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Can A Definition Of “Religion” Be Academically Useful? Pick Yes Or No, And Provide An Argument As To Why Or Why Not?

996 words - 4 pages

Many different religious scholars and theorists use some kind of a prehistoric humanity as proof or evidence their works. The primitive is such a central concern for them because of the lack of evidence of prehistoric civilizations. Thus making the prehistoric societies easy models to help prove their beliefs and understandings on religion. In addition to this, another reason as to why prehistoric humanity was so important to religious philosophers was because early theorist did not have the field or study of religion. Early theorists where classified as anthropologists and sociologists in most cases; and thus tended to bring in parts of their study into religion. Anthropologists study prehistoric civilizations, they were very comfortable with that subject, which is why they used it to prove points in their religious models. For example early social anthropologist E.B. Taylor used a concept called “The savage philosopher” as his form of primitive life. When the savage philosopher wakes up and he has no idea between being asleep and being awake, he was unaware of what a dream was. However the savage philosopher was quite interested in his environment and the anomalies present in it. However without any form of scientific methods the philosopher could not make sense of the anomalies in his environment. Therefore, the pre-human has to come to a conclusion for the oddity of seeing himself elsewhere and seeing spirits of his dead ancestors. (All occurring in a dream) Thus the philosopher is able to come to the conclusion that there is something which supersedes life inside the body, that can depart and then return into the body. Another example is Emile Durkheim who was a French sociologist, he also associated himself with a concept of prehistoric humanity. Emile Durkheim in his work, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, encapsulated the Australian aborigines. This fit in perfectly with Durkheim’s idea that “religion was not belief in spiritual, or supernatural beings, but the distinction that all societies make between things sacred and things profane.” (Pals 100) Durkheim wanted to prove that religion is not supernaturally inspired and was the product of society, he identified common things that religion placed emphasis on, as well as what effects those religious beliefs had on the lives of all within a society. Durkheim saw their religion, rather than being a step in evolution, he did not see the group of Australian “primitives” less than Catholicism, it was easier to understand because it had less complications attached to it. It was noted that in these sort of systems, all tribal people divided themselves into clans in which they associated themselves with different totems that were sacred to the group. The system is the most simple and most perfect for understanding the concepts of sacred and profane in Durkheim’s eyes. They may kill a...

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