How Does Religion Affect Culture
How does religion affect culture?
Ultimately religion and culture are inseparable in many ways. For thousands of years, various societies have had some form of religion at the center of their cultural beliefs and practices. Frequently, such as in ancient near eastern societies or even in early Rome, the practices of religion were so ingrained into the belief systems of citizens that the religion and culture of the society in question were indistinguishable.
As a tangible example of this, many of the architectural elements in ancient Egypt, such as the adornment of buildings with carvings and hieroglyphics, are regarded as...
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Human beings throughout the entire world share certain aspects of their experience in common with all other human beings. That is that humans live in societies and these societies are dictated by culture and one of the central institutions of every culture is religion. This seemingly straight-forward, but complex, statement requires much deliberation and edification.
Whether they live on a farm or in a city, whether they live in the mountains or next to a river, whether they live in a tropical climate or a freezing climate, all live in human societies and every different type of human society discovered across the globe contains the same evolutionary response to our need to survive and reproduce, and that is human beings could not survive as human beings without the advent of human culture. Culture is simultaneously the cause of and product of, human experience and human behavior. The central aspect of culture is being able to predict what others are going to do when faced with different, but expected, situations. This expected behavior by others is what sociologists call normative behavior; furthermore, normative behaviors are what people believe to be just and righteous behaviors when looked at and compared with people's morals and values. Morals and values being the central tenets that dictate human behavior and they are the direct result of one's religious beliefs.
Every religion in the world begins with what is known as a cosmology. In other words, what people believe about the universe they live in and what their ultimate place in the universe looks like is one's cosmology. How one's cosmology affects one's religion is the central aspect of one's belief system, and, in turn, just and righteous behaviors are only just and righteous if they coincide with this belief system. So basically religion affects culture by creating the beliefs in which culture is centered around, which in turn affects the most obvious aspect of culture: correct and incorrect behaviors. Correct behaviors are in tune with our cosmology, or our place in the universe, which influence what we need to do with our days/lives. Incorrect behaviors are seen as evil or at least undesirable because they conflict with people's morals and values, i.e. with their religious beliefs and assumptions.
Societies that existed before the advent of science are known as pre-modern societies. These types of societies depended on religion for just about every answer and/or explanation of causes and conditions outside our control. For example, human beings can control certain aspects of their lives but there are certain aspects that have traditionally been out of our control and we have to find some way to make sense of the seemingly random events that cause much death and destruction. Events such as a plague, pestilence, or an earthquake. Before scientific explanations human were completely dependent on religious explanations to make sense and cause some type of comfort so we can keep going despite the hardships these things were known to bring the human condition. I don't know if societies are better off with scientific explanations or religious ones; however, what I do know is that moving forward, all societies must find a good balance between the two because science will never be to a people and their culture the heart and soul of their humanity. Science explains what is reality, whereas religion explains what reality ought or should be - thus the basis of cultural behaviors.