How do religious beliefs influence culture?

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Garrett Walker eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There's an old saying that "culture is religion externalized." This is a simple way of saying that by looking at the culture a society creates and consumes, a person can discern, in general, that society's basic beliefs and worldview. "Worldview" refers to the major philosophical questions of life which influence our outlook on life, such as: Does life have meaning?, Is there a god and is he/she/it involved with the world or separate from it?, What responsibility, if any, do I have to other human beings?, etc.

As Christian philosopher R.J. Rushdoony explains:

Every culture is a religion...

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hollypaceley | Student

Religion gives order to our perceptions of the world around us, and, in this, functions as a microcosm of culture in general. Although religion does not serve as widely to shape our group identity as culture, it is the single most influential factor in defining and reinforcing group norms. Societies that are deeply religious tend to demonstrate wider cultural homogeneity than those where religious officials, churches, and believers exert less influence. This paradigm is shifting in the modern era, as culture and religion both become more globalized and the politics of diversity and multiplicity become more valued.

However, many of the rites of passage which define cultural practices-- birth, coming of age, marriage, education, aging, and death-- are still heavily rooted in religious tradition and are, arguably, what truly defines our collective consciousness in terms of cultural ritual.

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