The Elementary Forms of Religious Life by Emile Durkheim.
(A book I read around June, I think, but hadn’t written a review.)
Emile has based this work on the ‘old religions’, particularly the totem faiths from the early days in Australia. He does, however, draw on comparisons with many religions through the ages, and link this to societies and how religion ‘fits in’.
Whilst much of the information in this book is quite repetitive, skim reading alone can extract some really interesting and original thought processes. He even predicts how society’s reliance on religion for a moral guide will be on the decline, and offers his and other’s observations for this. Emile wrote this in the early 1900s, and was writing from the back of an economic and spiritual depression. His beliefs were from a time where intellectuals seemed to believe you couldn’t be religious, whilst claiming to be an intellectual, as religion apparently was not part of a rational thought process.
Despite these opinions being quite plain within his work, this piece in particular was quite intriguing as he follows the history of religion, and his beliefs in why people worshipped in these ways. He balanced society, societies needs at those times, and the faith of choice. He followed patterns, and compared them to societies in later ages and how the fundamentals of their religious practices differed or remained similar.
Whatever your status with regards to religion, I think this is a great book to browse if you’re interested in learning more about the history of religions and societies.