Sociological Definition of Religion: Clifford Geertz

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In my opinion, I find the sociological definition of religion to be my favorite and most helpful. Clifford Geertz explains his definition very clearly, saying that religion is a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, persuasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic. What I believe he means is that instead of looking at theories and things of that nature about how religion started, we should look at concepts beyond religion itself. I found that the Australian Aborigines follow closely along this same definition of religion. To the Aborigines, the world has always existed, meaning everything was always here; they had no creation myths. They had believed the ultimate supreme was associated with the sky and was the source for all power in the universe, but said it was not the focus of worship. Instead, religious practices focused upon a number of spirits who supposedly slept within the earth and transformed it every now and then. The earthly spirits were capable of taking the same form of either human or animal; they were considered “totemic ancestors”. This all relates to the sociological definition of religion because the Aborigines formed conceptions about the spirits, which gives an order for existence; it all seems very realistic to them. Anthropologists studied deeply into these Australian Aborigines. They looked into a primordial era that was a part of an Aborigine myth. They found that this era referred to a period in time when the first ancestors shaped the world and established traditions that their descendants must follow. The actions of the ancestors were thought to be imprinted on the land, possibly in significant physical landscapes, in unusual water holes, or in the main characteristics of animals and plants. This “era” was said to be the foundation of...
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