We would begin with giving finding the meaning and describing about “What is Culture” and “What is Religion?” In doing this it comes to see that Civilization is inseparable element that attaches with culture and religion as a result/consequence of their development. In the history of Religious study, the importance and involvement of culture has been noted significant and important. As early as the 6th century BC, Greek philosopher Xenophanes noted that different cultures visualized the gods in different ways. In the Age of Enlightenment, German philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder argued that every culture possesses a unique spirit that is part of its religion and its language.
Culture , in anthropology, is the patterns of behavior and thinking as people living in social groups learn, create, and share. Culture distinguishes one human group from others. It also distinguishes humans from other animals. A people’s culture includes their beliefs, rules of behavior, language, rituals, art, technology, styles of dress, ways of producing and cooking food, religion, and political and economic systems.
Culture is the most important concept in anthropology—the study of all aspects of human life.
Anthropologists commonly use the term culture to refer to a society or group in which many or all people live and think in the same ways. Thus, the terms culture and society are somewhat interchangeable. [Encarta Encyclopedia 2002]
Culture has several distinguishing characteristics. (1) It is based on symbols—abstract ways of referring to and understanding ideas, objects, feelings, or behaviors—and the ability to communicate with symbols using language. (2) Culture is shared. People in the same society share common behaviors and ways of thinking through culture. (3) Culture is learned. While people biologically inherit many physical traits and behavioral instincts, culture is socially inherited. A person must learn culture from other people in a society. (4) Culture is adaptive. People use culture to flexibly and quickly adjust to changes in the world around them. Anthropologists have described a number of different categories of culture. For example, a simple distinction can be made between cultural objects, such as types of clothing, and cultural beliefs, such as forms of religion. Culture includes socially acquired knowledge, beliefs, art, law, morals, customs, and habits. [Encarta Encyclopedia 2002]
British anthropologist Edward B. Tylor (in 1871) gave his definition that culture includes socially acquired knowledge, beliefs, art, law, morals, customs, and habits. Later anthropologists divide all of culture into three broad categories: material, social, and ideological. In these three, Ideological culture relates to what people think, value, believe, and hold as ideals. Rapid changes in technology in the last several decades have changed the nature of culture and cultural exchange. Today, many nations are multicultural societies, composed of numerous smaller subcultures. [Encarta Encyclopedia 2002]
Religion is sacred engagement with that which is believed to be a spiritual reality—a worldwide phenomenon that has played a part in all human culture and so is a much broader, more complex category than the set of beliefs or practices found in any single religious tradition. An adequate understanding of religion must take into account its distinctive qualities and patterns as a form of human experience, as well as the similarities and differences in religions across human cultures.
In all cultures, human beings make a practice of interacting with what are taken to be spiritual powers. These powers may be in the form of gods, spirits, ancestors, or any kind of sacred reality with which humans believe themselves to be connected. Sometimes a spiritual power is understood broadly as an all-embracing reality (e.g. Pantheism), and sometimes it is approached through its manifestation in special symbols. Religion is the term most commonly used to designate this complex and diverse realm of human experience.
The word religion is derived from the Latin noun religio, which denotes both earnest observance of ritual obligations and an inward spirit of reverence. In modern usage, religion covers a wide spectrum of meanings that reflect the enormous variety of ways the term can be interpreted.
Religion is not an object with a single, fixed meaning, or even a zone with clear boundaries. It is an aspect of human experience that may intersect, incorporate, or transcend other aspects of life and society. In many traditional cultures the idea of a sacred cosmic order is the most prominent religious belief.
Religion is a part of individual life but also of group dynamics. Religion includes patterns of behavior but also patterns of language and thought (belief). It is sometimes a highly organized institution that sets itself apart from a culture, and it is sometimes an integral part of a culture. Religious experience may be expressed in visual symbols, dance and performance, elaborate philosophical systems, legendary and imaginative stories, formal ceremonies, meditative techniques, and detailed rules of ethical conduct and law. Each of these elements assumes innumerable cultural forms. In some ways there are as many forms of religious expression as there are human cultural environments. [Encarta Encyclopedia 2002]
In small-scale societies in remote areas of the planet, for the most part, their religious frame of reference is their own environment, and wisdom is passed down from generation to generation orally. Additions to the traditions occur as new inspiration arises among the people or as they are influenced by other cultures. These ancient ways once existed everywhere. For the most part, they have been suppressed by, or fused with, the religions of cultures which are more politically powerful, such as Christianity or Hinduism. [Mary P. Fisher, p. 29]
It is likely that these indigenous religions will be practiced in their time-honored formed by even fewer people in the future. For several decades, traveling teachers from the ancient cultures of the Americas have been initiating followers in the cities of North America and Europe, and attempts to preserve the spiritual traditions of the remaining land-based cultures are increasing. A lively Neo-pagan movement has sprung up, seeking to revive and practice in contemporary ways the ancient pre-Christian indigenous traditions of Europe, by enthusiasts who have no direct connection with those traditions. [Mary P. Fisher, p. 30]
Adam Hamilton his book Christianity and World Religions states that “human beings share common religious experiences; but they see them, or understand them, in different ways” [p. 16]. Human beings in different places have come up with different solutions to the puzzle of our religious questions, yearnings, and experiences. It is true here in line with this supposition that human beings worshipped God in different variety of colors which were shaped by their different cultures, customs, beliefs, etc. We can also assume that there is a gap between educated, civilized religious community; and uneducated and uncivilized religious community. The likely reason and the cause one among others would be because of the effect of the status of different cultures.
In the history of Religious study, the importance and involvement of culture has been noted in several significant period of age. It is evident that all cultures hold something sacred. When religion is observed across many cultures, certain common themes and patterns of activity appear. Significant differences within those patterns are also evident—sacred histories, observation, places, object. In Durkheim’s view, this sacred is applied in certain principles, such as individual rights, freedom, and justice. In the modern world of societies, religion is neither good nor bad but simply irrelevant, given the many alternative ways to find meaning in various forms of cultural pursuits, ethical ideals, and lifestyles. New Religious Movements is rapidly spreading all over the world. It can be found in many different forms ranges from ancient traditional, social, religion and cultural practice to modern technological complexities. [Notes on World Religions Course]
In the study of religions there are five major categories: 1) Philosophy of religion, 2) Sociology of religion, 3) Psychology of religion, 4) Phenomenology of religion, and 5) History of Religion. In the second division of study, sociological method is applied to crucial issues such as how religion contributes to social integration and what function religion serves in the social complex of which it is a part. Thus the importance of religion through its cultural symbols and expressions is highly emphasized. In the fifth category, the profound impact of religion on the course of human civilization is important value to the study. [Nigosian, p. 3-4]
Civilization is advanced state of a society possessing historical and cultural unity. Since the Middle Ages, most European historians have adopted either a religious or national perspective. The religious viewpoint was predominant among European historians until the 18th century. Regarding the Christian revelation as the most momentous event in history, they viewed all history as either the prelude to or the aftermath of that event. The early historians of Europe had little occasion to study other cultures except as curiosities or as potential areas for missionary activity.
The national viewpoint, as distinct from the religious one, developed in the early 16th century, largely on the basis of the political philosophy of the Italian statesman and historian Niccolò Machiavelli, for whom the proper object of historical study was the state. After that period, however, the many historians who chronicled the histories of the national states of Europe and America rarely dealt with societies beyond the realm of European culture except to describe the subjection of those societies by the, in their view, more progressive European powers.
According to modern historians of civilizations, it is impossible to write a fully intelligible history of any nation without taking into consideration the type of culture to which it belongs. In modern times, the existing civilizations have impinged more and more upon one another to the point that no one civilization pursues a separate destiny anymore and all may be considered participants in a common world civilization. [Encarta Encyclopedia 2002]
All religious movements have appropriated elements from other cultures. Judaism, for instance, reflects the influences of ancient Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Canaanite, and Persian religions. Similarly, Christianity retains, in addition to Judaic characteristics, vestiges of ancient Greek, Roman, and native Mediterranean religions. Islam, Buddhism, and Jainism mirror their ancient and primordial roots. The 16th century, the Age of Discovery, was a watershed of sorts between geographic isolation and the global village. Before the 16th century, characteristics assimilated or incorporated by neophyte religious systems in particular could be attributed to the influence exerted by local or contiguous cultures. Geographic isolation confirmed, reinforced, and perpetuated the natural inclination of people to think of themselves as special. [Nigosian, p. 412]
The above mentioned definitions and descriptions show that religion and culture are inseparably interwoven each other and civilization is the consequence of them. I would put this in other word, that religion came out of culture; and in return, religion is the result of practices and beliefs of culture which is adopted and known as civilization. This fact reflects reliable and inevitable as well as acceptable assumption that religion is culture-oriented belief and practices. For example, Christianity in European countries has been wide spread and adopted in accordance their culture and environmental settings. Buddhism in Myanmar is highly valued and practiced in the form of Burmese cultural values. The same is true that Islam is popularly adopted, practiced and professed in the form and essence of Arab culture and its environmental realities. Most significantly, Indigenous/Traditional and ethnic minority religions (i.e. especially their beliefs and practices) are highly adopted according to their significant and particular oriented culture. To cite a few of them—e.g. the Dinka people in Sudan; the Maori or Polynesian people in south Pacific Ocean; Shamanism in Korea, a folk religion in Korea, which is still strong within Korean culture alongside the other religions [David A. Brown, pp. 16ff.]; and most notably ethnic religion before Christianity came into being in the Chin community in Burma.
Therefore, as mentioned earlier, every religion of any community/nation of people was affected and is effecting by their particular and distinct environment and cultural values, followed by civilization. The model and ethical teachings of religion make every group of people civilized through/by uplifting their cultural values. In this sense religion can be attributed as promoter and custodian of culture. Religion promotes culture lovelier, profound, stable, and effective, etc. while culture stands as the basic ground of religion. Does a religious belief effect cultural life and civilizations? Since almost all people in the world adopted religion and not separated with religion, it is natural to answer the question very simple—yes, of course!
Modern studies of world major religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam show significant contemporary manifestation of each, to illustrate how long-established religions are being redefined. The popularity of the new ways seems to lie not only in their initial vigor but also in their relevance to contemporary needs, such as environmental protection, racial reconciliation, women’s rights, and solutions to the crisis of modernity [Mary P. Fisher, p. 29]. This fact clearly pictures how cultural and environmental settings influenced and effected religious belief, life, and civilization.
So far the over all discussions have pointed out enough how culture has influenced and effected religions and make it civilized. But the given topic for this work actually is “the Effects of Religious Beliefs in Cultural Life and Civilization.” It seems the main point of the subject is missing. But it is not actually. What then is the correct answer? It is this, that basically religions as a whole is inevitably influenced and affected by culture. The different point is that “Religious beliefs of a particular religion affect/effect that particular culture and civilization”. E.g. The Islam effects/affects its particular adherents together with their culture and civilization. Buddhism effects/affects those countries and people who are its adherents. The same is true in all religions to each of all particular adherents. Therefore, Islam religious beliefs would not influence that of Christian culture and civilization. In similar way, A Buddhist culture and civilization cannot be effected by that of Christian beliefs unless that particular Buddhist submit to Christianity.
Reference in this work :
1. David A. Brown, A Guide to Religions. SPCK TEF Study Guide 12. Quezon City, Philippines: New Day Publishers, 1976.
2. Hamilton, Adam, Christianity and World Religions. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005.
3. Mary Pat Fisher, World Religions in the 21st century. London: Calmann & King Ltd., 1999.
4. Monier Monier-Williams, Hinduism and its Sources. New Delhi: Munshriram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 2003.
5. Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2002
6. Nigosian, S. A., World Religions: A Historical Approach, 3rd ed. Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000.
7. Notes on World Religions Course, arranged by Dr. Dennis Shu Maung.