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Perseverance of Folk Religion
March 5th, 2012 by TRS

As I reviewed the readings while writing the paper, I could not help but see the overwhelming practice of folk religion at some lever. While obviously many of the folk practices that we discuss are not universal, they appear to be very common in the regions where the practices originated. This leads to the observation that the  pre-monotheistic practices that were practiced still outweigh the the practices sanctioned by the formal religions that the people are a part of. In the Patai reading, The Seed of Abraham, he offers a multitude of examples that show common folk practices among Jews and Muslims. Traditions such as the jinn, the evil, magic, ingestion of the foreskin, as well as others all represent folk practices. Jinn is formally mentioned in the Koran as well as some references to the evil eye. However, the extent to which people observe them and how they deal with them varies on the culture.

In these examples, much of what is practiced comes from the pagan rituals that were seen in the areas before the presence of Islam and Judaism. The evidence of this comes from the fact that many of the practices are very similar between Judaism and Islam. Initially, these practices were not sanctified by the religions. However, when the folk traditions continued for hundreds of years regardless of what was believed by the formal religion. It was at this point that the formal religions of Islam and Judaism were forced to incorporate and reinterpret many of the folk practices. Instead of attempting to ostracize these people, the formal religion wanted them to feel as if they could still practice their traditions in addition to practicing sanctified practices of the formal religions.

My concern comes more from the other members of the religion. I mentioned in a previous blog that too much incorporation dilutes the formal religion. Now, I wonder how other members of the religion view the people who practice folk traditions that are not universal. Does folk religion make someone any less of a devout Jew or devout Muslim? I think incorporation is necessary in some aspects, but the truth is that the folk practices would continue regardless of whether or not the formal religion sanctifies them.


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