- The place of our birth and our cultural environment heavily influence our behavior.
- The practice of religion is inseparably tied to our cultural habitat.
- The need for equality and democracy served as a starting point for European Reformation.
To understand how our culture shapes our values, we do not need to look far in the distance. Take a simple example like sports; if you grew up in France, chances are you probably will not care about baseball all that much. Similarly, if you are from the United States, you will most likely be familiar with American Football or Baseball more so than with Soccer.
These simple everyday actualities (and stereotypes) point towards the importance of geography and cultural context in the way we shape our beliefs, values, and practices. While it is true that times are changing and technology enables us to expand our identities further than ever before, there is still something that holds us pinned in the tissue of our original cultural habitat. The forces of culture are strong, and they infiltrate almost everything in our daily lives, with religion being no exception.
What Does It All Mean?
It is no secret that religion is most successful when it is suitable for the cultural setting of the period. This is because it is not easy for religion to change society. The opposite is true; all the different value structures that people posses help differentiate between religions, adapt them or reject them altogether. Some people will agree that religion is only relevant to society or culture if it is compatible with the needs of the people and their pursuit of a happy life.
If we follow this line of thought, it becomes evident that people are not guided towards religion because of some spiritual, supernatural force. We are religious because our culture permits it, and the practice of our religiousness is scrupulously tied to the values and practices of our cultures. Does this mean that if your family and friends are atheists, you will also be an atheist? Does this mean that if you were born in India, there is a high chance your religion would be Hinduism? Maybe.
These questions open a particular can of worms. This is because such questions suggest that geography, the place where you come from, is directly correlated with the religious affiliation of people. In such a context, how is it possible for any religion to claim to be the right one? This points to one major thing, and that is the inseparable nature of religion and culture.
How Does Culture Change Religion?
How did Christianity change when it spread to other parts of the world, among all the different people and cultures? Many people were not entirely satisfied with priests having social privileges or with the notion of God's mandate (the pre-selection of an heir due to their birthright) that can be traced in The Book of Samuel.
There was a need for equality and a tendency for alternative interpretations of the Bible, some of which lead the way towards the European Reformation and the growth of democracy, as well as the severance of religion and state, which became the underpinning of modern Christianity. The separation of the public and private sphere came with the aftermath of the realization that we use religion to establish our freedom of choice.
Still, that same freedom of choice is, in turn, applied to dismiss religion. Different cultural contexts demanded different interpretations of religions, and a major religion like Christianity is no exception.