comprehending the different measures adopted by society to understand religion enabled Durkheim to witness religion’s nature as a reflection of individuals’ beliefs and values.


Durkheim supports Eliade’s views on religion because of the existential nature of the concept and how it influences different world outcomes today. Notably, belief creates an opportunity for individuals to understand the various issues that affect people’s thought processes by exposing them to different scenarios. Based on the nature of society’s response, religion emerges as a guiding factor that dictates the recommended way of life that shapes people’s perspectives towards life. Hence, Durkheim’s views on religions present an opportunity for individuals to reflect on their beliefs and their interactions with other people.



Works Cited

Čorić, Ratko. “Durkheim’s theory of religion as theory of culture.” Papers on Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, and Pedagogy 41.18 (2018).

Eliade, Mircea. The sacred and the profane: The nature of religion. Vol. 144. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1959.

Geertz, Clifford, and Michael Banton. “Religion as a cultural system.” (1966).

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