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Excerpts from Emile Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1915)Before all, [religion] is a system of ideas with which the individuals represent tothemselves the society of which they are members, and the obscure but intimate relations whichthey have with it. This is its primary function; and though metaphorical and symbolic, thisrepresentation is not unfaithful. Quite on the contrary, it translates everything essential in therelations which are to be explained: for it is an eternal truth that outside of us there existssomething greater than us, with which we enter into communion.That is why we can rest assured in advance that the practices of the cult, whatever theymay be, are something more than movements without importance and gestures without efficacy.By the mere fact that their apparent function is to strengthen the bonds attaching the believer tohis god, they at the same time really strengthen the bonds attaching the individual to the societyof which he is a membe...