“Sacred, Sacred versus Profane Distinction: For Emile Durkheim and all subsequent sociologists of religion, the recognition of the absolute nature of the distinction between these two terms was and has been fundamental to their subdiscipline, both as a social fact and as something to be explained. Durkheim’s classic statement or the distinction is that ‘Sacred things are those which the [religious] interdictions protect and isolate; profane things, those to which these interdictions are applied and which must remain at a distance from the first’ (The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 1912). Sacred phenomena are therefore considered extraordinary and set apart from everything else.”
Excerpted from: Marshall, Gordon, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.