Krippendorf asks why I suggest:
I think lacking religious experience of some sort probably makes it harder to be a good sociologist.
The short answer is that religious experience is an amazingly widespread social phenomenon, and it has a sui generis quality to it that makes it difficult to explain without some sort of experiential link.
The longer answer rests firmly on a Durkheimian base. Whether we understand the phenomenon as culture, as shared mental representations, or as beliefs, rites, and rituals separating the sacred from the profane and thereby organizing the believers into a church, I am convinced that much of the character 0f social life is essentially religious. That is, it is shared, taken for granted, and supra-material. Having experienced sociality that is explicitly religious helps in identifying sociality that is only implicitly so. Hence my claim.
This point is made far better in Karen Fields’ totally awesome introduction to her translation of the Elementary Forms of Religious Life, which everyb0dy should read. Lots of times! Building upon Durkheim’s address to the Union of Free Thinkers and Free Believers:
What I ask of the free thinker is that he should confront religion in the same mental state as the believer…. [H]e who does not bring to the study of religion a sort of religious sentiment cannot speak about it! He is like a blind man trying to talk about colour.
Now I shall address the free believer…. There cannot be a rational interpretation of religion which is fundamentally irreligious; an irreligious interpretation of religion would be an interpretation which denied the phenomenon it was trying to explain.
Fields’ argument about the importance of Formes is elegant and extended, and I won’t do it justice here. Two short quotes will suffice:
Durkheim brings us to what he intends by the real tthat human beings in general come to know through the distinctively human means of knowing. Those means begin, he argues, with human sociability. Society is the form in which nature produced humankind, and religion is reason’s first harbor. In Formes, we meet the mind as a collective product and science as an offspring of religion. (p. xix)
…groups are not hodgepodges either but are made up of individuals who have mutually recognized and recognizable identities that set them, cognitively and normatively, on shared human terrain. Hence, the quality of sacredness exists in the real, and its creation is the observable product of collective doing. (p. xxxiv)