Document Type : Promotional article


1 Associate Professor of Islamic Philosophy and Theology, Faculty of Islamic Theology and Sciences, Tabriz University

2 PhD student of Islamic theology, Tabriz University



Since the day when mankind entered the field of existence, religion and religious beliefs have also been created, and the question of the origin of religion has always been a fundamental question that every human being has faced. In the meantime, some thinkers like Auguste Comte (1798-1857) consider the origin of religion to be human ignorance (Comte, 1998: p.231). Marx (1818-1883) considers religion to be a product of the ruling class to dominate the weak class of society (Marx and Engels, 2019: p.36), and Feuerbach (1804-1872) also believes that religion has a human origin (Feuerbach, 1854: p.104). Freud (1856-1939) also considers religion to arise from the repressed human desires and instincts (Freud, 1983: p. 80). Such atheistic approaches to religion are contrary to the view of Divine religions, which consider the origin of religion to be Divine revelation and the teachings of Divine prophets.
One of the approaches to consider is the sociological approach of the origin of religion, and Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) is the most prominent sociological theorist and the one who had the greatest impact on the sociology of religion. Emile Durkheim's view about the origin of religion is one of the views that is widely discussed and known today and can be rejected from various aspects. In this research, an attempt is made to analyze and criticize his view from the perspective of Shahid Motahhari (1919-1979) and John Hick (1922-2012).
This article analyzes Emile Durkheim's view on the origin of religion and its criticism from the perspective of Shahid Motahhari and John Hick, with a descriptive-analytical method and with a critical approach.
Durkheim believes that to investigate the origin of religion, one should start from primitive religions (Durkheim, 2017: p.89). Durkheim believes that religions have an evolutionary journey that started with totemism and evolved into current religions (Moreno, 2011: p.109). Durkheim emphasized that religion is both a reasonable phenomenon and an eternal and undeniable reality. At the same time, Durkheim believes that the essence of religion is not in believing in a God beyond nature and the world (Durkheim, 1995: p.109). Durkheim considers the simplest existing religion to be "totemism" or the religion of the Australian aboriginal tribes. From Durkheim's view, totemism is important from two aspects; first, totem is the essence of religion, and second, totemism is a factor for solving conflicts between science and religion; because from his view, in today's individualistic and rationalistic societies, science has the supreme moral and intellectual authority. On the other hand, religion also defines certain frameworks for people, and science, by discovering the deep reality of all religions, does not create another religion, but creates the confidence that society has the power to create the gods it needs in every era (Ritzer, 2012: p.23).
Discussion and Conclusion
According to Durkheim, the origin of all religions is totem, and totem is also derived from society's propositions (Durkheim, 2012: p.67). Durkheim does not consider religion useful except for social benefits, and beyond that religion is useless, but this view has been criticized and is in conflict with rational principles. Shahid Motahhari has criticized Durkheim's view based on Islamic principles. From his view, as Durkheim thought, society is not the main factor in the birth of religion, culture, art, etc., and society should not be considered the real and effective factor in the birth of such important affairs in human life (Motahhari, 2003: p.76). He also has stated consequences such as monopolizing the function of religion in individual life and alienation for Durkheim's theory, and that such a view of religion, although it may be true for other religions, is not true for Islam (Motahhari, 2009: p.90). Shahid Motahhari also considers the belief in totemism, which is one of the principles of Durkheim's theory, to be illusory and unacceptable (Motahhari, 2010: p. 102). John Hick has also tried to challenge Durkheim's sociological view of the origin of religion (Hick, 1993: p.78). Hick considers Durkheim's statement that "society is the origin of religion" to be unproven and unjustifiable, which will never be able to explain the origin of religion well. From Hick's point of view, Durkheim's view can ultimately explain one of the effective factors in religious life, not the origin of religion. According to the criticisms expressed by Shahid Motahhari and John Hick on Durkheim's sociological theory about the origin of religion, it can be acknowledged that Durkheim's theory has no rational basis and proven argument.


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