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2014-10-12
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
Culture and Religion are not the same, though they are very close. There are various theories that suggest a model of relationship between them. One of them tries to see Religion as the soul of culture. This view doesn't consider the fact that there could also be non-religious cultures. Perhaps, one may quote the Pirahas as an example of such a culture. (Wiki) Of course, this doesn't rule out the fact that some kind of belief-system may be involved in a culture. However, perhaps, we can keep culture and religion totally separate. The cultural elements must not be confused with the religious elements. Thus, people having differing beliefs can still follow one culture and only disagree with regard to religious elements or belief-related elements (such heterogeneity is intense in metropolitan cities); however, there usually is a particular spirit of the age and world view in general. Also, certain cultural traits may be identified as grammatical directives of a particular culture providing the functional rules for interpreting the meaning of symbols.
I propose the following table of differences.

CULTURE                                                RELIGION/BELIEF-SYSTEM

Science/Reason                                           Beliefs/Faith

Entertainment                                               Worship

Taboo                                                          Sin

Society                                                        Community

Progress/Development                                  Salvation

Shame                                                         Guilt

Aesthetics                                                    Ethics

Arts                                                             Morals

Relatives                                                     Absolutes

Language-Grammar                                      Scriptures/Rites/Rituals

Communication                                            Prayer

Life-style                                                     Life-values

Dynamics                                                   Fundamentals

Change or Transition                                   Reformation

This-Worldliness (Secularity)                        Spirituality

Vocation/Profession                                    Calling/Concern

Market/Shop                                               Temple/Shrine 

Throne/Scepter                                           Altar/Sacrifice



2014-10-13
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response

A people is its social heritage – the learned patterns for thinking, feeling and acting that are transmitted from one generation to the next.  A people is its culture.  A society is a group of people who live within the same territory and share a culture.  Culture has to do with the customs of a people, and society with the people who are practicing these customs.  We talk about culture in terms of temporal epochs and about society in terms of developmental stages: stone age culture, technological society. Religious ideas are part of cultural inheritance, yet two peoples can share a culture yet practice different religions: e.g. both African traditionalists and African Muslim communities practice genital cutting. What are you going after in trying to make this distinction?  Is it important to separate religious ideas from other sorts of cultural practices?  


2014-10-13
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
Steven, Thank you for the comment! Yes, I think it is important to state the distinction clearly and not confuse the two, especially in an age of globalization and increasing contexts of plurality. Take for instance the issue of clothing. We know that clothing is a cultural element. In fact, what a particular dress form or color (say, white or black) may mean in one culture might mean quite something else in another culture. The customs and practices derive their meaning from usage (cf. Wittgenstein's Language-games theory). Since culture provides the grammar for meaningful interpretation of customs, certain things that may be regarded as axiomatic in a particular culture, even religiously speaking, may not appear as axiomatic in another culture, even if the religion is the same. Thus, for Paul, speaking to the Corinthians, a man having long hair and a woman having short hair was not considered in accordance with nature. But, back in Jerusalem, men did also have long hair and it wasn't considered unnatural.

2014-10-13
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
As regards Pirahas,  am positing the following is from a draft methodological chapter from a new intellectual history of Jewish law that I am writing.  This new history is based on a non-modernist and non-postmodernist assertion and illustration of our ability to understand others' contextual intent instead of being misled by their words -- even across cultures and time:

In order to buttress this explanation for the commonality of human choices as differing due to context in contrast to the explanation of cultural boundedness, consider how the context explanation better explains the conduct of a society that is widely but mistakenly held up as evidence that people can be limited by their culture – the Piraha (of Brazil).[1]  We can explain not only this society’s failure to count objects in the classic sense, to use pronouns, to tell creation myths and to write – but even its refusal to make changes.  Instead of hubristically explaining the Piraha's allegedly “anomalous” unwillingness to “progress” as due to cultural-boundedness (as claimed by anthropological imperialists), we can explain their behavior pragmatically:

a.       The reason that they refuse to learn to count in the classic sense (numbers) is because they would experience no benefit and only experience loss in learning to count.  First: they live in a tight-knit society of mutual barter and exchange of services (in lieu of trade), a society in which the pettiness of counting would interfere with their internal mutual support.[2]  Second: they face a lack of real bargaining power with European traders so that an attempt to count would lead to failed confrontation.

b.      Their refusal to learn to write maintains their interpersonal contact and also their dependence on each other; it maximizes the benefit that can be drawn from their highly interwoven communitarian society. In fact: if they were to lose that, they would not only lose the benefits of their society.  Rather, they would be more at prey to European traders.[3]

c.       The reason that they have no creation myths (and of course no history, which is not found in any foraging society[4]) is not because they are culturally limited.  Rather, they have no need for creation myths because they live in a resource-rich environment of consistent climate, with personal supportive human interaction.

In this book’s methodology, the Piraha failure to count objects in the classic sense, to use pronouns, to tell creation myths and to write are all behaviors with which each one of us can identify.  It is the behavior that most people would adopt if they found themselves living in a communitarian foraging society in which people all know each other by name, live in a consistent climate, and live with limited power against people with threatening interests.

To clarify, this is not a naturalist claim that there are “correct” universals for every single human being.[5]  Rather, this book is based a two-fold claim.  One: as humans we each notice our own experiences regardless of language and culture.[6]  Two: regardless of the dominant language and culture, we share enough experiences as HomoSapiens to empathetically notice the needs of others who play out the same range of needs very differently in radically different environments.[7]  This commonality of human experience explains, for example, how Jewish immigrants to Israel from Arab countries showed a 20-point gain in their IQ tests after one year;[8] empathetic human commonality allowed them to quickly grasp the ways of a new and alien culture[9] and to internalize those ways to the point of relating to those ways successfully under the pressured conditions of timed tests.[10]  Thus, the claim that it is either impossible to understand concepts that presuppose interests remote from those that we have and or that it is at least so difficult to do so that a person can master only a fraction of the interest-dependent concepts that pertain to different human societies[11] is erroneous.  As immigrants reveal, the “affective and cognitive consistency” that is the result of “the residue of long biographies of cognitive transactions”[12] can be surpassed easily.

[1] Contra Everett 2005, 621-634.


[2] Cf. Hamminga 2005, 86-87 on African culture.  Note: this is not to say that the Piraha do not notice significant differences in sums.  In line with all people (and with many animal species) the Piraha presumably perceptually subitize quantities of objects.  (For more on perceptual subitization, see Dehaene 1997, 66-72; et al.)


[3] Of course, there are also advantages to written communication.  Just as speech allowed hominids to maintain larger groups in which individuals spend more time away from each other on protein foraging than did cattarhini’s limited tactile and vocal social grooming (Aiello and Dunbar 1993, 185, 190-191) so does written communication extend that advantage.  However, under present conditions, the Piraha can find no resource/economic advantage in attempting to extend their reach over a larger area.


[4] This point is not made in any of the responses to Everett’s article printed in the same issue. 


[5] As Richard Rorty pointed out, some people are tone-deaf, some people are philosophy-deaf, and some people are religion-deaf (Rorty and Vattimo 2005, 39). [Similarly, just as “poetic thinking” is both varied within a culture and this range is similar cross-culturally (ibid), so is theistic feeling varied among individual personalities and is not merely a matter of cultural formation (contra Rorty 1989, 59-68).]


[6] Wittgenstein does point out correctly that when a person recognizes an object he does not see it interpretively, “as such”, but rather sees it the way it serves in the culture – as for example a fork, wrench or the letter x.  However, this is not due to society but rather experience.  After all, Wittgenstein also grants that one can see the same object in more than one way based on experience – so that I can look at a given object and see both a pipe wrench and a nutcracker (Wittgenstein 1980, 2 §515-517; Wittgenstein 1953, Ixi; Wittgenstein 1992, 44-46).  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 1994, 195-197).


[7] For example, from the perspective of evolutionary psychology, humans and less developed organisms are hard-wired for both revenge and forgiveness.  However, the actual utilization of either option will depend upon the circumstances of the material and interactive world in which one lives (McCullough 2008, xvii, xviii, xix, 226).

It is true that sex differences are fixed in brain structure differences due to sex chromosomes (Witelson and Kigar 1992, 326-340; McCormik and Witelson 1994, 525-531; Witelson, Glezer, and Kigar 1995, 3418-3428; and Witelson, Kigar, and Harvey 1999, 2149-2153).  Nonetheless; in spite of evolutionary pressures that led to significant size differences between different structures of the standard male and female brain (Lindenfors, Nunn, and Barton 2007, 20; Dunbar 2007, 21), all healthy humans men and women share all the same brain structures and tend to be able to understand each other when they try to do so (at least, for the most part).


[8] Bereiter and Engelmann 1966, 55-56.


[9] Cf. Escandell-Vidal 1996, 634.


[10] This is not to deny that some people prefer to hold on to their old ways, especially when their previous identity included more significant or rewarding roles (for example, see Remenick and Shakhar 2003, 87-108).


[11] Raz 1999, 133.


[12] Sniderman, Brody, and Tetlock 1991, 115.





2014-10-13
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
Elisha, Thanks for sharing! The Piraha case is certainly interesting. Hope to see more from your research soon. Also, I think Wittgenstein was right in his understanding of language as usage. Thus, for instance, for someone who has been exposed to more experiences (learnt more languages and grew up in different cultural contexts), "seeing-as" (to use Wittgenstein's term) has a broader catalogue to choose from.

2014-10-13
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
The most common approach to this matter views religion as a dimension of culture, along with politics, economics, recreation, art, and so forth.  A foundational work for this approach is Clifford Geertz, "Religion as a Cultural System," a celebrated article that is easily accessible as a chapter of his book Interpretation of Cultures.  People who talk about religion as different from culture often try to distinguish between what is true and essential (e.g., Islamic religion) from that which is mere historical accretion (e.g., Islamic culture).  This is fine as a prescriptive approach for religious believers speaking to their follow religionists, but it is unsatisfactory as a descriptive approach to religions as inventions of members of human societies.  Human cultures (systems of ideas, habits, behaviors, and so forth) are entities we may analytically divide into their constituent dimensions: politics, economics, religion, recreation, art, etc.; and one may relate these dimensions to the various ways of being human, such as homo politicus, homo economicus, homo religiosus, homo ludens, homo aestheticus, and so forth.  Setting "religion" up as something special and separate from culture (unlike economics, politics, etc.) is to me a kind of theological and prescriptive enterprise, rather than a scholarly, descriptive one.


2014-10-14
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
Christian, Thanks for the input! On the other hand, the fact is that the idea of religion being an integral part of culture has more theological and religiously oriented rhetoric. In the early Missionary era of the Colonial period, this was the kind of view which influenced missionary methods. For instance, missionaries in India regarded the cultures in India as dark and barbaric because they failed to recognize the distinction (descriptively) between culture and religion. But, prescriptive and normative definitions fail in predictions. The idea of culture being the soil of religion (Troeltsch) and of religion being the soul of culture (Tillich) don't stand the tests of sociology. Troeltsch had even gone to the extent of predicting that since a religion takes root and grows in a particular cultural soil, to uproot it from there and plant it in a foreign soil would mean fatal to it. Some form of prejudice blinded one to see that Western Culture is not "Christian" culture; it is just Western. The facts defeat Troeltsch prescriptive definitions and predictions, only if he had consulted history and experience rather than approaching it theoretically. Buddhism took root in India, but is more at home now in China, Sri Lanka, Korea, and Japan than in India. Similarly, Christianity took root in Palestine, but "is" (?) more at home now in the West. Does religion influence culture? Of course, any belief will have some form of impact; but, usually, people are forgetful of beliefs in time as new ideas trade in. And, one must not be forgetful that, in practice, the average human is more cultural (in behavior) than religious. Many don't even consider beliefs about heaven, earth, karma, or reincarnation when going about their day-to-day work. Narratives may play a role; but, belief/theology is not as pervasive as cultural grammar. Most Hindus have not read the Vedas and most Muslims have not read the Quran. 

Also, just because a religion happens to be found in a particular culture (say, Islam is found in Indian culture) doesn't necessarily establish that that particular religion is part of that culture. When Islam came to India, it didn't come merely in the form of beliefs and a book. The ones who brought it belonged to a particular culture. It was not so much Islamic culture as much as the culture of the ones who brought the Islamic faith that interacted with local cultural elements to produce distinctive cultures (we can talk more in terms of culture-culture interaction). The only Emperor who tried to syncretise religions instead of cultures was Akbar, and he failed. I think to keep the distinction clear is more scholarly and descriptive, since we gather theory not from theology here but from "usage", the way things are. 

2014-10-14
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
I think it is too much to say that Akbar failed.  His ideal of pluralism and tolerance is alive and well.  We are enacting it in our conversation.  

2014-10-14
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
Akbar's project Din-E-Illahi failed to continue. But, his contemporary Kabir's "Way" method was very successful. But, I will agree with you if you are intending to talk of Akbar's success in cultural pluralism. His court was the best example of it. It had gems like Tansen and Birbal, both Hindus. He greatly patronized arts, and invited Portuguese clergymen to his court for discussion. Religious pluralism, in its extreme normative version (e.g. John Hick), fails practical consistency tests (two contradictory beliefs cannot both be true at the same time). But, cultural pluralism is a fact. 

2014-10-14
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
Also, it's important to distinguish between syncretism and pluralism.

2014-10-14
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
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.  I am still wondering about your argument for considering religious ideas as being importantly different than other areas of culture.  Mr. Joachim's argument seems persuasive to me.  If we look at religion as a part of culture like art or philosophy itself, we offer it an earthly setting -- perhaps religious fervor comes down to earth too -- this earthly setting is hard to square with absolute claims.  Arguably religiosity is older than doctrines and opposing claims.  I think that many people, believing different things, can act in concert and for the same end -- perhaps for different reasons -- this seems something like 'practical consistency'.  If we make religious ideas more important than other kinds of ideas, we may not be able to talk about them anymore -- we may lose our perspective.  Say again why you think religion is importantly different than other aspects of culture -- ?

2014-10-14
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
By saying that religious elements are not cultural and cultural elements are not religious, I am trying to engage in a clarification of language. I am certainly not trying to create a definition but only trying to identify clearly what is in common parlance. So, the procedure is inductive rather than deductive; which explains why citing empirical examples becomes important here. However, I do not disagree that religious elements (like beliefs and ethics) can influence cultural elements (like marriage customs and arts). But, perhaps a study of such influences will help us more clearly to distinguish the cultural from the religious. To quote one example, the idea of marriage is cultural, but the customs may be defined by religion. Thus, there are religiously performed marriages and also marriages that are non-religious. In a marriage ceremony, there is a mixture of religious and cultural elements (for instance, fire in a Hindu ceremony symbolizes the presence of Agni as the prime witness, but the dress forms are diverse; similar to Christian weddings: wearing a suit is not religiously prescribed). Also, a Hindu doesn't say that all Muslim marriages are invalid because they have not been performed in the presence of Fire. I am only suggesting a few examples. The importance of the distinction becomes more intense when seen from highly cultural contexts, such as contexts within Asia.

2014-10-14
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
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.  You identify as "culture"  Science/Reason, Entertainment, Society, Progress/Development, Shame, Aesthetics, Arts, Relatives, Language-Grammar, Communication, and Life-style.  Yet you cannot see religion as part of culture.  Apparently, culture includes everything except for religion.  What is your sociological or philosophical justification for isolating religion from culture, while including almost everything else of major significance within it?  Science is part of culture; religion is not.  Entertainment is part of culture; religion is not.  Arts are part of culture; religion is not.  Why?

2014-10-15
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
I understand that there are a varieties of definition. I am thinking in terms of the natural definitions that try to retain culture to more internalized patterns of behavior generalized within a group. When I put Science/Reason among cultural elements, I try to indicate knowledge elements within a culture that are not based on religious authority (or faith/revelation). For instance, the science of cooking (culinary art), diet; even to a greater extent, medicine (though it might appear that traditional forms of medicine may not be very scientific; yet, they are based on some form of observation-hypothesis-testing). Religion on the other hand would prescribe what things may be eaten and what may not (it has a religious rationale to provide). With regard to Entertainment, I guess it was Mark Twain who wrote a famous essay on the difference between British Comedy and American Comedy. What provokes laughter and what does not may vary according to culture. Is entertainment a religious thing? I would not consider so. Is worship an element of culture? I would rather retain it within the religious alone. Entertainment focuses on the earthly and is part of internalized behavior, while worship looks above and is governed by religious beliefs.  But, again I do acknowledge that this is only one way of looking at the issue. There are varieties of definition.
I would like to include a few excerpts related to definitions from Jesse Pink's article on Culture and Cognitive Science in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 

The meaning of the term "culture" has been highly contested, especially within anthropology (Kroeber and Kluckhohn 1952; Baldwin et al. 2006). The first highly influential definition came from Edward Tylor (1871, 1), who opens his seminal anthropology text with the stipulation that culture is, "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society." Subsequent authors have worried that Tylor's definition packs in too much, lumping together psychological items (e.g., belief) with external items (e.g., art). From a philosophical perspective, this would be especially problematic for those who hope that culture could be characterized as a natural kind, and thus as a proper subject for scientific inquiry. Other definitions often try to choose between the external and internal options in Tylor's definition.
On the external side, anthropologists have focused on both artifacts and behaviors. Herskovits (1948, 17) tells us that, "Culture is the man-made part of the environment," and Meade (1953, 22) says culture "is the total shared, learned behavior of a society or a subgroup." These dimensions are combined in Malinowski's (1931, 623) formulation: "Culture is a well organized unity divided into two fundamental aspects--a body of artifacts and a system of customs."
More recently, externally focused definitions of culture have taken a semiotic turn. According to Geertz (1973, 89), culture is "an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols." Culture, on such a view, is like a text--something that needs to be interpreted through the investigation of symbols.....
An even more radical break from psychology can be found in an approach called "cultural materialism" (Harris 2001). Cultural materialists believe that thick description thwarts explanation, because the factors that determine social practices are largely unknown to practitioners. For Harris, these factors principally involve material variables, such as the ecological conditions in which a group lives and the technologies available to it. Cultural variation and change can be best explained by these factors without describing richly elaborated practices, narratives, or psychological states. Harris calls the materialistic approach "etic" and contrasts it with the "emic" approaches, which try to capture a culture from within. This differs from Tylor's external/internal distinction because even external cultural items, such as artworks, may be part of emic analyses on Harris's model, since they belong to the symbolic environment of culture rather than, say, the ecological or technological environments--variables that can be repeated across cultural contexts. 
But psychological approaches to culture are also prevalent, and they have gained popularity as cognitive science has taken a cultural turn. D'Andrade (1995, 143) tells us that, since the 1950s, "Culture is often said to consist in rules… These rules are said to be implicit because ordinary people can't tell you what they are" (D'Andrade himself favors a more encompassing, processual definition, which includes both external items and the cognitive processes that interact with them). Richerson and Boyd (1995, 5) define culture as "information capable of affecting individuals' behavior that they acquire from other members of their species through teaching, imitation, and other forms of social transmission." Sperber (1996, 33) describes culture in terms of "widely distributed, lasting mental and public representations inhabiting a given social group."
In summary, most definitions characterize culture as something that is widely shared by members of a social group and shared in virtue of belonging to that group. As stated, this formulation is too general to be sufficient (a widespread influenza outbreak would qualify as cultural). Thus, this formulation must be refined by offering a specific account of what kind of shared items qualify as cultural, and what kind of transmission qualifies as social. The definitions reviewed here illustrate that such refinements are matters of controversy.


2014-10-15
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
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?).

2014-10-19
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
This post is based on a false dichotomy.

I think the questions in this post can be better approached, not by placing religion in distinction to culture, but by understanding what is more obvious - that religion is an aspect of culture.
Clearly all cultures, even non-religious ones are sustained by belief systems, and one that contains a religion or several religions are not exclusive in this.Most of the items under your culture list rely on belief of some sort.
Consider the "secular" establishment of the USA, in which the culture specifically separates church and state. It too is sustained by a stated belief in equality. Clearly none of us are born equal, in that we are individuals, so the 'belief" in this case is aspirational, but a belief nonetheless which has systematic consequences in the execution of the law.
It seems obvious to me that all religions operate within a culture. But whilst it is possible that a culture can exist without a religion, it cannot exist without believe; and a religion cannot exist without culture.

It seems to me that if you change the way you look at the problem, your questions are either answered or rendered meaningless.


2014-10-19
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
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. I would also have to disagree with your table. Beliefs and faith are not void of reason or Science, God says in Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: (KJV) The God that created the heavens and the earth is a thinking, reasoning being and the true science behind his creation is based on his allowing us to know and understand that science based on reason. Job 38:36 states: "Who has put wisdom in the innermost being, Or has given understanding to the mind?” (NASB)

It is my view that Entertainment/Worship; Aesthetics/Ethics; Arts/Morals; Market/Temple are not symbolic in their relationships. My suggestion to your table would be: Self-interests/Worship; Morays/Ethics; Conscience/Morals; Place of Refuge/Temple.

It is because conscience is directly related to a moral value system of some kind; religion cannot be disconnected from the human condition like one would disconnect a trailer from a towing vehicle. The innermost part of humanity can be directly affected by a religion and its belief systems. Thus our decision making process is solely based on our reasoning and conscience attributes and those attributes are directly connected to the spiritual side of our humanity. In the end, they are inter-related and work together to develop the whole person. These concepts can best be understood by reading my book. Made in the Image of God: Understanding the Nature of God and Mankind in a Changing World.


2014-10-19
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
I believe that this is a misunderstanding of terminology. If by "culture" we mean anything that is not "nature", then it is clear that "religion" is part of the culture, at least from a historical point of view. If we think that the "religion" is only "culture", then we have to say no, because "religion" refers to his foundation, which is beyond nature and culture.

2014-10-19
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
The proposed table doesn't contrast culture with religious/belief-systems. What it seems to contrast is a suggested set of ideals for either an a-theistic or theistic worldview(?), e.g. an a-theistic ideal is reason, a theistic ideal is faith.* If you're attempting to demonstrate that religion is a later cultural development, and that culture is initially secular/a-theistic (or the opposite), then that would require the study of a particular culture/religion (especially when you seem to be assuming that there is no such thing as a culture which is fundamentally religious), though such a suggestion seems very problematic. Perhaps it would be worth thinking about what culture and religion you have in mind, as otherwise you'll be dealing in anachronisms and inconsistencies the farther back in history you go. 

*Some of the differences are problematic, e.g. what is the difference between 'society' and 'community'? How would the difference between 'aesthetics' and 'ethics' apply within a Greek or Roman context? How would culture as 'this-worldliness' apply to OT Hebraic thought with its 'this-worldly' eschaton? And so forth.


2014-10-19
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
The distinctions proposed here are highly biased and ethnocentric. They arise from Secularism's religion ruse - something I am currently working on. If we take the counter intuitive hypothesis that secularism or laicity as the emergence of a new world religion with its own unique founding myths (The Enlightenment, le siècle des lumières, and the das Aufklarung), its own set of dogmas that are accepted on faith (individualism, economics, the university as a universal church and ethics of epistemology and knowing of the universe, and its interpretation), then the above list is a more precisely a list of religious "words" specific to its own unique systems of symbols. 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. I have published two papers that take issue with this type of classification: the first is "What is in a Stance?" where I demonstrate, through the deconstruction of a stance, that a "secular scientific stance" is equivalent in function to a "religious 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. religion. 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". See my paper on semiotics and religion and the semiosphere published in RSSI Recherches semiotiques / Semiotic Inquiry. Also, please see my introduction to this issue of RSSI entitles "Semiotics and Religion". 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. 

2014-10-19
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response

How do you justify the separation of culture from religion as one were not part of the other?

2014-10-19
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
The usual trope on historical and anthropological studies is to oppose culture and nature. 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. The same objection can be as easily levelled against Shame/guilt. And several of the others do not seem to ring true.
Perhaps a secular/religious opposition would bring more fruit in this respect.


2014-10-19
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
Actually, one hundred years ago all anthropologists would claim that culture is an emanation from a religion. 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.A. 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...

2014-10-19
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
An interesting, but too-simplistic comparison, I think. It depends on what you are trying to do, of course.
Your religion column draws heavily, but not uniquely, from Judeo-Christian belief systems. Words and concepts such as "Salvation", "guilt", "Scriptures", and particuarly "Altar/sacrifice" have almost no meaning in non-Christian contexts (e.g. 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. ('Profession' is also orginally a religious word, so I'm not sure why you would put it uniquely in the "Science/Reason" column).

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.

A good start, but not concretely grounded enough.


2014-10-19
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
The idea that marriage might be non-religous is a very new one indeed. 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". 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.

2014-10-19
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
In my opinion, religions, cultures and languages among others are important tools of social survival.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.. a philosopher, a prophet etc and bring new ideas which by convincing or coercing are added to previous hard wired experience. 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.

2014-10-19
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
I would like to thank everybody for taking time to respond. 

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.

So, let me post the following points to quickly explain the rationale/criteria behind the differentiation.

NOTE: When I say Religion, it is only a catchword.. The heading of that section can also be Religion/Faith/Ideology/Philosophy

1. 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. 

2. When I put Altar/Sacrifice in Religion, I only indicate that wherever such ideas are found, these are not cultural symbols but religious symbols.

3. 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). However, religion/ideology is very prescriptive, more in the ethical sense because it gives the rationale about why an action is wrong and why it is right and describes the consequences, in religious/ideological/philosophical terms. 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. In this case, ethics is certainly not a cultural but an ideological/religious issue.

4. 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!

2014-10-28
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
Tēnā ra koutou
As this is my first post here, the above greeting is in the language of my Māori ancestors. 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. 

1)  For believers of religion the religion has an external source. 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. The religion establishes the type of culture which is acceptable

2)   For non-believers religion has a source in this world, with no actual reference to a metaphysic.  
Here, (briefly and somewhat simplistically) cultures develop as a response to the physical world, and in interaction/negotiation with other people. 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?" I believe it is important to know whether the question is based in a believer's of non-believer's world, and whether the answer is given from a believer's or non-believer's world. The two positions lead to quite different answers.

2014-10-29
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
Domenic,
Hi!

Apologies that I just noticed your reply.

I agree with Wittgenstein about usage.  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.

2014-11-03
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
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.  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. order), whereas culture is concerned with dealing with the more strictly logical observations regarding entropy and death.  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.

2014-12-16
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response

Religion is a two way relationship between an individual and society, and also from a society towards the individual. The society influence is not arguable and the dissent is not always tolerated. The culture is mainly a influence from a society towards the individual, and it is does not always include religion. 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,...


2014-12-17
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
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.  It also preceded the equally irreversible harm done by Darwin.  

2016-05-16
Difference Between Culture and Religion: A Proposal Requesting Response
Culture is not  science nor reasons.  You better write it as ' respect ' . Science deals with true or false and needs evidence to proof.  Culture does not.   Djo.,