Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response (Discussion) - PhilPapers
Religious practices of one type or another are aspects of all cultures. well as the relation they sustain to the outcome of cultural survival from a naturalistic perspective. . adjustment and strength of a practice) that operate in a cultural context. The cultural elements must not be confused with the religious elements. . and grew up in different cultural contexts), "seeing-as" (to use Wittgenstein's term) has . Our cultural values, which often include particular religious beliefs, shape our way and other cultural and religious beliefs vary between groups and countries . role of culture and religion in providing guidance on ways of living sustainably . To develop an understanding of the relationship between culture, religion and .
How do we live together? Yet, there are other bonds that are forged at the social level as peoples of difference find ways to live together in the same space by forging common beliefs, habits and values. It is from this practice of common life that culture often emerges.
Sport provides good examples of culture as common life. Let us think about football also known as soccer. Local football clubs can be founded on distinct community identity. For example, local Australian players from a Greek background can play for a team sponsored by the Hellenic Association. Clubs can equally represent a locality rather than a particular group.
Regardless of background, at the international level all players in these clubs have a loyalty to the Australian football team. Football is the common bond — a sporting pastime but also cultural practice. Think about the way entire nations can be said to embody the activities of its national sporting heroes. Supporters from different countries will identify their team as playing in a certain style, even if these are stereotypes and not entirely accurate: Do all South American sides use flamboyance and spontaneity?
The larger point, for both individuals and nations, is the tangible power of a sporting pastime to generate common bonds from the local to the international Rees— That bond is an expression of culture. Symbols of group identity The second element of culture are symbols of identity. The kinds of sign I am referring to are tangible reminders in modern societies of who we are as a people.
They include styles of architecture such as bridges or religious buildingsland or waterscapes that influence the activity of life such as in harbour citiesmonuments, flags and other identity banners, styles of clothing and habits of dress, distinctive food and drink — and so on. These signs are more than a tourist attraction, they are symbols that inform members about who they are as a group and that help the group live together cohesively.
Consider, for example, the individual and international significance of national flags as cultural symbols. The Star-Spangled Banner as the anthem of the United States of America describes the power of a national flag to inspire individual and national devotion.
The answer for Key was yes, the flag symbolising defiance and the promise of victory. Equally, persecuted communities within a country might see a national or regional flag as a symbol of oppression rather than freedom, symbolising a dominant way of life that excludes them. In all regions of the world nationalist groups fight for autonomy or independence from a country or countries that surround them, and do so under alternative flags that represent their own cultural identity.
The flag of the Canadian province of Quebec, for example, employs religious and cultural symbols reflecting its origins as a French colony in the new world. Quebec nationalists campaigning for independence from Canada have employed the flag in the promotion of French language, cultural preservation and Quebecois identity. National separatist groups worldwide are similarly inspired by symbols of culture they are trying to preserve.
Stories of our place in the world The third element of culture is the power of story. Like the cultural use of symbols, societies need to tell stories.
These may be about individuals and groups, of events in the distant and recent past, of tales of victory and defeat involving enemies and friends — and so on. Such stories are told to reaffirm, or even recreate, ideas of where that society belongs in relation to the wider world. As such, stories are performances designed to influence what we understand to be real Walter72— Sometimes cultural difference can be most starkly understood by the different stories societies tell about themselves.
In such places, national holidays can be mourned as commemorating invasion and dispossession. New Zealand offers somewhat of a contrast, with the story of the nation including the drawing up of the Treaty of Waitangi signed in between the British colonisers and the indigenous Maori tribes. Such ownership, as an attempt to uphold the sovereignty of the Maori nation swas central to the preservation of their cultural story.
Sadly, this is not the history recounted by Australian indigenous nations or most Native American tribes in the United States and Canada. Taken together, these depictions of preservation and loss illustrate the importance of language, ritual, place and tradition in the cultural story at the individual and international level. Like living organs, societies experience growth and decline, health and decay, fitness and injury.
Extending the analogy, we could say that culture is a way to measure the psychological and emotional health of society. These descriptors reflect what individuals and international societies believe is a healthy culture. As such, culture involves agreement on the kind of things that are good for society and can make it flourish. One of the leading frontiers of culture clash worldwide involves the campaign for gender equality in areas such as education, employment, reproductive and marital rights.
The story of Malala Yousafzai from northwest Pakistan reminds us of the power of one individual to inspire an international response on the vital issue of education for girls. When Malala was 12, and inspired by her teacher father, she began to speak out for the right to education, something that was becoming increasingly restricted due to the influence of the Taliban in Pakistan.
Inalthough critically wounded, Malala survived an assassination attempt at the hands of the Taliban and, on her recovery, became a brave advocate for the many millions who were being denied education due to certain cultural perceptions about girls and their place in society.
In she was co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and dedicated her prize money to the building of a secondary school for girls in Pakistan.
While it has been important to consider each concept separately, highlighting the particular ways that religion and culture influence international relations, there are clear interlinkages between them. Theorists have long drawn such links and these are useful for our consideration here. Consider the similarities between the elements of religion and culture described in this chapter such as the role of symbols and stories in both accounts, and the pursuit of life according to what either faith or culture determine to be the higher standards of living.
Such a view makes sense because no one religion encompasses an entire society in the world today, and no society lives entirely according to one set of sacred rules and practices.
On the other hand, in some contexts religious authority and identity can be more significant than any other cultural element. For example, when American soldiers moved into the Iraqi city of Najaf in to negotiate security arrangements, it was not the town mayor or the police chief that had most influence.
Rather, it was the reclusive religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, whose authority influenced not only the city but much of the fracturing nation itself. Taking another example, when Communist authorities confronted striking dock workers in Poland in the s, it was not only unions that opposed them but also the Catholic Church, whose priests performed sacred rituals and stood in solidarity with strikers in open defiance of the government.
In both these examples, the elements of religion are equally — if not more — prominent than the elements of culture. Perhaps the most useful approach, therefore, is to see the elements of religion and the elements of culture in constant interaction with one another. We have explored just four elements for each category. What are the implications of the relatedness of religion, ethnicity and culture for the process of reconciliation in a post-colonial and post-Apartheid South Africa? If this is our focus, we must recognise the relevance and meaning of related concepts.
Culture, religion, anthropology, ethnography and reconciliation become central issues related to the conversation. My arguments supporting the relevance of ethnicity and culture in studying religion will be built around three main points: Cultural migrations; religion as cultural identity marker; and the location of religion within culture.
It will, however, be important to first of all discuss the ways in which religion, ethnicity and culture relate. After this brief discussion, the three arguments will be set and then the implications for reconciliation between cultures and religions in South Africa will be discussed. What exactly is the problem? If religion is a cultural tradition, is it possible to separate religion and culture? Can you belong to the Western culture and still practice Muslim religion cf. To this question must be added, can you be a white Christian in Africa without being labelled a colonist and oppressor?
Can you be African without being labelled as primitive and prone to animism and magic? Has religion become a cultural identity marker in a South African context, demarcating the borders between people? Belonging to a particular religion implies belonging to a particular culture. From this position follows a crude generalisation that to belong to a particular culture implies belonging to a particular religion.
It is clear that religion and culture cannot be separated. The essence of Islam is religious Ramadan Many adherents of different religions will agree to this when applied to their own religious convictions. However, it cannot be denied that religion is a cultural expression Boyer In this regard, culture and religion must be viewed as relatives.
This has implications on how to study religion. If religion is seen as a segment of culture, studying religion becomes an anthropological and ethnographic exercise. The relation between culture and religion is an old and still on-going debate. Ever since Aristotle used the term ethnos to identify the groups of people living outside of the Greek polis, indicating them as primitive, people belonging to different cultures and religions could be labelled as 'outsiders, uncultured and irreligious' MacKay During the Enlightenment period, Europeans took over this notion of Aristotle to label all non-Europeans as 'uncivilised' MacKay The Enlightenment implication that all reality can be classified resulted in nations and people being hierarchically categorised.
This classification was based on perceived natural mental, physical and spiritual abilities. The result was according to MacKay This remained the dominant discourse between cultures and different religions in South Africa, culminating in the Apartheid laws.
In a post-colonial, post-Apartheid South Africa, a reconfiguration of social structures is taking place.
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The hierarchical structure of Enlightenment arrangements of cultures, races and religions needs to be reconsidered. This reconfiguration includes the consideration of how cultures, races and people with different religious affiliations relate to one another. This process may be labelled reconciliation, but in fact refers to a process of seeking identity.
A survey of the religious landscape of South Africa should include taking cognisance of the immanent racial and cultural relations.
Only then, a responsible reconfiguration or reconciliation of relations between races, religions and cultures is possible. Interrelated concepts In the cauldron from which we serve up our conversation are a great variety of concepts, some spicy and unfamiliar, some familiar and not as interesting, nevertheless all contributing to understanding and explaining the way in which religion can be studied.
Culture and religion In our discussion on the relatedness of culture to religion, we should state it clearly that the approach in this conversation is not emphasising cultural materialism, although it must be recognised that cultural materialism might at some stage in the discussion play a role. My focus is much more concerned with an understanding of culture in terms of sociocultural systems.
Studying religion is an ambiguous task. With some uncertainty as to what exactly constitutes religion cf. What is clear is where to search for forms of religion. Religion is, thus, expressed and clothed in cultural guise. Comprehending religion then implies studying human culture.
The reciprocal interaction between culture and religion must be recognised: The fate of religion and culture is, thus, interwoven. The definition of what religion is, however, still remains outstanding.
The problem with defining religion is according to Braun The purpose of this conversation is however not to attempt a discussion on the problem of defining religion.
For the sake of this study, a sociological understanding as to what constitutes religion is followed. When religion is studied as being part of the Cultural Sciences cf. The opposite relation between culture and religion is also possible: Even when religion is part of culture, it is possible to differentiate religion from a worldview governing a cultural community. The conclusion Johann Figl There are many elements considered part of religion which are connected to cultural elements i.
In the end, the intertwined relation of religion and culture cannot be denied or ignored Figl The debate on what constitutes culture is still a lively debate because of the 'multiplicity of its referents' as well as the 'studied vagueness' Geertz There are, however, not a shortage of definitions as to what constitutes culture: From Max Weber's theorem that humans are animals suspended in webs of significance that they have spun themselves to E.
Tylor's vague description of culture as 'most complex whole' to Kluckhohn's elaborate twenty-seven page long definition or Goodenough's inclusion of 'heart and mind' as the location of culture Geertz The main elements as to what culture is must be understood as the result of a long line of research culminating in a wide variety of perspectives. Clifford Geertz defines culture as follows: Culture denotes a historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life.
Studying culture, however, does not only intend description of these webs but also much rather intends a search for meaning. Anthropology as the attempt at studying culture and religion requires a definition of what constitutes religion. As to his definition of religion, Geertz says: The importance of religion lies in its capacity to serve for the individual or for a group, as a source of general, yet distinctive, conceptions of the world, the self and the relations between them … p.
Parsons' theory on culture consists of different elements as Parsons modified and elaborated on his theory on culture over time. Three phases of development of the concept of culture by Parsons are identified by Munch and Smelser Culture is part of a comprehensive 'action system'. Two subsystems of the general action system can be identified: The Personal and Social systems. Later, a third subsystem was added, namely the 'behavioural system'.
Even later a fourth subsystem was added: Parsons defines culture as: Culture is understood as an ordered symbolic system that is, a symbolically mediated pattern of values or standards of appropriateness that permits the construction of a set of action-guiding, normative, conventional rules through which significant cultural objects are generated and used. For Munch and Smelser There are, thus, more views to consider than only the utilitarian.
When comparing the definitions of culture as provided by Geertz and Parsons, Peacock Both Parsons and Geertz agree that society is subordinate to culture. Both follow Max Weber's suggestion of action theory.
It is, however, clear to me that both Parsons and Geertz approach religion from a functionalist position. Religion has a function within society along the line of argumentation of Durkheim to provide society with guidelines as to find identity.
The emphasis in studying religion is to focus on the actions that what is done. Parsons and Geertz follow in a long line of scholars considering what constitutes culture. Both Parsons and Geertz follow Weber in discerning the relation of action and meaning. Human behaviour and activity action - including religion as human activity - must be interpreted to gain meaning from such activity.
It is important to note that behaviour with meaning constitutes culture. Meaning is contextually assigned, and therefore, similar behaviour among different communities only differs in terms of the meaning assigned to such behaviour.
Different ethnic groups will have different criteria by which meaning is determined. Culture is a pre-given constant. Culture is seen as an all-encompassing reality, as a way of life of a people. Cultural patterns are pre-given. People belonging to a culture are only bearers of that culture. Culture is characterised by custom and habitual behaviour. This type of culture is typical of traditional cultures of small and non-complex societies.
Culture is a dominating power and a source of conflict and innovation. During the s, culture became a source of conflict and a space for innovative initiatives. Cultural patterns are challenged as they become subversive.
Alternative cultures are perceived as being innovative. People belonging to this type of culture are producers of culture as well as sub-cultures. An example of this type of culture is the modern Western society since the Renaissance.
Culture is a domain of potentiality and choice. The way in which culture is interpreted today is that culture is perceived as providing room for freedom of choice and combinations of elements. Cultural patterns are marketable and transferable, and their power is negotiable.
People belonging to this type of culture are mainly seen as consumers of culture although also as producers. They produce something new by way of combination and present it as commodity ready for consumption. Exponents of this type of culture are multi-cultural societies or mixed cultures or postmodern cultures subject to globalisation. From this analysis, the constant production and consumption of culture are emphasised.
When religion forms a segment of culture under the third stage described by Minnema, religion becomes a commodity prepared for utility and consumption.
Religion and culture: Revisiting a close relative
A problem, however, arises when people with a Stage 1 or 2 understanding of culture encounter a community where a Stage 3 understanding of culture is prevalent. If culture is perceived as a given, there can be no negotiation as to integration or accommodation. The different stages of cultural development must be taken into account when studying inter-cultural contact. Ethnicity and religion The relation between ethnicity and religion has been viewed differently over centuries.
MacKay suggests two existing models of viewing the relationship. During the 19th century, the Primordialist view governed relations between religion and ethnicity.
This changed to a Circumstantialist position during the late 20th century. The Primordialist theory MacKay This also applies to religion. Religion is regarded as a priori given as part of identity of an ethnic group. This reflects Minnema's identification of Stage 1 of cultural development.
There exists congruence between religion and ethnic identity. The core element determining identity in this case is religion. The Circumstantialist theory MacKay As circumstances change so does identity. Social interactions determine group identity. To fully grasp why many Europeans gravitate toward Protestantism and not Catholicism, we must consider the historical and cultural reasons: Finally, even though the majority of Europeans identify as Protestant, secularism separation of church and state is becoming more prominent in Europe.
In nations like France, laws are in place that officially separate the church and state, while in Northern Europe, church attendance is low, and many Europeans who identify as Protestant have very low religiosity strength of religious devotionfocusing instead on being secularly religious individuals.
From a Weberian point of view, the links among religion, history, and culture in Europe explain the decline of Catholicism, the rise of Protestantism, and now the rise of secularism. Emile Durkheim — focused more on how religion performs a necessary function; it brings people and society together. Durkheim thus defined a religion as a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things which are set apart and forbidden—beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them.
For example, religious rituals one type of practice unite believers in a religion and separate nonbelievers. The act of communion, or the sharing of the Eucharist by partaking in consecrated bread and wine, is practiced by most Christian denominations. However, the frequency of communion differs extensively, and the ritual is practiced differently based on historical and theological differences among denominations.
Georg Simmel — focused more on the fluidity and permanence of religion and religious life. Simmel believed that religious and cultural beliefs develop from one another.
Moreover, he asserted that religiosity is an essential element to understand when examining religious institutions and religion. While individuals may claim to be part of a religious group, Simmel asserted that it was important to consider just how religious the individuals were.
In much of Europe, religiosity is low: The decline of religiosity in parts of Europe and its rise in the U. This framework is distinct from the more Western way of thinking, in that notions of present, past, and future are perceived to be chronologically distorted, and the relationship between cause and effect is paradoxical Wimal, In his philosophy, existence takes precedence over essence, and any existing object reflects a part of the creator.
Therefore, every devoted person is obliged to know themselves as the first step to knowing the creator, which is the ultimate reason for existence. This Eastern perception of religion is similar to that of Nagarajuna and Buddhism, as they both include the paradoxical elements that are not easily explained by the rationality of Western philosophy. For example, the god, as Mulla Sadra defines it, is beyond definition, description, and delamination, yet it is absolutely simple and unique Burrell, Culture How researchers define and study culture varies extensively.
Geertzbuilding on the work of Kluckhohndefined culture in terms of 11 different aspects: Geertz,p. The essentialist view regards culture as a concrete and fixed system of symbols and meanings Holiday, An essentialist approach is most prevalent in linguistic studies, in which national culture is closely linked to national language.
Regarding culture as a fluid concept, constructionist views of culture focus on how it is performed and negotiated by individuals Piller, In principle, a non-essentialist approach rejects predefined national cultures and uses culture as a tool to interpret social behavior in certain contexts. Different approaches to culture influence significantly how it is incorporated into communication studies.
Cultural communication views communication as a resource for individuals to produce and regulate culture Philipsen, Cross-cultural communication typically uses culture as a national boundary. Hofstede is probably the most popular scholar in this line of research. Culture is thus treated as a theoretical construct to explain communication variations across cultures. This is also evident in intercultural communication studies, which focus on misunderstandings between individuals from different cultures.
Religion, Community, and Culture There is an interplay among religion, community, and culture. Community is essentially formed by a group of people who share common activities or beliefs based on their mutual affect, loyalty, and personal concerns.
Participation in religious institutions is one of the most dominant community engagements worldwide. Religious institutions are widely known for creating a sense of community by offering various material and social supports for individual followers.
In addition, the role that religious organizations play in communal conflicts is also crucial.