Sociologist Emile Durkheim is born in Epinal, France. As one of the most important founders of the modern field of sociology, Emile Durkheim will make significant contributions in developing the concept of "social facts," what Durkheim believed should be the primary focus of the scientific study of society.
Durkheim described "social facts" as:
"facts with very distinctive characteristics: they consist of ways of acting, thinking, and feeling, external to the individual, and endowed with a power of coercion, by reason of which they control him."
Social facts are produced by the collective actions of social groups and they have a coercive function to ensure that members adhere to the standards and conventions of that group.
Thus, by studying social facts, the sociologist is studying how and why that social group is constituted in the manner it is and how it maintains its cohesion. It is important to understand that social facts cannot be explained simply by reference to the psychology of individuals, although that certainly plays a role.
One of the "social facts" which Durkheim will regard as particularly important is religion. According to Durkheim, religion is one of the most fundamental social phenomena which allows for the development of other forms of intellectual life. He will not approach religion as a set of dogmas; instead, he approaches religion as a social activity and a means by which social groups express themselves.
Thus, because all religions are expressions of a social reality and have important social functions, he argued that all religions are "true" in their own way.