Religion and Culture

Religion and Culture

Christopher Dawson
with an introduction by Gerald J. Russello
Copyright Date: 1948
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    Religion and Culture
    Book Description:

    Religion and Culture was first presented by historian Christopher Dawson as part of the prestigious Gifford Lecture series in 1947. It sets out the thesis for which he became famous: religion is the key of history

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-2134-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xxvi)
    Gerald J. Russello

    Recent discoveries in Turkey at Gobekli Tepe would not have surprised Christopher Dawson (1889–1970). A German archeologist identified in 1994 the importance of a huge complex in southern Turkey. It is the oldest known example of religious architecture, built thousands of years, for example, before the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. As described inNational Geographic, its construction would have required “more people coming together in one place than had likely occurred before,” and the complex was built before writing and before techniques such as pottery or even the wheel.¹

    The discoveries at Gobekli Tepe have revolutionized early...

  4. I Natural Theology and the Scientific Study of Religion
    (pp. 1-17)

    The terms of the Gifford foundation presuppose the existence of a science of Natural Theology which is competent to study the nature of the Divine Being and the relations of man and the universe to Him—the greatest of all possible sciences, but nevertheless a strictly natural science and one which is of the highest importance to human culture.

    This is a tremendous claim and one which would be denied to-day by most modern philosophers and many modern theologians. The historian, however, cannot fail to recognize what a great tradition this claim has behind it—a tradition which is closely...

  5. II The Elements of Religion: God and the Supernatural
    (pp. 18-34)

    I have suggested that a new historical approach to the study of religion is essential alike for the student of Natural Theology and for the student of human culture. But if we adopt this approach, we must be on our guard against certain dangers that have always affected the comparative study of religion from its beginnings in the eighteenth century down to our own days. Historians have always tended to ignore the theologians, and sociologists to level down religion to its sociological and cultural elements. But no study of religion can be fruitful unless it accepts the reality and the...

  6. III The Relation between Religion and Culture
    (pp. 35-48)

    There is still a certain amount of distrust of the sociological concept of culture among historians and men of letters, owing to the feeling that it is an alien importation into our language. Since the days when Tylor wrote his book on Primitive Culture, however, it has been adopted so widely by anthropologists and ethnologists, that it seems pedantic to object to a word which has acquired a scientific status as a specific term for which there is no satisfactory alternative.

    A social culture is an organized way of life which is based on a common tradition and conditioned by...

  7. IV The Sources of Religious Knowledge and the Religious Organs of Society (I) Prophets and Divination
    (pp. 49-65)

    A fully developed culture involves a spiritual organization, and it is by this spiritual organization that the essential form of the culture is most clearly recognized.

    For instance the three great Asiatic cultures of India, China and Islam are characterized each by its own type of spiritual elite. Thus Indian culture has been dominated by the tradition of the priestly Brahmin caste, Chinese culture by that of the Confucian scholars, and Moslem culture by the Prophets and by the Shaykhs or religious leaders who maintain the tradition of Islam.

    Each of these classes is the bearer of the sacred tradition...

  8. V The Sources of Religious Knowledge and the Religious Organs of Society (II) Priesthood and Sacrifice
    (pp. 66-83)

    Of all the social organs of religion the priesthood is that which has the most direct and enduring influence on culture. For priesthood represents religion embodied in a stable institution which forms an integral part of the structure of society and assumes a corporate responsibility for the religious life of the community.

    Hence the immense importance of the priesthood as a culture-building institution; for in ancient times it was the only institution which was culturally self-conscious and possessed the power to control the whole social way of life and guide it towards an ultimate spiritual aim.

    For the priest is...

  9. VI The Sources of Religious Knowledge and the Religious Organs of Society (III) Kingship
    (pp. 84-99)

    If the Priesthood is the classical type of a social organ which is created for specifically religious ends, Kingship is the type of an institution which exists for a distinctively political function but which owes its social prestige to its religious or divine character. From the beginning of history the king has been distinguished from the tyrant, the magistrate or the official by the possession of acharismaor divine mandate which sets him apart from other men; so that even to-day the crown and sceptre which are the symbols of this sacred character remain the emblem of royalty as...

  10. VII The Divine Order and the Order of Nature. Sacred Science
    (pp. 100-116)

    Every human culture is a conscious adaptation of social life to man’s external environment and to the order of nature. What the animal does instinctively, man does with conscious purpose and with a greater or less degree of rational calculation. Thus culture is rooted in nature, just as the higher achievements of the individual human mind are rooted in culture.

    This is the basis of the Marxian theory of society and of the materialist interpretation of history. Marx argued that man must be able to subsist in order to create history and that the first and indispensable condition of life...

  11. VIII The Divine Order and the Social Order. Sacred Law
    (pp. 117-133)

    The sacred order which man has seen in the order of nature and in the order of the sacrifice is also seen as the law or norm which rules human society. This concept has exerted an extraordinarily deep influence on culture, which has endured even to the present day, and it is here, perhaps, that it is easiest to trace the continuity between the sacred order of primitive and archaic thought and modern philosophic Natural Theology.

    For the revolutionary changes which heralded the coming of the modern state were consciously and avowedly based on the idea of the priority of...

  12. IX The Divine Order and the Spiritual Life. The Way of Perfection
    (pp. 134-149)

    Human culture involves a discipline of the mind and the spirit as well as a social discipline. This is so obvious that it is evident in the very history of the word. For in our own civilization the primary meaning of the word culture has always been the cultivation of the mind through the higher forms of education so that “the man of culture” was one who possessed a general familiarity with the classical tradition of literature and scholarship. In this restricted sense of the word, culture would seem to have little to do with religion. Indeed in the West,...

  13. X Religion and Cultural Change
    (pp. 150-168)

    We have seen that every social culture is at once a material way of life and a spiritual order. Culture as a common way of life is inseparable from culture as a common tradition of language and thought and a common inheritance of knowledge, and this in turn involves an organized attempt to co-ordinate human action with the transcendent divine power which rules the world and on which man’s life depends.

    In the typical cultures to which I have so often referred—the culture of ancient Egypt or ancient China, the Pueblo culture of New Mexico, and so on—the...

  14. Index of Names
    (pp. 169-172)
  15. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 173-186)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 187-188)