04 Februari 2009


Talking about religion, especially in view’s Clifford Geertz (b.1926), that religion is understood as culture, and culture, in Geertz’s formulation, is defined as follows: “[Culture] denotes an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life”. In this paradigm, Geertz would like to describe function of religious symbols, or, in his language, how “sacred symbols function within the cultural context”

Geertz calls for an expansion of vision and an updating of anthropological interest. He proposes that the same can be achieved by concentrating on the role of sacred symbols in transmitting meaning in dynamic cultural contexts. His attitude has been influenced by Parsons, certainly, and the same influence is to be seen in Geertz’s tendency to formulate definitions by integrating a variety of necessary components. Parsons, we recall, was unwilling to leave important factors unacknowledged. Inspired by the same ideal, Geertz defines religion as:

(1) a system of symbol which acts to (2)establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with an aura of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.

The definition assigned to religion befits the conception of culture as “an historically transmitted pattern of meanings.” Putting the two definitions (namely, that of religion and of culture) together. Geertz writes:

Sacred symbols function to synthesize a people’s ethos —the tone, character, and quality of their life, its moral and aesthetic style and mood— and their world –view— the picture they have of the way things in sheer actuality are, their most comprehensive ideas of order.

This agrees with his definition of religion as “a system of symbols” that carries certain functions.

The sacred symbols —that include in religious activities— cause to emerge long-lasting moods and motivations in men (believer of religion), and shaping a conception of pattern by done with the factual expression.

It is related to conception’s Geertz, Mary Douglas proposes similar paradigm about religion when it is shown in anthropological approaches. His work’s Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (1966). She illustrated religion as a purity and danger (sacred and propane). By using concept’s Pollution and Taboo, she shown religious rites as a constructions of social. In Douglas’s view, in fact, all societies exhibit ritual processes by which abominations are distinguished, pollutants are identified, and dangers are exorcised so that the legitimate collective order is not destroyed by such dangerous and destructive forces. In the way in which the distinction between sacred and profane is effected within this ritual context lie the clues to the determinants of order and meaning by which both society and reality are constructed.

Therefore, there are seemed views between Geertz and Douglas although they used approaches the object to difference way. The views are in the understanding of ritual system, because both emphasize to the system of symbols in religious sites in which profane or sacred states.

According to Geetz, that symbols is significant term to understand religion. In Islam tradition, it is too phenomena used to religious rites, for example, pilgrim (hajj), praying, fasting, celebration of birthday of prophet, Isra’ Mi’raj etc.

The symbols in the religious rites is fundamental element contained hidden doctrine and non-rational dimensions. Islam is very attentions symbols and even recognizing. By the symbols people could take care him religion end make transformation of consciousness.

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