Earlier this week in class we discussed what is religion, what defines religion? As a class we looked at two definitions, one from Geertz and another from Bruce Lincoln. These two definitions vary in perspective and time period given. Though after reading and analyzing both perspectives on what they believed the definition of religion was, I soon realized that I personally didn’t understand what religion was myself.
Geertz defines religion as a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing those conceptions of such an aura of factuality that the mood and motivations seem uniquely realistic. That definition in itself made my jaw drop. The idea of symbols as not just physical symbols of a religion, but looking at the religious vocabulary and concepts as symbols. Geertz explains how religion gives us structure to life and has a place for each and everyone, not just on earth, but also in a cosmetic realm. Overall Geertz perspective is a sociology perspective of religion.
On the other hand Lincoln called Geertz definition, “too protestant”. He defined religion in three domains; (1) discourse whose concern transcend the human, temporal, and contingent, and that claims for itself a similarity transcendent status. (2) Set of practices who’s goal is to produce proper human subjects. (3) Community whose members construct their identity with reference to a religion discourse. (4) Institution that regulates institutions and practices. This definition was closer to my original definition of religion. Being a somewhat dedicated catholic and going to church and listening to the Pope, I could easily relate to the institution aspect and regular practices and the idea of the community shaping an identity. One concept that stood out to me was Lincolns idea how religions keep changing but still stays the same. Religion is not static its dynamic. The change is in a radical way but still religion keeps its traditional ways. But my overall question is how so? How can we have change in our religion, adapting to our modern ways without it changing? Pope Francis is a traditional guy with new ideas; new ideas on the church and its views on teaching and promoting the religion. I am sure there are many other examples but this is one I am personally familiar with. In conclusion I am left with one question. Religions experience change; change is constant, so how does religion not change?