Religion and Culture
Where can we see examples of religion and culture at work in the sort of interactive relationship with the intentions of, or traditions shaped by. As of ten days ago, Muslims entered the first month of the Islamic New Year , a month known as Muharram. To non-Muslims, this will most. Relationship Between Culture and Religion - Download as Word Doc .doc /. docx), PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read online.
Beyond the experience of individuals, states also seek divine blessing. For example, over one-fifth of states today have a monarch such as a king, queen or emperor. Although monarchs differ in the extent of their powers — from figureheads controlled by parliaments to absolute rulers to variations of these — they all draw their power from some form of religious or spiritual authority.
The elaborate rituals of monarchies worldwide are understood by their subjects to symbolise divine blessing for the realm and its citizens, redefining where the real power lies. Sacred stories connecting past, present and future The third element of religion is teaching traditions based on stories of significant figures, events and ideas from the past and beliefs about the future of time itself — like a spoiler alert about the end of the world.
For some religions, however, time itself is an illusion and the main focus is living in the now according to sacred ideas rather than the connection of past—present—future. These elements — interpreting the past, projecting the future, living now — are basic to the development of political ideologies also.
Therefore, sometimes religious and political groups can appeal to the same stories or ideas even though the interpretation or intent may differ significantly. In the s members of both communities appealed to one aspect of Jubilee — a tradition of debt cancellation found in the Hebrew Bible — as the basis for addressing the debt crisis facing developing nations.
Only a few years later, this sacred story was used for very different purposes by US president George W.
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Bush, who celebrated the invasion of Iraq by quoting a Jubilee text from the Book of Isaiah: Sacred stories, ideas and teachings from the past have a richness and power that can influence political affairs today and the aspirations we hold for tomorrow. A community worshiping and acting together The fourth element common to most religions is the need for believers to belong to a faith community in order to practice sacred rituals and reinforce the truth of sacred stories.
Some religious traditions could be described as high demand, requiring strict adherence to rules and standards in order to maintain membership of the faith community. Other traditions are low demand, adopting a more flexible approach to the requirements for belonging faithfully to the community.
The connection between religion and identity politics can have individual and international significance. For instance, empowered by belonging to a faith community, individuals can act in ways that they might not otherwise have done in isolation.
Rosa Parks, an African American woman who famously refused to obey American racial segregation laws and sparked a nation-wide civil rights movement in the s, is often lauded as a heroic individual.
This may be true, but as a member of a religious community that affirmed human dignity and the divine principles of racial equality, Rosa Parks was never acting in isolation Thomas— The four elements of religion described above — the significance of gods and spirits, the power of holy rituals, the telling of sacred stories and belonging to faith communities — seem in their own ways to be a core aspect of the human condition in the twenty-first century.
Elements of culture We can approach the term culture in the same way we have considered religion. There are many proposed meanings of culture, and these vary from the simple to the complex. While each approach has real value for understanding the social world around us, we will opt for a simple version that still gives us plenty to work with.
As such, we begin with an understanding of culture as the combined effect of humanly constructed social elements that help people live together. We will explore four elements of culture, illustrating each element through individual and international political experience. Common life practised in society The first element of culture has to do with common or shared life.
While media reporting seems to constantly prioritise stories of war, conflict and controversy, it is equally the case that local, national and international society requires a remarkable degree of cooperation.
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.Dr. Seyyed Hossain Nasr "Relationship between Culture and Religion"
Sport provides good examples of culture as common life. Let us think about football also known as soccer.
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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. Cultural identity is an ideological interpretation as to how people view themselves and want to be viewed by others.
People present their identity and thus communicate something about their culture. Cultural identity is, thus, constructed Vroom The question would arise: If identity is created, what criteria do people select to construct their identity? Cultural groups may make selections of events or elements in history to constitute their identity Vroom A problem arises when multiple cultures co-exist in close proximity and even more so in the same country. What and who determines cultural identity then?
One can maintain one's cultural identity and still belong to a particular nation sharing another culture. It is then possible to belong to several cultures simultaneously. In the struggle to adapt and take refuge in a different culture, conflict might arise.
Based on this definition, a strict exclusion is imprinted. One is only accepted when one knows, believes and acts in a familiar way to community.
Part of the knowledge, convictions and actions is acceptance of a structure of meaning reached on consensus by a community Geertz Meaning is negotiated through aesthetics. It seems harmony between religious groups living in close proximity can only be reached when conformity from both sides is employed. Meeting one another at the borders of cultural identity and negotiating boundary markers can lead to a positive conformity.
Conformity does not include taking on the characteristics of another culture, but merely recognising differences at the borders and respecting them. Religion relocated to culture Matt Waggoner The shift has taken place that religion no longer resides in the consciousness but within culture.
Waggoner's argument in short is that a shift has taken place. Religion is no longer perceived to be subjectively imagined, locating religion in the bodies and brains of people participating in religion, but rather religion is located in culture or a social system. The implication is that studying religion requires a change in focus, away from the individual and group consciousness and finding the location of religion in the exterior to the subjective. This argument by Waggoner goes back to Bruce Lincoln's contribution to the debate on religion and culture.
Lincoln managed to combine Durkheim and Marx's orientation to the study of religion. The first step is to acknowledge that societies construct religion. Secondly, religion, as culture, is always associated with a struggle for power. Culture, especially religion, becomes a site where power and privileges in society are negotiated. Culture has an ideological role in this hegemonic struggle. Culture ignores its historical origin and makes transcendental claims to authorise its own position of power and discredit other claims.
Further, the origin of religion is from the point of religion always an authoritative transcendent or supra-historical source, thereby concealing the cultural and historical origins. Aesthetics and ethics are core components of culture as they are concerns for all human cultures. Kierkegaard in Pattison The role of religion in culture, however, changes from one context to the other.
Religion, however, does play a 'role of prime importance' in culture Lincoln The argument by Lincoln makes provision for a situation, as Lincoln points out, how religion as one of the essential elements in culture can from time to time dominate that which is considered as culture Lincoln The implication Waggoner It is clear that religion participates in the hegemonic struggle in culture.
Religion can then act as cultural identity marker. There are, however, many potential cultural markers i. People can view others not in terms of ethnicity but primarily in terms of religion. Ethnicity and religion overlap causing cultural or religious animosity to spill over to religious or cultural animosity. This article does not pretend to have the solution to these cases of animosity.
This article wants to argue that it is important in the study of religion to study ethnicity and culture as well. What are the implications? If the argument is that to study religion a clear cognisance of culture and ethnicity is necessary, what are the implications? There are two implications mentioned here: In the light of the above arguments, studying religion requires a new methodology and a new attitude towards reconciliation, namely making peace with diversity and adversity. Methodology When studying religion, a multi-disciplinary approach will be necessary.
This is, however, not new. What is new is that the emphasis will have to change. Much more attention should be paid to an anthropological approach where cultural and ethnic studies are considered as part of studying religion.
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Also this is not new. What I suggest is that the anthropological approach should be focussed on studying the boundaries between cultures, which is in line with Frederik Barth's suggestion. Studying the boundaries between cultures helps to identify those elements that constitute cultural identity, whether they are ethics, religion or aesthetics or a combination of some sort.
In some cases, cultures might meet where the Primordialist understanding of ethnicity determines a cultural group's understanding of its identity.
Then, it is most unlikely that there will be change as to how such a group understands its own identity. Where a group with a Circumstantialist understanding of ethnicity is encountered, there does exist a possibility of integration and changed identity. The ideal would be to convince cultures to adhere to a Constructivist understanding, incorporating a fixed identity with a flexible identity.
It becomes clear that a new focus in studying religion should also be to search how cultural groups assign meaning to behaviour. This process is contextually determined cf. Studying religion should include studying action and meaning and discern the criteria relevant to each ethnic community how to determine meaning. Meaning is determined by values.
Studying religion entails studying underlying values in cultures. The author Jos Vranckx refers in a recent blog entry on inter-cultural relations in Europe how the French-Iranian sociologist, Farhad Khosrokha, indicates that this process of seeking meaning overlaps with a search for identity. This search for identity is especially prevalent among a new generation of jihadis who come from 'born again'-converts belonging to good educated families.
They are seeking identity in a society they perceive as divided and without values, where people are only concerned with entertainment. The values of the two ethnic societies clash. In this encounter, a struggle to find identity ensues. Studying religion with emphasis on cultural and ethnic interrelatedness requires a distinction between religion as belief and religion as identity marker, or as Ramadan puts, it distinguishes between religion and civilisation Ramadan This is indeed a difficult task.
In a Western understanding determined by Enlightenment thought, such segmentation might be possible. Within other cultural orientations, such a differentiation seems unlikely. It is clear that when religion functions as identity marker, there are several traditions and myths feeding various claims of racial superiority.
Studying religion requires an understanding of the ideological determination of cultural identity. It is necessary to study the myths behind the claims as to racial superiority. Traditions from the past determine social behaviour. A study of the myths and traditions that contribute to racial and religious bias is necessary in order to understand the Other.
From this, it becomes clear that the insights from several disciplines are necessary in order to understand the phenomenon of religion and the interaction between religions.
Making peace with diversity and adversity A further implication of the emphasis on studying ethnicity and culture in understanding religion lies on a social level.
Can you belong to a culture, not shared in the same race, but have the same history? Yes, white Christians participating in the liberation struggle in South Africa marching, protesting side by side to black non-Christian South Africans, are a good example. The question, however, remains whether the two cultural groups are viewed as equals? The answer differs from context to context, depending on the meaning assigned to the behaviour i. At times, it may be considered as one culture, as the borders and definition as to what constitutes culture changes.
Is it possible to be a Muslim and belong to Western culture, can one be white and not be labelled a Christian coloniser, or be a black African and not be labelled prone to animism and magic? The answer is, however, 'No! Identity is not only internally constructed. Identity is also externally assigned based on behaviour and the experience of the behaviour by others as well as the meaning assigned to such behaviour.
This may lead to cultural and religious bias and generalisations and the creation of stereotypes. One must, however, recognise the circumstantial process that contributed to the formation of identity and perceptions of the other. The end goal of this research is to contribute to the process of reconciliation between cultural groups in South Africa. Ramadan's position on this matter is to acknowledge diversity One option is to separate culture and religion, ethnicity and religion, and the other is to embrace diversity and complexity.
A third possibility is to acknowledge that unity lies in diversity. This entails to maintain religious principles which attach a religious community to the broader community of believers worldwide. The local face of the religious community might look different from the same religious community located in a different cultural setting.
Thereby, a discontinuation as well as a continuation is maintained. This is in line with MacKay's suggestion of a Constructivist approach to the relation ethnicity to religion.
The solutions seem to be threefold: Kilp indicates how cultural conflict spills over into religious conflict based on the sequence of events. First of all, social, economic and political concerns in a multi-cultural society arise.
This leads to feelings of insecurity, chaos and vulnerability which in turn lead to the construction of cultural identities. These constructed identities rely on religious and ideological values, beliefs, myths and narratives framed by morals. This can lead to adversity and conflict. In this endeavour of trying to reconcile cultures and religions, peace and harmony seem not to lie in creating peace between cultures and religions, but peace lies most probably in accepting the fact that peace and harmony between cultures and religions are most unlikely to happen.
Conclusion In this article, I tried to argue that a shift in studying religion is necessary. It has become necessary to emphasise the contributions the studying of cultures and ethnicity has made to the understanding of religion. The arguments used were that cultural migrations necessitate the study of cultures, religion acts as cultural identity marker and religion has relocated to culture.
From the discussion, the following elements are clear: Studying religion cannot go without studying culture. Studying culture cannot go without studying religion. Studying inter-religious dialogue cannot go without studying underlying traditions and myths contributing to how the Other is viewed.
The relation between religion and culture seems to be similar to the uneasy relationship between two arguing relatives who cannot deny their connectedness, but wished it otherwise.
Acknowledgements Competing interests The author declares that he has no financial or personal relationships which may have inappropriately influenced him in writing this article.
An introduction to the phenomenology of religion. Continuum Publishing Group, New York. Gliederung, Methoden und Teildisziplin', in J. Religionen und ihre zentralen Themen, pp. Selected essays, Basic Books, New York. Monograph series on Language and Linguistics No. A humanities perspective', in H. Defining and measuring contemporary beliefs and practices, pp. The Anthropological scepticism of Talal Assad', in D.
Talal Assad and his interlocutors, pp. Muharram is a period of 40 days in which some Muslims, the majority Shia, mourn the death of the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, Imam Hussein. For anyone who has experienced or taken part in Muharram ceremonies, they will know that this month not only has massive religious importance but also a very significant cultural aspect. The rituals and traditions of this mourning period vary from mosque to mosque in accordance with the ethnic background of those who run them.
Mourning for the death of a religious figure in the same way one would mourn for the death of a family member demonstrates the amount of love and respect these people have for their leader. However, having such a strong cultural presence may undermine the underlying spiritual message of the ceremony. It is this variety in the way in which this event is commemorated that first prompted my confusion about where culture ends and religion begins.
Culture and religion are very similar concepts. A religion is a system of beliefs based on ideas regarding origins, existence and purpose, and a culture is a network of values and practices based on the similar beliefs of a population. A synergy exists between the two where it is often impossible to differentiate between them.
Take the English tradition of a Sunday lunch, for example. Most of us will know the religious origins of the Sunday lunch; before leaving for church on a Sunday morning, the roast is put in the oven to cook during the service so that when the family return home, they can all sit down together and eat. Nowadays, the Sunday lunch has fewer religious connotations but is still a staple of British culture which represents a peaceful end to the weekend.