Religion As A Cultural System

1350 Words 6 Pages
Why do groups of people need a religious system in order to form stable cultures and societies? In his address before the Farmington Trust, philosopher Edward Goldsmith argues the importance of religion as a control mechanism for a stable society. He discusses a philosophy in which, “(Religion) provides a goal, whose achievement must ensure the society’s stable relationship with its environment, and a means of achieving this goal, i.e. a ‘hierarchical organisation of instructions or guidelines.’” (Goldsmith) In order to illustrate this organization, provided for by religion, and vital to a stable society, aspects of Ancient Greek culture are highlighted. During the course of his speech, Goldsmith addresses the self-governing characteristic …show more content…
Ever evolving, religion is subject to interpretation and reform, much akin to other systems of social government. To demonstrate this concept, we will pursue a defining characteristic of religion as a “culture pattern,” introduced by philosopher Clifford Geertz. In his essay, "Religion as a Cultural System,” Geertz provides that “non-symbolic information sources” (those pertaining to reality exactly as it exists) can only serve as models for the creation of something new. In contrast, according to Geertz, “culture patterns have… objective conceptual form, to social and psychological reality both by shaping themselves to it and by shaping it to themselves” (93) In analysis of this point, the effects which religion has impressed upon society are more readily observed, as in the example of a theocracy, a government dictated and conducted entirely by religious concept. On the contrary, the extent to which society has impacted religion may seem more subtle. Over time, when a moral conflict gains enough public support, an amended religious philosophy generally ensues. Similar in fashion to the legal system, guidelines established by religion are subject to interpretation of both text and tradition. An example of guidelines established by direct interpretation of text would be the Ten Commandments issued in the Biblical story of Moses. (NIV, Exod. 20.1-17) These guidelines to moral living are clearly written in the text of the Bible. Whereas, guidelines established by custom include the Canon law regarding the permanency of marriage within the Catholic faith. Divorce simply does not exist in the course of the Catholic faith. However, its practice is not condemned within the actual scripture of the Bible. The permanency of marriage, as an absolutely binding union, is merely a long-standing tradition of Catholic practice. Nonetheless, the annulment,

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