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Culture is not the source of evil. Consuming culture: The third popular response to post-Christian culture is in many ways the most attractive, the most widespread, and the scariest. Wherever culture and historical Christian teaching disagree, the latter is accommodated to the former. After all, if we want to stay relevant in a post-Christian age, then some of the Christian stuff will have to go, right?

In most cases, those who take this approach start in a good place, with good intentions of seeing where the Bible speaks boldly and clearly about social issues that we often ignore and embracing the connection between faith and culture. Those who embrace this model believe that God is at work redemptively within cultural movements that have nothing explicitly to do with Christianity. But the problem comes when we start to put too great of a focus on culture to the neglect of the gospel, and that even goes for social justice.

What happens is that we start to want the implications of the gospel more than we want the actual gospel. These men and women begin to look more and more like the world and less and less like the church. When the voice of a culture, and not the word of Christ, is what governs the church, then it is no longer the church. Why would anyone bother coming to a church that is indistinguishable from anything else?! These three options—converting, condemning, and consuming—are all very different, but I think they all have something in common.

They are born of fear. A Courageous Posture: You may have guessed by now that I will not encourage you to convert, condemn, or consume the culture. I want to give you something else, a fourth option. I want to address the fears that grip our hearts and that drive so much of the Christian response to the age of unbelief. I want to give you courage. If our hearts are not in the right place, if our hopes are misaligned, anything we try to do will be short lived and misguided. With courage, this season of history can be viewed not with fear and trepidation, but instead with hope and a sense of opportunity.

With courage, our perspectives turn, and we can be excited and encouraged about this cultural moment and not intimidated, angered, or paralyzed by it. Welcome to the age of unbelief.

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The church can thrive here. All we need is Christian courage. Take heart. Read More. By Jeff Pickering. By Andrew T. By Matt Chandler. By Jared Kennedy. They arise from Secularism's religion ruse - something I am currently working on. Moreover, the list compiled here is based on a European semiotics - Sausurian based to be more precise.

It assumes there is a direct correlation between what the signifier and the signified. I believe that Peircean semiotics is more appropriate when dealing with the entity we call religion: it provides the missing piece, called the "interpretant" - essential as signification involves a phenomenological and cultural set of meanings specific to all words used in uniquely constituted complex systems of meaning and interpretation.


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I have published two papers that take issue with this type of classification: the first is "What is in a Stance? I follow this by arguing that the distinction between a religious stance and a secular, cultural or scientific stance, is arbitrary and has nothing to do with the object of religion. My second paper takes on the issue of culture vs. Here I demonstrate the distinction between religion and culture is not only an arbitrary distinction, it is in fact a religious distinction.

I do this by comparing the history of the words culture and religion, and then look at the idea of the "semiosphere" by Yuri Lotman and the definition of religion proposed by Clifford Geertz to construct a new paradigm whereby the study of religion becomes a possibility beyond the dogmatic belief of a distinction between religion and culture. I am currently working on a subsequent paper that takes a look at the relationship between ideology and religion and finally the distinction between ideology, culture and religion - as they are in and of themselves as unique "entities".

I strongly believe, as those who read and published my papers, that this type of distinction between science and beliefs, or culture and religion are inherently biased. To escape the bias, we need to be able to step out of the religion ruse. The religion ruse is Secularism's or the "society of laicity" to ground its own unique forms of knowledge in something that is not religion, which becomes a word that designates all other systems of knowledge and symbolic representation as being inferior.

This, as we know, is a key element that defines all proselytizing world religions who propose a single and unique method for knowing what is real and what is belief. The attempt here is to unpack the human universals from the learned ideologies, memes, or cultural viruses. In that we uncover the essential nature of humanity; human nature, the parole of human life from the langue.

I can't see how you can dichotomise religion in this way, and what you hope to achieve by doing it. Religion far from being divisible from culture is not even divisible from politics or economics, as historically, at least, all religious systems are seamlessly connected to these other areas enough to make us question whether or not it is possible to talk about politics or economics.

I do not know what you mean by "a kind of theological and prescriptive enterprise". Surely this is a kind of category error. Religion, like politics and economics are sub-sets of culture. I think the confusion seems clear in your attempt to structural divide them in your lists. For example the "taboo", "sin" dichotomy, uses two religious terms, one from primitive religion and the second from the big 3 Abrahamic religions. And several of the others do not seem to ring true. Today, all anthropologists state that religion is an emanation from culture.

Comparing these words is not only steeped within your own belief system that proposed by the university , or is, essentially, a means of reducing religion to cultural differences. I am going with the older anthropologists: human cultures can only emerge from, and be emanations of something of an entirely different order than "culture". Alas, because few decent attempts to understand what "religion" is as a distinct socio-anthropological entity - distinct from culture and ideology based solely on its inherent structure and emanations that are a complex array of systems that deal with the most fundamental issues of being human - issues that must be at least "implicitly" established within an interpreting community - for any culture to develop.

From this respect, there is really almost little connection between religion and culture - they are distinct and almost independent sets of semiosis of complex meaning systems for a community located in time and space. Your last statement that trying to create religion as a separate entity in its own right is a kind of theological point of view, is at once entirely correct and entirely wrong.

The idea that religion is something completely different in nature from culture is far more scientifically viable argument, albeit a theological statement. Alas to state that your statement and view is "scientific" is a theological statement in that theology is concerned with the types of statements or claims we can make about knowledge and truth within a religion.

As for your interpretation of Clifford Geertz article, I suggest you might want to reread it and then read my own papers including my M. Thesis dedicated to understanding and applying the theory to consumer culture. Alas, I have not found any article or paper written about Clifford Geertz's paper that come close to understanding the primary premise which is that reality itself is at once a model for that reality and a model of that reality - both articulating themselves simultaneously on the cusp of a paradox. I am reaction to this comment as it is rampant throughout academia and represents the most violent form of ethnocentrism possible: science leads to proper thinking while religion, a cultural artifact, can only be a set of transient beliefs and ideas.

The condescension is so blatant that no one sees it - unless you are a muslim living in americal It depends on what you are trying to do, of course.

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Your religion column draws heavily, but not uniquely, from Judeo-Christian belief systems. Buddhist or Hindu and do not map well with Islamic beliefs. Several of the other comparisons are problematic -- for instance, I would not counterpose aesthetics and ethics, since any culture presupposes a form of ethics, whether it is based on scientific rationalism or divine command. Similarly, prayer is only one form of the larger concept of communication, and vocation a religious word means the same thing as call.

Nor would I contrast market and temple, since there are very few "temple-centric" religions in existence today. As a thinking believer, I would never place reason and faith as polar opposites. If you think that is how religion describes itself, you need a richer understanding of the place of religion in people's lives. Your two lists presuppose that religion is somehow opposed to culture, which goes counter to most of history, the experience of individuals, and the nature of culture and religion.

When comparing the two, a useful sociological approach is that of Richard Niebhuhr's "Christ and Culture" which uses historical examples to create a typology of five different relationships between religion and culture, ranging from a complete opposition to a complete synthesis. My sense is that you are trying to describe a non-religious culture, which could be useful, but this approach of contrasting "all religion" to "uniquely secular" seems to fail in several ways.

Even to take the first item in your list presupposes that religion is opposed to science and reason as I've pointed out before, simply not true and ignores the fact that a secular culture is not in any way uniquely based on scientific reasoning, but has a whole cluster of unexamined beliefs and faith such as the belief in progress, faith in relativism, and a fundamentalist a priori denial of spirituality that is often just as irrational as any religious belief.


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  7. A good start, but not concretely grounded enough. I would imagine that in every case where marriage where it exists at all has become part of the cultural norm, it has been through the aegis of the endemic religious system. The mores and customs of marriage are in fact a microcosm of the binding quality of religion the literal meaning of which comes from the word "bind".


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    A system which through dogma binds to followers to accept the authority of the church hierarchy, and by extension bound also to god. As man is bound to god, the wife is bound to the man. Thus in a modern context where the link with religion has been broken the ritual and meaning of marriage remains.

    The binding might be vocalised as love, but it is a binding nonetheless. These tools are powered by two things. The first is the fact that the majority of humans can be hardwired at childhood with only very few escaping this hard wiring and continue thinking to develop new ideas that improve the survival of the group. The process is a dynamic one. So you have certain survival experiences hard wired in childhood that are considered absolute truth and essential for living -continuously tested by everyday experience, Then comes a wise person..

    Part of the society do not get convinced and keep the old knowledge- leading to cultural, religious and lingual splits and fragmentation. Thus what we see is only a mix of the various stages- the old and the new and the very new of this ongoing process- leading to this mix up between culture and religion. It seems to me that a rudimentary table of differences, that only classifies without proper explanation, creates to large a room for misunderstanding and confusion.

    When I put Science or Reason in Culture, I point out to the non-dogmatic nature of culture, which is open to change. This doesn't mean that religion doesn't embrace or is not born in cultures. It only tries to separate the one from the other. For instance, the gods and goddesses of Hinduism are still always portrayed as wearing Sarees and Dhotis General Hindu Dress. It might be considered an offence to portray them in Western clothes. This talks about the stagnancy of "religion's culture".

    However, Hindus don't necessarily wear only sarees and dhotis. They don't find wearing jeans or western coats as offensive. But, in a ceremony where religion its stagnancy is dominant, for instance during a Hindu marriage, what one wears can be an ethical issue. Similarly, modern armies use guns and bombs, but the gods and goddesses of religion may still be only pictured with swords and arrows. That depicts the difference between what culture is by itself in historical development and how religion differs from it in its conservative holding to the "original culture" in which it originated.

    Another example would be the dynamics of linguistic development versus the language-culture of religion. For instance, in Islam Arabic is considered to be the divine language. However, modern Arabic has a dynamic history of development and modern Arabic is not totally the same as the Arabic of the 4th century. Similarly, in Vedic Hinduism, Sanskrit is considered the language of the gods; but, in modern times Sanskrit is no longer used for conversation. It is taught in the schools but never used. That talks about the dynamics of culture versus culturalism of religion and should highlight that their difference.

    Religion will have to use cultural elements for sure, because it is always born in some culture or the other. However, cultures don't remain stagnant; they progress, inter-change, embrace new patterns. But, there is a kind of dogmatic stance, an absolutist aspect to religion in general. There are many such examples that can be cited in this regard.

    When I say culture is about aesthetics, but religion is about ethics, I mean that cultural context plays an important role in what is considered beautiful or valuable and what is not for instance, in some cultures a long neck would be considered beautiful and in some cultures girls are fed to make them look stout because leanness is considered unattractive.

    For instance, one cannot say that in modern American culture, homosexuality is not wrong. One can say that most Conservative Evangelicals believe homosexuality is sin; and, many liberals and atheists consider homosexuality to be okay. When I put entertainment in culture and worship in religion, I am using the terms only as exemplary symbolic representations.

    Culture contains entertaining elements like dance, arts, drama, and music. Religion will use these elements and give them a particular form for instance, church music or Hindu bhakti bhajan. In some cultures, religion even becomes the patron of some form of arts. For instance, the god Shiva Hinduism is called the god of dance.

    But, those are religious attempts to claim cultural elements. Shiva has only a particular form of dance; and for sure, the orthodox dance-system doesn't approve modern dance or non-traditional dance forms even the Western. Yet, one sees as fact of matter that the common man not the traditionalist would be more attuned to modern and popular art-forms and appeals of entertainment than to the traditional.

    I know that the elaboration is too short; but, I hope it helps in clarifying some misunderstandings and provide some rationale for the differentiation. I would request scholars who comment to kindly cite some empirical cases when trying to disagree with this proposal. This will help in providing more empirical footing to the discussion here. Thanks to all! It is a respectful greeting to you all. Second, I have had one or two issues getting access to these forums, so please forgive me for reviving this topic. When considering the differences between culture and religion, I think it is worthwhile starting at the beginning, and there are two perspectives on religion, which I want to articulate.

    This is best seen in the Judaeo-Christian traditions which includes Islam , in that the prophets have revelations from a divine source, and in the actual presence of the divine in the physicality of Jesus of Nazareth in the Christian tradition. Mohammed, Isaiah, John of Patmos, John the baptist, all received divine revelations from the perspective of a believer. This, then, means that religion has a source other than this world.

    For believers, each religion has a metaphysical origin. In that sense it is quite different to culture, though most religions, from this perspective, inform culture. The biblical Acts of the Apostles and the Qu'ran both give clear messages of the type of society, and therefore the culture, which is legitimized and expected by adherents to that religion. Cultures change and develop in response to the physical world, and in negotiation with other members of the group. Religion is part of the interactions of people and environments that give rise to culture and religion.

    There are major interactions between religion and culture, but they are of this world. So, when the question is asked "What is the difference between religion and culture? The two positions lead to quite different answers. Apologies that I just noticed your reply. I agree with Wittgenstein about usage.

    Christ and culture: five views

    My argument is merely that even within a given culture people can have ranges of experiences that expand their usages. That is one of the reasons that individuals in a culture coin new hybrid-words etc, in order to express those wider usages. Cultures do not blind us. Rather, they merely silence us since humans speak on the basis of subconsciously perceived outcomes.

    What foundation supports the law of entropy and what supports evolution. Do the same set of observations prove both. Life seems to support evolution in the growth and reproduction phases, yet death, while less apparent in those early phases, is never-the-less detectable there and is seemingly obviously the ultimate end of the individual life and possibly that of both culture and humanity. I would posit that the difference between the two, seemingly both deniable and undeniable, is that religion is concerned with the ultimate source of life, both physically nature and spiritually supernatural , and the source of evolution more precisely.

    That posit may seem counter-intuitive, but I suspect that it will bear more scrutiny I think that most of the replies to the proposal presuppose that the study has already occurred and therefore attempt to rebut it. I think it both worth proposing and interesting to contemplate. I would love to see its results. The society influence is not arguable and the dissent is not always tolerated. Please note many Asian societies with the corresponding cultures; they are not tied to religion, any religion.

    Perhaps one can say that culture incorporates religion, when it is present. However, religion is not necessarily a component of culture. My 2 cents, Sign in Create an account. Syntax Advanced Search. Domenic Marbaniang. Culture and Religion are not the same, though they are very close. Steven Goldman Portland State University. A people is its social heritage — the learned patterns for thinking, feeling and acting that are transmitted from one generation to the next.

    One: as humans we each notice our own experiences regardless of language and culture. However, this is not due to society but rather experience.

    Chapter 12: Christian Ethics and Culture

    In fact experience is so critical according to Wittgenstein that it can lead to borrowing terms from an existent social language in order to create a private vocabulary Murphey , Escandell-Vidal , The most common approach to this matter views religion as a dimension of culture, along with politics, economics, recreation, art, and so forth. Christian, Thanks for the input! I think it is too much to say that Akbar failed. Akbar's project Din-E-Illahi failed to continue. Akbar I think would encourage us to take a skeptical and inquiring approach without coming too quickly to any definitive conclusion -- especially one that pits vehement believers against one another.

    By saying that religious elements are not cultural and cultural elements are not religious, I am trying to engage in a clarification of language. Christian missionaries from centuries past, Troeltsch, and even Tillich were clueless about the anthropological concept of culture that is now in use in a range of disciplines from sociology to history to religious studies. I understand that there are a varieties of definition.

    [ARTS 410] Andy Crouch: Christians and Culture

    Of course, the differentiation should not rule away the possibility of cultural deification, for instance, as in cultural nationalism which is akin to religion, right? This post is based on a false dichotomy. Reid A. I can appreciate your position on this topic but will have to disagree with your whole premise that culture and religion can be separated as if religion has nothing to do with cultural life development or life styles.

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    Sandro Paternostro. Jeremy Paavola University of St. Kevin Bruce Shelton. The distinctions proposed here are highly biased and ethnocentric. How do you justify the separation of culture from religion as one were not part of the other? The usual trope on historical and anthropological studies is to oppose culture and nature.

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    Actually, one hundred years ago all anthropologists would claim that culture is an emanation from a religion. Neil Parker University of Ottawa. An interesting, but too-simplistic comparison, I think. The idea that marriage might be non-religous is a very new one indeed. Riadh Al Rabeh. In my opinion, religions, cultures and languages among others are important tools of social survival. I would like to thank everybody for taking time to respond. Domenic, Hi! Jesse Porter. In addressing a difference between culture and religion one must consider the apposition between life and death; or the difference between the law of entropy and the theory of evolution.

    Joseph Krecz Portland State University. Religion is a two way relationship between an individual and society, and also from a society towards the individual. Have you read Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America? He deals at length with the idea the culture infusion of religion, particularly Christianity, in America and less extensively with religion and culture in general. I think it especially valuable in that it preceded Marx's perturbation of the subject, perhaps permanently or at least irreversibly.