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The Journey Is Necessary

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In “Religion as a Cultural System”, Clifford Geertz makes strong claims explaining in a very logical way his definition of religion. While Keiji Nishitani precisely states his perspective on religion and how religion is a necessary journey in his excerpt “What is Religion?” I aim to prove that Nishitani’s view of religion is more better and beneficial for humans than Geertz. I will give a summary of each authors definition, compare how they are different, and explain how Geertz definition is useless compared to Nishitani’s and that symbols are not the only way to use religion to view the world.

Geertz’s’ definition of religion is a system made up of symbols. “Which establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulation conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing those conceptions with such an aura of familiarity that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic” (Geertz, 13). His approach is on religion is external; he is looking upon religion and its utility. Most religions contain symbols which do play some part in one’s moods and outlook on life, such as a rainbow. People of a Christian faith believe that the rainbow is a sign (symbol) of “God’s promise that He would never flood the world ever again and destroy so much of the world” (Genesis 9:11). To those who believe in times of crisis or natural disasters, this symbol brings some peace to people that it can’t get “worse” as bad as it was. Symbols create a meaning behind things that are with cause, just like a rainbow. To those with a scientific brain, they see rainbows as just a light passing through but to those using this definition see it as a symbol that has meaning beyond what it is.

Nishitani’s view of religion is quite comforting. Nishitani had a existentialist view for existentialists tended to believe that “the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts.”(Existentialist). I would say that Nishitani’s thesis is “Religion is something we need to live well, but not for life itself.” (Nishitani, 35). We can live life without religion, but if you want to live life well and fully, then you need religion. You do not need religion itself, you do not need the faith that a religion might have but rather the question “what is religion?” It is not the utility of religion but the necessary journey one will go on when they ask themselves these questions. The focus on the utility of religion will blind its true purpose. That is why when Nishitani says "Those who question the need for religion are those who need religion the most" (35), he meant it literally. Without religion one cannot be on the path to finding oneself and really understand life. You can live according to others or you



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