Is totemism a religion? An analysis of Emile Durkheim's view of totemism in 'The Elementary Forms of Religion'

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Defining what constitutes a religion is a difficult, if not an impossible quest. However, before determining whether or not certain belief-systems and/or ritualized practices can be considered a religion, a definition is imperative. For our purposes, I am going to use the extremely elementary definition from Webster's New Dictionary , "A system of faith and worship." In The Elementary Forms of Religion, Emile Durkheim, a French Sociologist from the 19th Century, examines totemism in an …

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…believed that individuals in closed societies really have no other options but to believe in the religion taught to or experienced by them from an early age. Durkheim also touched on the fact that the forbidden and the unknown play considerable roles in understanding the essence of religion. Because totemism possesses and even exemplifies Durkheim's opinions of religion, in addition to standard definitions of religion, it is only fair to label it as being one.