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What is the Relationship Between Religion and Culture?

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What is the Relationship Between Religion and Culture?

Postby Angelina David » Sat Dec 15, 2012 7:57 am

I often tell students that they need to study the Western cultural tradition, among other reasons, because it displays more Christian influence than any other world culture. I doubt that anyone in a Faulkner University classroom would ever challenge that statement. However, students and/or faculty at other institutions might very well take exception to my assertion in multiple ways. Obviously, anyone who thinks Christianity and its influence aren't worth studying wouldn't consider their role in Western civilization a selling point.

Some people might also challenge my statement on a more fundamental level by arguing that the notion of Christianity (or any religion) influencing a culture is absurd. Religion, they may say, is a manifestation of culture, not the reverse. They might advance this position from a materialistic perspective, saying that the technological and economic level of development in a society determines any religious values the people might adopt. Or they could define "religion" narrowly as formal ritual and ceremony, and say that these "superficial" practices are only expressions of more deeply held values. I'm sure there other ways to attack my assertion that just aren't coming to mind right now.

For example, in a recent issue of Chronicles magazine, church historian Philip Jenkins noted the complex relationship between secularization and falling fertility rates worldwide, but especially in the West. Abandoning the Faith makes one less likely to have children because the long-term sacrifices involved in childrearing become less palatable in the absence of Biblical mandates concerning the building of God's Kingdom. But it is also true that not having children makes one less likely to remain in (or return to) the Church in middle age because the desire to give one's children a religious and ethical upbringing is a powerful incentive to be involved in a local congregation. Without that incentive, more people "backslide" than would have otherwise.
Angelina David
 
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