The word religion is a term that generates different meanings to different people, in different settings.
In the book, Interpreting the Sacred, Paden examines different views of religion and how they were interpreted, through different perspectives. (Interpretive frames) These "frames" have been put in place to give the reader a different perspective on a theory.
Paden will examine the social, psychological and comparative theories. Each of these theories has its own idea of what religion is about, and attempts to teach it.
Next, Paden's idea of "contextuality", what it involves, and how it is used to solve the problems associated with each of these theories will be discussed.
The Sociological Theory.
In 1912, sociologist, Emile Durkheim, developed a model to explain religion. This model was based on the concept of society.
Durkheim sought to prove that religion was a system of belief and behavior, which represented social ideals. Durkheim argued that society creates a culture by building and shaping it, which in turn develops social roles and identities for people. Therefore, if society can create a culture, than why could it not create gods?.
Further along in his study, Durkheim coined the phrase "the totemic principle". This principle entailed the way communities grasped a certain symbol that identified their tribe and placed value on it. Durkheim saw these religious symbols as social symbols. If society creates culture, and culture creates symbols; than ultimately these religious symbols are social symbols. With this in mind, Durkheim stated that religion can only be explained sociologically.
For Durkheim, "religion is a system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, uniting into a moral community for those who adhere to them" (p.32) .
Another perspective during this period was that of Max Weber. Weber set forth to study how types of religious outlooks, correlate with types of social values.