Totionism Vs Totemism

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For centuries, people across the globe have practiced various forms of religion, and for just as long, philosophers have tried to sort these different practices into one cohesive and all encompassing definition of religion. From Edward Tylor’s basis in animism to Sigmund Freud and Emile Durkheim simplifying religion to totemism to Clifford Geertz believing the primary function of religion to be a cultural system, each proposed definition of religion is unique as religious traditions themselves. Yet, even with so many definitions, we still lack one that covers everything religion can entail. In the early 1870s, Edward Tylor proposed the idea that all religions boil down to “belief in spiritual beings” (Tylor 4), and that there is a “ghost-soul”…show more content…
Totemism recognizes a symbol as a metaphor for community, and is often sacrificed. Freud argues that the totem itself, is actually a symbol of the father, or a patriarchal protective figure. Using Darwin’s theory of an early human primal horde, Freud proposes that naturally, a father figure would be protective of the females in the community, and therefore banish the other males, giving only the alpha access to sex. His sons, feeling cut off from their mothers and being forbidden access to sex, organize together to kill and eat the father. Thus, the killing of the totem is both a celebratory event for the removal of the dictator figure, but also a cause of great remorse, as the father figure was in all probability loved and respected. The guilt causes the sons to further idolize their father, making him stronger in death than in life. They then begin to worship this fallen figure, turning the father into the Father, or God, accidentally creating a religion through their internal strife. The main faults that I find in Freud's proposal is the lack of scientific or anthropologic evidence, along with the primality he assumes of early humans. His theory is primarily based on Sophocles's play Oedipus Rex, and uses the prophecy and downfall of one mythical man to project onto the entirety of human belief system. Freud’s argument is shaky at best, and the long, improbable backstory…show more content…
While Freud proposes the fallen father as God, Durkheim argues that God is synonymous with society. Though I prefer this argument, it also lacks any anthropological basis or support. Durkheim offers a fuller definition of religion to begin with, separating beliefs: “states of opinion… in representations,” from rites: “determined modes of action” (13). He also is the first of these four philosophers to introduce the classification of the sacred versus the profane. He defines religion as the belief in certain things as sacred, though the sacred is not limited to Gods, but also includes rituals, teachings, and infinite expandings according to the specific religion. These qualifications also align with the definition of magic, and Durkheim separates these two by arguing that magic is more elementary and simplistic than religion. Religion must always be associated with a group, also known as the church, which is unified by persons who share a common “faith… in regard to the sacred world” (Durkheim 15). Magic is therefore distinct because it does not have a church, instead having one magician and a sort of following that lacks

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