Religions are broad in their scope of history, beliefs, and rituals, using many systems to support their individual ideologies. Rituals, such as baptism within Christianity and Judaism, are markers for the distinct values and meanings that are associated with specific doctrines, and can be viewed and interpreted in several different ways. Theorists often view religion with different outlooks, classifying the institution as having a social background or a cultural emphasis, such as what Clifford Geertz defined. Geertz focused on the importance of symbols in religion, their cultural perceptions, the meanings that are attributed to the act, and how it relates to the the society’s value systems. By applying his theory about religion as a culture to the baptismal ceremonies in Judaic and Christian religions, the ritual can be viewed as an important cultural symbol, signs of various cultural views, and as a reinforcement of an ethos.
Clifford Geertz is a theorist whose views impacted the perception of religion as a cultural system. Geertz was born in 1926 in San Francisco, California. He went to college in Ohio to study philosophy, and then moved on to study anthropology at the prestigious Harvard University, where he received his doctorate degree. Geertz not only trained in the United States but also in Great Britain, before his career travels led him to such places as Indonesia and Bali, where he immersed himself in their cultures and personal systems. After his fieldwork, he worked at several universities, where he published several key articles that contributed to anthropological studies as well as religious studies. Though he was not religious, his immersion in religious culture led to the development of extensive theories on the subject of religion.
Clifford Geertz observes religion as a cultural system, not a social creation as some other theorists would define it. Geertz defines culture as a “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” (Kilani 360). Culture is a system that is passed down to show, in symbols, the beliefs held by a population. The system and its various symbols are passed down through generations, being practiced for thousands of years while retaining the basis of its meaning. The institutions do not only establish a mindset or perspective in which people view the world around them, but also creates a context or meaning in how to view it. Culture also creates a standpoint on their environment and the world, in which people look at how it came to be and connect an attitude to it. The religious aspect of a culture shows how a group from a similar background will have the same religious mindset, finding similarities in their beliefs about the creation of the world or which aspects of a doctrine to be true.
The ritual of baptism fits all of...