Continuing the discussion of religion and culture, in this episode we explore what is seen as the gap between the two. Looking at specific examples of religion in culture – in both ‘high’ and popular culture – we examine how religion is often the basis of the language of experience, a form of culture that we live by.

Episode notes

In this episode, I am going to question whether or not there is a gap between religion and culture. As I have said before, religion is culture and culture is religion.

I will explore a few examples of this to make the point, including art, classical music, and literature as well as popular music such as Madonna, Sam Smith and Hozier.

You will see that there is an awful lot of religion in culture, and also a lot of culture in religion.

To get started with this, remember in the last episode I talked about the distinction between two forms of culture — between high or elite culture and low or popular (or mass culture). We cannot explore either without ‘finding’ religion in both these types of culture, in some form or other.

What we are trying to understand is how what is often thought of as religion is so deeply implicated in culture that it too difficult to pick it apart. In practice, there is no gap as such — or at least, the gap is just a way of separating out issues that in truth are much more complicated.

We do not only find religion in the set aside places, such as in churches and Christian record labels. The influence of religious ideas, symbols, and religious worlds goes through all aspects of society.

It is part of our culture (in the Geertzian) sense, and it is expressed through cultural products that are both elite or high culture and also mass or popular culture. It might not be the lofty religion of the church, it might indeed be a challenge to the values of organised religion (such as expressed by the Irish singer Hozier, even though his song title says literally ‘take me to church’).

Indeed, we can not find that gap easily — let alone mind the gap.

Instead we should keep asking ourselves where and how we can find religion in culture, and how and why it is there.

This is not the end of it by any means, it is only a starting point. We still need to think about what we do with religion when it is found in culture — how do we analyse and interpret this?

Useful links
About the Religion Bites Podcast




The Religion Bites podcast gives you quick and simple intros to the study of religion, to help you think a bit further about the issues of religion and culture in the contemporary world. If we want to understand today’s world, we need to ‘get’ why people are religious – why they ‘do religion’ in the many ways that religion is done. This is not a podcast about being religious, it is about understanding religion and the role that religion has in the contemporary world.