Hawlbachs develops his theory of collective memory in opposition to Freudian individual memory. His theory asserts that memories are created and thoroughly steeped in social mechanisms. Without a social context to compare and relate memories to, there are no memories. He also explains how certain concepts are transferred through social connections, that become part of everyone's repertoire of memories of ages gone. He uses Christianity as an example of how people, though innovating their culture, are actually going back to times past, to the collective memory. This is why people constantly repeat and rehearse stories from a very long time ago in religious ceremonies. The value of rituals were seen in their connection to the ancient past and the beginnings of the religion.
Castelli, though seeing a large problem in Hawlbachs' generalization of religion in general (which I definitely see too, as some religions don't look to the past or even have historical narratives), sees merit in his analysis of some broader concepts. She thinks it is useful in studying controversial events in history, as it allows one to see it through the perspectives of multiple people, as the perspective itself shifted over time. It reconciles differing opinions of events because it rationally explains their difference without holding one in higher esteem than the other. The problem is that "memory" is not equivalent to history, as it may be subject to permutation and embellishment over time, epecially when it concerns such an emotional topic as religion. She argues that aside from the conflict over the definition of "memory", it is possible to study how this information is passed along, whether it be "social", "cultural", etc. information.
The main idea that has challenged me in my ideas about martyrdom so far is the idea that martyrs are made by their narrative, not what actually happened to the martyr. I always conceptualized martyrs as people who die for a cause – I thought it was something more inherent in their death that made them a martyr. However, I like the definition we have been using much better. It allows inclusion of many people who are ‘martyrs’ that would not have fit in my previous one.