The Differences and Similarities in Religious Practices
Religious practices are fundamental to understanding the way in which societies are formed throughout the world. Without understanding and appreciating such societies these practices would surely be perceived as either entirely arbitrary or meaningless. Essentially, through observing with an appreciation of the ideals of a religion, we can then gather the meaning that propels such actions and influences such cultural behaviours.
Looking at two the reasons for two different religious practices we can see a wide range of similarities being displayed, such as dance and festivals. However, when we look at the diverse range of ideological differences occurring throughout the globe, we soon see a vast gulf of difference in meaning. We can see that festivals, dances and other traditional cultural practices maintain a sense of community and identity among the people of a society. That is to say, that rather than in the case of preaching, politicising, sanctioning and educating, the building of social systems, such as families, social roles and responsibilities, can be practised, understood and realised subconsciously through the interaction of the whole religious community. Through observing and comparing such practices it is perhaps without surprise that we could then see reasons for these differences emerge.
However, these would not be purely aesthetic or superficial reasons, they would be fundamental to the religion itself. For instance, the role of contemporary atheist practices, or perhaps more correctly put a-religious practices, such as dance, may be considered as a deviation from a tradition, when compared to the meaning and symbolism taken from the dance employed by, say, Muslim or Christian cultures. Particularly in Western mainstream cultures, we tend to find practices occurring "for the sake of themselves".
That is to say, we see practices, such as dance, occurring only for the sake of dancing itself. Although many cultural thinkers may at this point introduce the notion of this being an essential human reflection of a need to form social, psychological, intellectual and/or sexual contact with others in a community, it still remains that the dance does not require anything outside of the will to dance itself. When we compare this to the way in which religious dance occurs within its historical and religious framework, we see that its differences are very much relative to the religious ideas and symbolism relating to the religious ideas. That is to say, that not only are the differences beyond basic social interaction, but are a contrast of meanings specific to social interaction. Essentially, the dancing is an essential representation of religious symbolism and religious idea referring to a tradition of a social community reflecting each others identity in relation to their beliefs. Ultimately, the difference in social practices across religions is a reflection of cultural differences, while the similarities are a reflection of their natural similarities.