It is too great comfort which turns a man against himself. Life is most readily renounced at the time and among the classes where it is least harsh.
The fundamental proposition of the apriorist theory is that knowledge is made up of two sorts of elements, which cannot be reduced into one another, and which are like two distinct layers superimposed one upon the other.
Men have been obliged to make for themselves a notion of what religion is, long before the science of religions started its methodical comparisons.
From the physical point of view, a man is nothing more than a system of cells, or from the mental point of view, than a system of representations; in either case, he differs only in degree from animals.
Religious phenomena are naturally arranged in two fundamental categories: beliefs and rites. The first are states of opinion, and consist in representations; the second are determined modes of action.
Religious representations are collective representations which express collective realities.
Whoever makes an attempt on a man's life, on a man's liberty, on a man's honour inspires us with a feeling of horror in every way analogous to that which the believer experiences when he sees his idol profaned.
Faith is not uprooted by dialectic proof; it must already be deeply shaken by other causes to be unable to withstand the shock of argument.
Sadness does not inhere in things; it does not reach us from the world and through mere contemplation of the world. It is a product of our own thought. We create it out of whole cloth.
The liberal professions, and in a wider sense the well-to-do classes, are certainly those with the liveliest taste for knowledge and the most active intellectual life.
By definition, sacred beings are separated beings. That which characterizes them is that there is a break of continuity between them and the profane beings.
One cannot long remain so absorbed in contemplation of emptiness without being increasingly attracted to it. In vain, one bestows on it the name of infinity; this does not change its nature.
There are two types of men: the great and the small.
That men have an interest in knowing the world which surrounds them, and consequently that their reflection should have been applied to it at an early date, is something that everyone will readily admit.
It is science, and not religion, which has taught men that things are complex and difficult to understand.
Our whole social environment seems to us to be filled with forces which really exist only in our own minds.
Reality seems valueless by comparison with the dreams of fevered imaginations; reality is therefore abandoned.
A person is not merely a single subject distinguished from all the others. It is especially a being to which is attributed a relative autonomy in relation to the environment with which it is most immediately in contact.
If religion has given birth to all that is essential in society, it is because the idea of society is the soul of religion.
The Christian conceives of his abode on Earth in no more delightful colors than the Jainist sectarian. He sees in it only a time of sad trial; he also thinks that his true country is not of this world.
Each new generation is reared by its predecessor; the latter must therefore improve in order to improve its successor. The movement is circular.
To pursue a goal which is by definition unattainable is to condemn oneself to a state of perpetual unhappiness.
There is a collective as well as an individual humor inclining peoples to sadness or cheerfulness, making them see things in bright or somber lights. In fact, only society can pass a collective opinion on the value of human life; for this the individual is incompetent.
It is inadmissible that systems of ideas like religions, which have held so considerable a place in history, and to which, in all times, men have come to receive the energy which they must have to live, should be made up of a tissue of illusions.
The human person, whose definition serves as the touchstone according to which good must be distinguished from evil, is considered as sacred, in what one might call the ritual sense of the word. It has something of that transcendental majesty which the churches of all times have given to their Gods.
The roles of art, morality, religion, political faith, science itself are not to repair organic exhaustion nor to provide sound functioning of the organs. All this supraphysical life is built and expanded not because of the demands of the cosmic environment but because of the demands of the social environment.
A society whose members are united by the fact that they think in the same way in regard to the sacred world and its relations with the profane world, and by the fact that they translate these common ideas into common practices, is what is called a Church. In all history, we do not find a single religion without a Church.
Each victim of suicide gives his act a personal stamp which expresses his temperament, the special conditions in which he is involved, and which, consequently, cannot be explained by the social and general causes of the phenomenon.
The individual can maintain himself in a society definitely organized only through possessing an equally definite mental and moral constitution. This is what the neuropath lacks. His state of disturbance causes him to be constantly taken by surprise by circumstances.
Man seeks to learn, and man kills himself because of the loss of cohesion in his religious society; he does not kill himself because of his learning. It is certainly not the learning he acquires that disorganizes religion; but the desire for knowledge wakens because religion becomes disorganized.
A monomaniac is a sick person whose mentality is perfectly healthy in all respects but one; he has a single flaw, clearly localized. At times, for example, he has an unreasonable and absurd desire to drink or steal or use abusive language; but all his other acts and all his other thoughts are strictly correct.