Subject: 🛕 Religion
Type: Descriptive Essay
Pages: 11
Word count: 3143
Topics: Superstition, Symbolism, 🥻 Tradition
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Religion is an important form of belief and value systems that people relate to. Religion refers to a collection of systems of culture, beliefs, and views that are related to spiritual and moral values across the world. Religion has been prevalent since its inception and continues to spread across the whole world (Bass, 2009: 67). It is responsible for all the spiritual matters that people relate to in their daily lives. Religion has shaped greatly and influenced the way people live and relate to each other. It has contributed greatly to the maintenance and restoration of moral behaviors among the people. This is because there is an authoritative power that is watching on what the humans are doing. People come to learn about religion and later embrace in many ways that are as follows. Religion has different value systems, beliefs, norms and customs. Their believers are expected to behave and relate to one another in different ways. However, they also have certain aspects that cut across them. For instance, all of them ascribe to a higher being even though they are different. All of them promote peace across the board. This paper is a discussion of how religion is learned, practiced, and perpetuated through everyday life experiences.

How religion is learned and practiced


Symbolism has always been used in the learning of religion. Different people have different symbols that signify various meanings in their religion (Bloch, Maurice, and Parry, Jonathan, 1982: 22). The power of symbolism has been very prevalent in many ways among different communities in the world. Different religions across the globe have chosen different symbols to represent and stand what their religion stands for. This has culminated to many religions adopting different symbols for themselves. The symbols are important in passing the messages of their makers and this remains one of the ways in which religion is learned and practiced every day. Symbolism in religion has been explored by Victor Turner who studied its anthropology.

Ndembu Tribe of Zambia

This ethnography is of the people of western Zambia. These people have adopted different symbols to signify their religions. Through these symbols, their religion can be transmitted and learned by other people or from generation to generation. They have loaded all their symbols with social associations that relate to the experiences that people go through in their everyday lives (Turner & Victor, 1967:10). This implies that these symbols reflect what people undergo through their lives every day. They project all the good and bad habits that are seen in the world. This further promotes the learning of their religion because of its relevance in the day-to-day lives. This is because of the fact people prefer something that they can relate to or something that reflects how they are living. Therefore, since these symbols are relatable, they help in the process of learning about the religion.

The symbols also determine the way in which religion is practiced. This is because these symbols contain particular messages that are intended to communicate to the society (Woodburn & James, 1982: 190). They contain guidelines or the required behaviors that are supposed to be adopted in the day-to-day activities. This implies that they determine or shape the way in which people are conducting themselves. Through the symbols, religion can be practiced efficiently and effectively because of the guidelines that they provide. These symbols never happen, and they maintain the continuity of religion from generation to generation.

Color symbolism

The symbols contain different colors that signify or imply different meanings to people. For instance, the symbols of the people of Ndembu from Zambia have symbols with different colors (Watson & James, 1982: 160). These symbols are of colors that include red black and white. The red is used to signify the blood that in real life signifies many things. The black color is also used which is used to signify the skin color of the people of Nembu. The white color is used at times to signify or pass across a message of peace .These symbols relate to people, and they cannot fade. Since these symbols relate to the people, they are therefore not easy to fade out, and this has helped in the continuity of religion.

Mukula and Mudyi trees

This is an ethnography that is based on the symbolism. Different trees are used as symbols that are representing different things. Turner talked of “ritual polysemy” meaning that every tree stands for different activities, objects, relationships and many other things (Bloch, Maurice, and Parry, Jonathan, 1982: 28). For Mukula tree, its red gum was related by Ndembu to blood just like the white latex from Mudyi tree was associated with milk. The red gum is linked to blood and therefore the tree of Mukula stands for living humans since blood is essential to human beings. The structure of Mudyi is linked to tree. For instance, the roots are the primary part and can mean “breast milk” and the subsequent parts represent other things. Therefore, Mudyi tree can stand for a woman.

Ethnographies on rituals such as rites of passage

Rituals are activities that are symbolic, and they reflect a certain activity. Various rituals are conducted in the various stages of life in the human beings, and they signify a particular stage (Davies & Douglas, 2000: 54). These rituals include rites of passage, rites of intensification among others. These are rituals that that signify or imply the change of life from one stage to another. They comprise a journey that has been taken by someone through life There are various rites of passage that imply the change from one activity to the other. Some of the rites of passage include birth, marriages, initiations, graduations, funerals among others.


The rites of birth are performed when a new child has been born. The birth of a child changes the status of married people to parents (Hertz & Robert, 2000:54). These imply that are supposed to align themselves and live up to the task of fulfilling the duties and obligations of a parent. This is very instrumental as it is during such times that people learn about religion since religion gives all the guidelines on how one is supposed to be a good parent. This is therefore necessary for ensuring that religion is practiced by people because of that situation. By ensuring that religion is learned during that time, it also facilitates or promotes its continuity. That is why different religions have stayed for a very long time and have continued to be passed from generation to another. During these rites of passage, people gather to congratulate the parents and also to celebrate with them. They also thank the supreme and indicates that religious issues are brought in which implies the continuity of religion.


Rites of marriage are also important to religion. Marriage indicates that a person has committed to stay with another person. Marriage is an activity that takes place from time to time and is very common in everyday life (Lewis & Gilbert, 1980: 33). Therefore, marriage rites come with ceremonies that serve as a good platform for the spread of religion. During these ceremonies, people are taught about religion and the way they are supposed to conduct themselves according to that particular religion. The couple is also taught on what religion says about marriage and how they are supposed to behave while in marriage. This, therefore, ensures that religion is learned and practiced in the daily lives of the people. It also ensures that religion is perpetuated from one generation to another.


Initiations are also rites that signify that someone has been initiated to a particular group where he or she did not belong to previously. It could be a society or a club (Middleton, John, 1982:137). These groups usually represent a certain religion, and when one joins them, they automatically join that religion. The new entrants are taught on the religious obligations in their groups, and this serves as a perfect chance for others to learn of this religion. In these new groups, one can practice religions since they are practiced in the groups, and this indicates that people take religions seriously. Before one is absorbed in a particular group, they are first asked whether he or she is ready to conform and fulfill all the duties and obligations of the religion that is practiced by that group. The new member can access information about the religion, and this is necessary for the continuity of the religion as new entrants are always taught about that particular religion.


Graduations also offer platforms for the teaching and spread of religion. Graduation implies that the person graduating has obtained or reached another level in his or her studies (Parkin, David, 1992: 15). Usually, graduation ceremonies are held, and they serve as one of the places where religion is taught. This shows one of the ways religion is perceived in the society. It shows that religion is highly considered by many people that are why it is practiced during graduations. These indicate that religion is taught during the many graduations that occur daily. The importance of religion is highlighted in the various graduation ceremonies and this is necessary for the continuity of religion. It also indicates that religion is highly regarded and that is the reason why it is a considered topic in these kinds of ceremonies. Therefore, they serve as regions where religion is learned and practiced. It also shows the position of religion in people.


Funerals are also a rite of passage as the dead are ushered in as ancestors to allow the ones who have remained behind to mourn the people they loved. During all this time of mourning, religion becomes dominant (Santos-Granero, 1998:130). Religion is taught to the people with different messages to them. It is used to comfort the ones who have been left behind and to assure them that their loved one is happy wherever he or she has gone and that in the end; they shall be able to reunite. It, therefore, gives them hope and calms them from the loss. This serves as one of the platforms in which religion is learned. It is also used to advise those who have remained and how are supposed to conduct themselves. This indicates how religion is being practiced and how it is highly considered by the society. Therefore, this shows how religion is learned, practiced and perpetuated.

Ethnography of Rites of Intensification

The rites of intensification are those that occur seasonally. They include New Year celebrations, Christmas, Ramadan, and Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Easter, and Passover among others (Smith and Marranca, 2009: 56). These rites are usually celebrated across different social groups. These rites are very crucial in the teaching of religion. Most of these rites have a religious foundation, and that is why religion is very significant to them, and during this rites, religion is employed intensively. For instance, Christmas is very crucial in the spread of the religion of Christianity it marks the day when their savior was born, and therefore it is marked with many teachings about the religions. People throng the churches in large numbers where they receive many teachings about the religion. Another rite of intensification is Ramadan that is practiced by the Muslims. This rite is marked by the Muslims fasting and receiving teachings and how they are supposed to conduct themselves as living humans. All the rites of intensification always teach good morals to the people.

 Orokavia of Papua New Guinea

This is an ethnography that is on the rites of passage by Maurice Bloch. In this, dramatic transformations are involved whereby the child referred to as the prey is transformed into man referred to as the hunter (Turner & Victor, 1967:11).

Middleton: Lugbara Religion

In this type of ethnography, the rites of death are given considerable importance than the rites of marriage and birth. Death is termed to be more important than marriage and birth (Bloch, Maurice, and Parry, Jonathan, 1982: 31). It is more important when someone dies than when someone is born or married. The deaths are classified into physical and social deaths and those deaths that are bad.

Watson’s ‘Of flesh and bones: the management of death pollution in Cantonese society’

In this, death is a natural calamity and it is feared by many. The dead are considered an as seen to pollute the environment and they should therefore be handled with care (Lewis & Gilbert, 1980: 36). The son of the deceased is given the highest consideration as the most affected in this scenario. It is therefore required that they get the biggest share of the inheritance. In the society, the way men react to death is different from that of women

How religion is learned and perpetuated

The learning of religion happens in many ways from generations to generations. Religion is learned by the children from the doctrines as they are taught by their parents (Santos‐Granero, 1998:147). The doctrine is helpful because it explains religion and all the aspects that pertain to it. The parents use the doctrines to teach their children about their religion since it’s their obligation to ensure that their children get acquainted well with their religion and that they grow and live according to the demands of their religion. It is very important for the children to learn about religion because it serves as a guideline on how they should carry themselves in their everyday lives.

Religion can also be learned through the various rituals and symbols. Various rituals have different meanings and they possess different messages about a certain religion (Bass, 2009:71).The rituals are very crucial in explaining and passing religion to the next generations. For instance, during the rites of funerals, religion is taught to the people. They are taught that at one time life comes to an end and therefore the need for them to live according to the teachings of the religion. The various rituals carry different messages about a certain religion and they offer platforms through which religion is learned.

Religion is also learned through a legend that is according to the study of Eveney. Various religions have their legends and the stories about these legends are told from generation to generation as a way of teaching religion (Lewis, 1980: 59). For instance, the society of Eveney has legends just like Rome and the Eveney community believe that the legends are the root of their existence. Therefore, they tell the stories of their legends from generations to generations and these stories teach the people about religion and give them a sense of identity and belonging.

Religion is perpetuated in various ways and this has helped in its continuity from one generation to another. When the people visited the war memorials sites, they reflected on the events that led to the war, the specific persons that they knew and this promoted solidarity that was built by these memorials (Middleton, John, 1982:153). These rituals of remembrance are at times introduced and regulated by the state. They are similar to the rituals of religion and they borrow a lot from symbolism of religion. The symbols help in rekindling the memories of the people. The perpetuation of religion can best be explained through Humphreys blue elephant. This was about the religious oppressions that the Buryat Mongols faced in Russia including their religious experts. They faced persecutions in Russia and China. Due to religious repressions, the Buryat destroyed their monasteries to avoid execution but they later rebuilt them after the fall of the Soviet Union. In addition, a rich patron in India with a Blue Elephant built a temple that was great referred to as Jarang-Hashir and it was built over years. He used a lot of energy for a good cause and through this, his sins were atoned. He was enlightened and had a good and better understanding of the words of the human and their minds. All these bring out how religion is perpetuated.


Religion is an important aspect throughout the world because millions of people ascribe to the different institutions recognized as religion. Religion guides how people relate, believe and conduct themselves. Religion is a very complex issue that is regarded highly by the society. This is why religion is taught so that many can learn from the teachings that are mainly meant to promote and spread moral values. Various religions are taught and practiced in different capacities through the various rites of passage and the rites of intensification. The rites of passage include graduations, initiation, marriage, funerals among others. These ceremonies are instrumental in learning the religions and in offering the platforms for practicing them. The rites of intensification further offer platforms for the people to practice their religions. During these times, they are taught on the moral values that they are supposed to uphold and taught on how to practice them. For instance, the Muslims fast during Ramadan and they desist from doing any wrong. This shows how they practice their religion. Symbolism is used in the learning of religion. All these ethnographies show how religion is learned, practiced and perpetuated.


References List







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  1. Bass, D.C. ed., 2009. Practicing our faith: A way of life for a searching people (Vol. 24). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  2. Bloch, M. and Parry, J., 1982. ‘Introduction: death and the regeneration of life’ in M. Bloch and J. Parry (eds). Death and the Regeneration of Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 1-44.
  3. Davies, D. J., 2000. ‘Robert Hertz: The Social Triumph over Death’ in Mortality. 5(1):97102.
  4. Hertz, R., 1960. Death and the Right Hand. C. Needham and R. Needham (trans). London: Routledge.
  5. Lewis, G., 1980. Day of Shining Red (Chapter 3 on ‘views from one village’). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  6. Middleton, J., 1982. ‘Lugbara death’ in M. Bloch and J. Parry (eds). Death and the Regeneration of Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 134-154.
  7. Parkin, D., 1992. ‘Ritual as spatial direction and bodily division’ in D. de Coppet (ed). Understanding Rituals. London: Routledge. Pp. 11-25.
  8. Santos‐Granero, F., 1998. Writing history into the landscape: space, myth, and ritual in contemporary Amazonia. American Ethnologist, 25(2), pp.128-148.
  9. Smith, H. and Marranca, R., 2009. The world’s religions. New York: HarperOne.
  10. Turner, V., 1967. The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Chapters 1-2. Pp. 1-60.
  11. Watson, J., 1982. ‘Of flesh and bones: the management of death pollution in Cantonese society’ in M. Bloch and J. Parry (eds). Death and the Regeneration of Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 155-186.
  12. Woodburn, J., 1982. ‘Social dimensions of death in four African hunting and gathering societies’ in M. Bloch and J. Parry (eds). Death and the Regeneration of Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 187-210.
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