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5 The Secularization of Western Culture IT IS NOT POSSIBLE to discuss the modern situation either from the point of view of religion or politics without using the word II culture." But the word has been used in so many different senses and is capable of so many shades of meaning that it is necessary to say something at the outset as to the sense in which I am going to use it, in order to avoid unnecessary confusion. The Concise Oxford Dictionary gives three senses-tillage, improvement by mental or physical training, and intellectual development. None of these however is precisely the sense in which the word is used by anthropologists, sociologists, and now to an increasing extent also by historians and philosophers. From the date 1871, when Tyler in England published his famous book on Primitive Culture, and from a much earlier date on the Continent, the word has been extended to cover the whole complex of institutions and customs and beliefs, as well as arts and crafts and economic organization, which make up the social inheritance of a people. Thus it is almost interchangeable with the word civilization, except that the latter is as a 170 The Secularization of Western Culture 171 rule restricted to the higher forms of culture, as there is an obvious objection to speaking of the "civilization" of an uncivilized people. I use Culture therefore as the wider and more inclusive term, and civilization as a particular type of culture in its higher and more conscious manifestations. Thus it is possible to get behind or beyond civilization and study human nature in a relatively primitive state. But it is never possible to get beyond culture. The eighteenth century idea of a state of nature in which man existed before he got entangled in the meshes of the state and of organized religion, and into which he must think himself back in order to construct a rational order of society is of course completely mythical and unreaL Primitive man is just as much part of a social pattern, often a very elaborate one, and is just as much dependent on cultural traditions as civilized man, or even more so. In the same way it is impossible to separate culture from religion, and the further we go back in history, or the lower we descend in the scale of social development, the more closely are they related to one another. It is easy to understand the reason for this which is inherent in the nature of religion itself. For religion is not, as the rationalists of the last two centuries believed , a secondary phenomenon which has arisen from the exploitation of human credulity, or as Hobbes put it "from opinion of Ghosts, Ignorance of second causes, Devotion towards what men fear and Taking of things Casuall for Prognostiques"; it lies at the very centre of human consciousness, in man's sense of his dependence on higher powers and of his relation to the spiritual world. The simpler a culture is the closer is its relation with religion, not of course because a low culture is more spiritual than the higher ones, but because the narrow limits of its control over nature increases man's sense of dependence, so that it seems impossible for society to exist without the help of the mysterious powers that surround him. The relation between the higher and lower forms of religion has never been more perfectly stated than in the words of the Apostles to the simple Lycaonians, when they accepted Barnabas Selected Essays and Paul as Gods; "We preach that you should turn from these vanities to serve the living God who made heaven and earth and the sea and all things that are therein, who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He left not Himself without witness in that He did good and gave us rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." The religion of primitive man is concerned with just those things-food and rain and the course of the seasons. In them he sees the hand of God and the working of sacred and magical forces. Therefore the ways by which men live and the crises of their lives are inextricably interwoven with religious beliefs and practices to form the pattern of culture. Nevertheless even the crudest and most primitive forms of religion are never completely restricted to this pattern; they always possess...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813220420
Related ISBN
9780813209142
MARC Record
OCLC
815969435
Pages
296
Launched on MUSE
2013-02-13
Language
English
Open Access
No
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