Culture is not religion but a relationship

Religion and culture: Revisiting a close relative

culture is not religion but a relationship

This study will consider the relationship between culture and Christian faith . If God did not exist then there is no real place for religious faith. Not all religions follow the same practices but there are some similarities between In one instance, she helps a young women's relationship with her husband. and its study can tell much about a culture that is not otherwise understood. If religion is a cultural tradition, is it possible to separate religion and culture? . Phase 1: Culture did not apparently play a role in Parsons' theory of the structure of MacKay () suggests two existing models of viewing the relationship.

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.

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.

culture is not religion but a relationship

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. The result is that identity is not perceived as fixed. The borders between ethnic groups are part of a dynamic process and not fixed.

Religion is seen as part of a social system. The borders of religious and ethnic identity do not necessarily overlap. In communities where the relation between ethnicity and religion is viewed in this way, integration is much more likely to succeed. This model combines the Primordialist and Circumstantialist position. Constructivism recognises that ethnic identity is formed in part by birth and not by choice.

This identity might be re-enforced by mythic traditions emphasising the uniqueness of a particular community. The Constructivistic position, however, also recognises that these given elements determining identity are also constantly but gradually reconstructed based on an interpretation of the context, emphasising the circumstantial influence on identity formation. Identity is then constantly under revision based on interaction and exposure to other group identities.

Ethnic identity then becomes flexible. To understand group identity, the circumstances of ethnic groups may then be studied to determine which circumstantial elements can contribute to formation of identity.

According to Frederik Barth It is the ethnic boundary that defines a group and not the cultural content it encloses Barth It is especially at the boundaries that the identity stands out sharper. Studying ethnic communities at the boundaries of identity will highlight the decisions made in reaction to circumstantial elements determining identity.

For example, how ethnic groups make a decision on what clothes to wear or music to listen to will be based on ethical convictions that differ from another ethnic community.

These ethical convictions function at the border between ethnic groups. There may be ethics that two groups may agree on. These convictions would rather stand at the centre of each group than at the periphery of identity.

Cultural Anthropology/Ritual and Religion

Studying the boundaries may prove important in understanding ethnic differences, and it may contribute to reconciling differences. Why is it necessary to study ethnicity and culture when studying religion?

Can one study religion without studying ethnicity and culture? One can only understand the nature of religion when one understands its connectedness to ethnicity and culture.

The interrelatedness and interaction of people from different cultures and races belonging to different religions are our focus here.

This endeavour becomes even more urgent when considering current world events. Globalisation, post-colonialism and growing multi-cultural societies because of migration nationally or internationally because of economic, social, political and health reasons necessitate an understanding of the relatedness of culture, ethnicity and religion.

My argument here is that studying religion requires more emphasis on a study of culture and ethnicity. The goal is to suggest and argue the importance of studying culture and ethnicity to understand religious diversity especially in South Africa. Understanding ethnicity can contribute to enhanced inter-religious dialogue and provide possible guidelines as to inter-cultural reconciliation in South Africa.

Now that the interrelatedness of the concepts has been discussed, I now want to present three arguments why studying ethnicity and culture has become important in understanding religion. The three arguments are: Cultural migrations necessitate the studying of cultures; religion as cultural identity marker must be considered and the relocating of religion to culture needs to be taken into account.

Cultural migrations necessitate study of cultures when studying religions There is currently a need for attention to anthropology of religion. This need is identified by Hackett In a post-Apartheid South African context a 'migration' took place.

Religion, Culture, and Communication

People encounter one another now in a different context, no longer oppressed and oppressor, but in new circumstances as equals. The reconfiguration of relations between races, cultures and religions requires a need for anthropology of religion.

To this list, I want to add globalisation and the growing multi-cultural communities. Changing paradigms cause reconfigurations in society, requiring new methods of studying society. Each case of religion must be studied within its own context in relation to other religions practiced among other racial groups. No universal theory of inter-cultural and inter-religious relations can be applied to every context. Each context must be studied on its own.

This is confirmed by Scott and Hirschkind The various traditions that anthropologists call religions cannot be understood as cultural elaborations of a universal form of experience, a sui generis category of human knowledge, but must be analysed in their particularity, as the products of specific practices of disciplines, authority and power. In the interactions between religions, Ramadan When cultures interact, there is no place for isolation, withdrawal and 'obsession with identity'.

Rather entering into authentic dialogue as equals is necessary which will eventually lead to mutual enrichment and 'partners in action'. In the end, the interaction between religions is not about relativising one's own convictions and seeking universal neutral principles, it is rather about acceptance and respect of pluralism, diversity and the belief of the Other Ramadan How then to study religion when the borders of religion and other identifying elements overlap?

For example, if religion, culture and ethnicity cannot be separated, does it influence the way in which religion is studied? There seem to be three scenarios to this problem cf. The ethnicity of a group is explained in terms of their religious beliefs. An example would be Jewish ethnicity as it is the result of practicing Judaism. Religion is the primary element in Jewish identity. Religion is explained as the result of ethnicity. Muslim belief is the result of Arab ethnicity.

The group's ethnic identity is the primary element in determining identity. More elements than religion and ethnicity are at play determining group identity. Elements such as language, geography, values, worldview and a shared history come to mind.

In this construct of relatedness between religion and ethnicity, religion must be studied from an anthropological approach. Religion becomes one expression of human identity among many other different expressions of identity. Religion either embraces or denies culture cf. As culture is associated with ethnicity, religion can easily be embraced by an ethnic group.

culture is not religion but a relationship

The result would be to distinguish between Islamic 'religion' and Islamic 'civilisation' Ramadan The core of a religion is clothed in the forms of the various cultures in whose midst a religion exists Ramadan Religion is expressed in cultural terms. So when an individual belonging to a particular religion comes from a specific cultural background and ends up in a different cultural environment, the individual integrates the religious convictions into the new cultural context, as there should be a clear difference between the religion and the culture of origin Ramadan Identity should be determined by multiple factors to which one remains open to.

This, however, does not mean accepting everything of the culture.

Cultural Anthropology/Ritual and Religion - Wikibooks, open books for an open world

A critical evaluation of values is necessary. Together with being critical, Ramadan The problem, however, arises when people with a particular religious affiliation coming from a particular culture enter a different culture where people have a different religious affiliation.

Based on Lincoln's understanding of cultural encounter On a continuum, reactions towards the other may vary from 'polite disinterest', demarcation, conflict to outright war. Because of conflict of interest and added to that a stereotyped perception of the other culture, permanent animosity might result from that. The question would be how to have nations, religions and cultures co-exist peacefully, while maintaining their own unique identity. Because of globalisation, religions all over the world rarely exist in isolation.

Religions are constantly exposed to a multi-religious environment. In this plurality, each religion is in need of maintaining its unique identity. Studying religions will need to take into consideration not only the culture from which a religion originates but also the cultural network a religion ends up in because of globalisation and migration. Creating harmony between religious communities living in close proximity needs to take cultural and ethnic considerations into account.

Religion as cultural identity marker Linda Woodhead Religion as belief refers to a religious interest in dogmas, doctrines and propositions. Religion as identity marker refers to religion as a source of identity, either socially or as personal choice.

Based on Woodhead's differentiation, Kilp As so many different factors are at play in determining identity, cultural identity must, however, be seen as in flux Vroom The result is that people become alienated from the traditional religious beliefs and practices and turn to cultural-religious identities, which do not necessarily include religious beliefs.

At play here are the elements already identified: These factors must be kept in mind when a cultural identity is created. It is also important to note that cultural identity is ideologically motivated.

People profess something about their culture to motivate the manifestation of a particular group Vroom We all have a tendency to assume that the way that most people do things is the acceptable, normal, or right way. As community workers, we need to learn about cultural differences in values and communication styles, and not assume that the majority way is the right way to think or behave. You are in a group discussion. Some group members don't speak up, while others dominate, filling all the silences.

The more vocal members of the group become exasperated that others don't talk. It also seems that the more vocal people are those that are members of the more mainstream culture, while those who are less vocal are from minority cultures.

How do we understand this? How can this be resolved? In some cultures, people feel uncomfortable with silence, so they speak to fill the silences. In other cultures, it is customary to wait for a period of silence before speaking.

If there aren't any silences, people from those cultures may not ever speak. Also, members of some groups women, people of low income, some racial and ethnic minorities, and others don't speak up because they have received messages from society at large that their contribution is not as important as others; they have gotten into the habit of deferring their thinking to the thinking of others.

When some people don't share their thinking, we all lose out. We all need the opinions and voices of those people who have traditionally been discouraged from contributing.

In situations like the one described above, becoming impatient with people for not speaking is usually counter-productive. However, you can structure a meeting to encourage the quieter people to speak. For example, you can: Have people break into pairs before discussing a topic in the larger group. At certain times have each person in the circle make a comment.

People can pass if they want to. Follow a guideline that everyone speaks once, before anyone speaks twice. Invite the quieter people to lead part of the meeting. Talk about the problem openly in a meeting, and invite the more vocal people to try to speak less often. Between meetings, ask the quieter people what would help them speak, or ask them for their ideas on how a meeting should be run.

A high school basketball team has to practice and play on many afternoons and evenings. The coach is angry with the parents for this requirement, because it takes his player away from the team.

Families have different values, especially when it comes to family closeness, loyalty, and responsibility. In many immigrant and ethnic families, young people are required to put their family's needs first, before the requirements of extra-curricular activities. Young people from immigrant families who grow up in the U. As community workers, we need to support and respect minority and immigrant families and their values.

It may already be a huge concession on the part of a family to allow a teenager to participate in extracurricular activities at all. We need to make allowances for the cultural differences and try to help young people feel that they can have both worlds--instead of having to reject one set of values for another.

As community builders, it helps to develop relationships with parents.

Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response (Discussion) - PhilPapers

If a young person sees her parents have relationships with people from the mainstream culture, it can help her feel that their family is accepted. It supports the teen in being more connected to her family and her community--and also, both relationships are critical protective factors for drug and alcohol abuse and other dangerous behaviors. In addition, in building relationships with parents, we develop lines of communication, so when conflicts arise, they can be more easily resolved.

culture is not religion but a relationship

Risk making mistakes As you are building relationships with people who have different cultural backgrounds than your own, you will probably make mistakes at some point. Don't let making mistakes of making mistakes keep you from going ahead and building relationships.

If you say or do something that is insensitive, you can learn something from it. Ask the affected person what you bothered or offended them, apologize, and then go on in building the relationship. Don't let guilt bog you down. Learn to be an ally One of the best ways to help you build relationships with people of different cultures is to demonstrate that you are willing to take a stand against discrimination when it occurs.

People will be much more motivated to get to know you if they see that you are willing to take risks on their behalf. Both are historically significant, and while these are drastic examples, we still see prejudice today with attacks on Muslims based solely on religious ignorance. Anthropologically, religion has many purposes in society and its study can tell much about a culture that is not otherwise understood.

Concepts of Supernatural Beings[ edit ] There are many different ways cultures conceptualize their spiritual beings. These include, but are not limited to: A Polynesian carving, spirits are said to be able to manifest themselves in any object.

Mana is conveyed trough tiki statues in Polynesian culture Animatism is the belief in a supernatural power that is able to be something other than a person or animal. In this sense, it is the belief that the supernatural is all around you and could be anything.

Individuals that hold these beliefs explain a powerful unseen force that can potentially be found all around us; in people, animals, plants and features of nature such as volcanoes and the ocean, for example, Mother Earth believing in the non-living.


The belief of animatism doesn't assign a spiritual identity but instead believes in a single unified power that can manifest itself into objects or be acquired by and controlled by certain individuals. The term was coined by the British Anthropologist Robert Ranulph Marett as "a belief in a generalized, impersonal power over which people have some measure of control" Animatism is the cause of consciousness and personality to natural phenomena such as thunderstorms and earthquakes and to objects such as plants and stones.

Inanimate objects, forces, and plants have personalities and wills, but not souls. These forces are inanimate and impersonal, This is not true for those beliefs relating to animism. In the South Pacific Polynesian cultures, the power of animatism is commonly referred to as "Mana". For them, it is a force that is inherent in all objects, plants, and animals including people to different degrees. Some things or people have more of it than others and are therefore, potentially dangerous. Often a chief must have some with him at all times.

Dangerous places, such as volcanoes, were considered to have concentrated amounts of mana. Mana is a spiritual quality considered to have supernatural origin — a sacred impersonal force existing in the universe.

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  • Stephen M. Croucher, Cheng Zeng, Diyako Rahmani, and Mélodine Sommier
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Therefore to have mana is to have influence and authority, and efficacy — the power to perform in a given situation. Mana, Marett states, is a concentrated form of animatistic force found within any of these objects that confer power, strength, and success. For example, the Polynesians, believe in mana as a force inherent in all objects. This essential quality of mana is not limited to persons — folks, governments, places and inanimate objects can possess mana.

Animism[ edit ] Animism is one of the oldest beliefs, dating back to the Paleolithic age a prehistoric period distinguished by the earliest known primitive tools about 2. Animism believes that natural objects, natural phenomena, and the universe all possess individual souls. It is derived from the Latin word anima, meaning a breath or soul.

Tylor posted that animism was birthed by primitive cultures mistaking their dreams for reality. In classical animism, it is said that spirits are a separate entity from the body, and cause life in humans by passing through bodies and other inanimate objects.

He believed that the earliest animists based their religion on inanimate objects acting strangely, or uniquely giving them the illusion of life alike to humans, trees blowing in the wind for instance.

In terms of practices, many animistic cultures worshiped plant life, including trees and plants, because of their beauty, strength, and life. It is thought that all beings, including plants, have a soul. This is why in many Native American cultures totem poles are a major symbolic structure, and the main focus of many rituals. Centuries ago the Coast Salish Indian Tribe was well known for its belief in spiritual transmutation between humans and animals, a trait of animistic culture.

Living in Cowichan Valley, on Vancouver Island they created hundreds of totem poles in order to showcase the spirits believed to be living in the animals portrayed upon the totems, and the trees the totems themselves were made out of. As mentioned, animism is greatly associated with more primitive cultures.

This form of the religion is focused on the different types of souls in different types of people from all different cultures. It is more acutely understood as the teaching of how to have respectful relationships with human beings, as well as the natural world. The basic idea is that showing respect for relationships is vital to survival. Anthropomorphism[ edit ] Anthropomorphism is the concept of attributing human characteristics or behaviors to a non-human being.

This can mean animals, plants, and almost anything else taking on the personality of a human. It can mean that any object can be given human traits by a person, such as a dog feeling guilty for stealing food, or the gurgling of a stream sounding happy. Different religions have different interpretations of anthropomorphism, but in general, it is to show their God as something or someone else.

In Greek mythology anthropomorphic animals are representations of their Gods. An example that is most defined in Western culture is in Judaism and Christianity, God has given human feelings of anger and jealousy or compassion and forgiveness.

All human qualities that have been given to God in human settings that surround humanity, where these feelings are all emotions that humans have observed and none that we haven't. A functional analysis of anthropomorphism proposes that when the supernatural takes human form, it may be easier for people to relate to the concepts promoted by religion.

Dualism[ edit ] The term dualism was originally coined to denote co-eternal binary opposition. A meaning that is preserved in metaphysical and philosophical duality discourse but has been more generalized in other usages to indicate a system which contains two essential parts. Bitheism implies that the gods live in peace and Ditheism implies that their in opposition. This means that a Ditheism system would have one good and one evil god or one god that listened and helped and one that ignored.