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Sacred and Profane

The concepts of sacred and profane are central to Durkheim's theory of religion. Durkheim says that the sacred is ideal and transcends everyday existence, it is extra-ordinary, potentially dangerous,awe-inspiring,fear inducing. The sacred refers to things set part by man including religious beliefs,rites,duties or anything socially defined as requiring special religious treatment. Almost anything can be sacred – a god, a rock,across,the moon,the earth ,a tree, an animal or bird etc. These are sacred only because some community has marked them as sacred. Once established as sacred they become symbols of religious beliefs, sentiments and practices. The profane is mundane, anything ordinary.

The profane embraces those ideas, persons, practices and things that are regarded with an everyday attitude of commonness, utility and familiarity. The unholy or the profane is also believed to contaminate the holy or sacred. It is the denial or sub-ordination of the holy in some way.The attitudes and behaviour toward it are charged with negative emotions and hedged about by strong taboos.

The sacred and profane are closely related because of the highly emotional attitude towards them. According to Durkheim the circle of sacred objects cannot be determined then once and for all. Its extent varies indefinitely according to different religions. The significance of the sacred lies in the fact of its distinction from the profane.