What Is Religion According to Emile Durkheim?

According to Emile Durkheim and his functionalist perspective, religion is a system of rituals that serve the purpose of reinforcing group identity and social solidarity. He argued that the rituals were more important than the mythological or symbolic meanings attributed to them.

As such, Durkheim speculated that even as society becomes more secular and scientifically-oriented, rituals would continue to be observed. These could include elements of a "civil religion," involving civic parades and nationalism as opposed to more traditional church services and deference to God.

Durkheim based his theory of religion on his observations that, whether or not people believe in a magical or divine power, they still treat rituals and symbols with reverence.