Culture


Challenge of Defining Culture vs. Religion – Different? Or The Same?

Culture - asu14How do you define and distinguish between “religion” and “culture” in life?

The Constitution of the United States of America prominently mentions “religion” in the First Amendment.  There is no mention of “culture” in The Constitution.

Why not?

In 1889, well after the framers of the Constitution recognized the challenges of pluralism while at the same time excluding a definition of religion, Anthropologist Edward B. Tylor noted:

…“ [c]ulture has also been described as ‘one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language.

Even today, despite the cultural pluralism of a globalized society, the definition of culture remains elusive and much debated.  No less so for the term “religion,” the U.S. Supreme Court has still as yet declared no singular definition of it, and recognizes several approaches to religion.

In any case, it seems not to be a great chasm between religion and culture from the standpoint of their structure. Both religion and culture share many, but at least these inherent structural components:

  • Set of beliefs, norms and values shared by a group.
  • Practices, traditions, observances, rituals, codes.
  • Exercise of conscience in conscious decisions about how members behave and/or interact with others (members and non-members) in matters of morals and ethics.
  • Expected degrees of loyalty, devotion, standards of adherence that may affect the view of the group as to an individual’s membership, or the legitimacy of a subgroup’s affiliation.
  • Inherent philosophies that govern how members perceive and engage in human affairs and the conduct thereof.
  • Way(s) of life that can be transmitted person to person, across group boundaries and from one generation to another.

The structural similarity may well be a function of the reality that for most of mankind’s history religion and culture were inextricably intertwined, and most often religion was inseparable from government. That is still true today around the globe. The historically unique and arguably successful American Constitutional construct rending religion from state and then religion from culture was at first a geographically isolated world view.

Compare the following lists of terms. Though the applications differ, are the meanings very different?

Allegiance………………………..Faithful
Traitor…………………………….Heretic
Good Soldier……………………Devout
Conservative……………………Orthodox
Liberal…………………………….Unorthodox
Independent…………………….Nondenominational
Community……………………..Faith
Outcast……………………………Excommunicated
Immigrant………………………Convert
Recruit……………………………Proselyte
Innovation………………………Reformation

Soccer Ball2No one has to wonder about the context in which terms are usually used.  They describe group behaviors, but the underlying common structure makes the terms interchangeable. Virtually synonymous with respect to meanings, behaviors and relationships to the common structure and the people [group] subscribing to it, they are only different in their primary context of either religious (spiritual) or secular (temporal).  The context is merely the differing object of ultimate interest to the humans subscribing and adhering to the structure.

VolleyBall

Volleyball and soccer are certainly different games. Yet, they are both team sports with similar looking artifacts and corresponding structural elements, with the parallel processes of competition, each sport having it’s own object of ultimate interest.

Are religion and culture really two entirely different things? Or the same things, just with two different sets of artifacts, structural elements, processes and objects of ultimate interest? Are they both cultural forms, one religious, the other secular? Is that what the ‘founding fathers’ saw when they separated religion and state?

Can the two be completely decoupled and operate independently of one another? Can they be somehow separate but equal? Or are they just different sides of the same coin, facets of the same diamond of human activity?

Most importantly, can legal freedoms for one exist and thrive apart from legal freedoms for the other?  Is America undergoing a separation of culture and state?

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Copyright ® 2015 – Robert D Jones – All Rights Reserved
See the full article at the InclusiveWorks® Blog

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