Geertz Essay

1236 words - 5 pages

When beginning to look at religions and cultures and their intertwining effect on each other, you can see that a religion shapes society, and equally society shapes religion. When comparing the theories of two popular anthropologists, Durkheim and Geertz, I believe that Geertz’s theory is more realistic and reliable than Durkheim’s theory. Durkheim’s theory says that religion is a joined community effort that brings people together like a social glue, and uses the definitions of the sacred and profane to distinguish what makes things religious. On the other side, Geertz’s theory holds that religion is a cultural organization, and showed that religion and society can have an impact on each other, and religion is a set symbols of that promote an emotional response, ultimate meaning, ordering of the world, and marks a special status in one’s life. When examining both theories I saw that Geertz’s theory challenges Durkheim’s theory in the definitions of the sacred and profane, Durkheim’s view of religion as a social glue of society, and Durkheim’s neglection of the individual’s use of religion impacting society.
Before discussing the reasons why Geertz’s theory challenges Durkheim’s theory, I think is important to point out the limitations of Geertz’s theory. The first shortcoming I noticed is Geertz view on using one study as a test case for another will offer suspicious results. This is true to a certain extent, but potentially you could draw small conclusions that can be related to other cultures as well even if all the parameters do not fit.
When delving deeper into Durkheim’s theory I think it is important to critique Durkheim’s view on the sacred and the profane. The sacred represents objects or practices set apart from everyday life such as a Muslims journey to Mecca. The profane refers to the tasks and things of everyday life such as going to work or eating a meal. In Durkheim’s view of religion the sacred and profane are separated. Geertz’s theory on the other hand did not separate the sacred and profane as Durkheim did, and thought that the two are important together since one without the other could not exist. This begins to challenge Durkheim’s theory because things that may be considered profane may not actually be isolated from the sacred. For example looking at the view of Christians, one could look at the world and think of the science that makes up the world, another Christian could look at the world and see God’s creativity and think of it as a symbol of God’s love for us; this is where the line between the sacred and profane becomes hard to draw. This relates to one of Geertz’s main principles when examining cultures and religions, the thick description. Think description is needed to tell the difference in intention between the two Christians actions. Using Geertz’s thick description, I saw that the use of sacred and profane becomes somewhat obsolete because one person’s intentions of doing something or seeing something...

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