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An Introduction to Human Geography The Cultural Landscape James M. Rubenstein. Chapter 6. Religion. Adapted from PPT by Abe Goldman. Religion and Language. Two most important forces that bond and define human cultures results in common understandings

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chapter 6

An Introduction to Human Geography

The Cultural Landscape

James M. Rubenstein



Adapted from PPT by Abe Goldman

religion and language
Religion and Language
  • Two most important forces that bond and define human cultures
    • results in common understandings
  • They define important ‘culture regions/realms’ (diffusion)

World’s Major Religions

  • Religion as a system of beliefs guiding behavior
  • Fundamentalism: strict adherence
  • Secularism: lifestyle not governed by religion (does this really exist??)
  • Syncretic religions: combinations of religions, often animistic religions with introduced religions particularly Christianity
few more terms
Few more terms
  • Monotheism: belief that there is only one God. (Christianity, Islam)
  • Polytheism: belief in multiple gods (ancient Greeks)
  • Pantheism; God is better understood as an abstract principle (Buddism … Budda as a teacher rather than a god)
  • Animism: belief in spirits within things such as rocks, trees, mountains, birds. Spirits of people as surviving physical death
distribution of religions
Distribution of Religions
  • Universalizing religions: attempt to be global
    • Christianity
    • Islam
    • Buddhism
  • Ethnic religions: primarily local appeal
    • Hinduism – no specific founder, ‘Hind’ = India
    • Judaism
    • Other ethnic religions
world distribution of religions
World Distribution of Religions

Fig. 6-1: World religions by continent.

world population by religion
World Population by Religion

Fig. 6-1a: Over two-thirds of the world’s population belong to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism. Christianity is the single largest world religion.


Sacred Space

  • Major differences between religions both contemporary and past
  • BUT Similarities:
    • Concept of sacred
    • Sacred space
      • Buildings
      • Natural sites
      • Memorials and graves

Vertical Axis

Axis mundi – earth to space of god(s) above


Axis mundi

Callanish stones, Scotland

Sacred tree (Indonesia above, Japan left)



Places made sacred both through their architecture (physically) and through the actions of people who visit these sites (culturally)

vietnam war memorial
Vietnam war memorial

"As you descend the path along the wall and reach this angle, you realize that one wing of the black wall points straight at the tall, white Washington Monument a mile or so off, and the other at the Lincoln Memorial, visible through a screen of trees about 600 feet away. In making this descent you feel you're entering a cloistered space, set off from the busy surroundings. Streets and skylines disappear to leave you alone with the wall and its names. Then, as you pass the angle and begin to climb, you feel yourself emerging again into the world of noise and light after a meditative experience. “

Robert Campbell, "An Emotive Place Apart," A.I.A. Journal, May 1983, pp. 150-1

spiritual place making
Spiritual place-making
  • "Each half of the wall is 246.75 feet long, combined length of 493.50 feet. Each segment is made of 70 panels. At their intersection, the highest point, they are 10.1 feet high; they taper to a width of 8 inches at their extremities.”
day of the dead el dia de los muertos
Day of the Dead (El Dia de Los Muertos )

Day of the Dead, Ocosingo Cemetery, Mexico, November 2, 2002 (Source: Road that has no end)

day of dead nov 1 2
Day of Dead: Nov 1&2

Life meets death: reduction of space between the two worlds

grave sites
Grave sites

Jewish graves with stones placed by visitors

San Miguel de Allende , Mexico

Artifacts act to ‘pair absence with presence’ Richardson, 2001

Gifts as involving a reciprocal relationship

Gifts as confirming an ongoing relationship?

known and unknown
Known and Unknown

Marking the grave of unknown Soviet soldiers

Marilyn Monroe, Westwood village memorial park

known but only underwater visitors death brings life
Known but only underwater visitors: death brings life

Memorial reef ball: topography that expands the marine environment

Underwater landscape element


Religion as landscape element

  • Churches – often on hills, surrounded by space
  • Prehistoric burial sites
  • Pilgrimage as a circulation that unites people through a common goal that involves a physical and spiritual undertaking.
  • Camino de Santiago
  • Similarities with the passage of the Olympic torch around Canada (Canada Act of 1982 - totally independence from the UK)
organized religions
Organized religions
  • Judaism (ethnic?)
  • Christianity (universalizing)
  • Islam (universalizing)
  • Buddism (universalizing)


  • 14 million adherents
  • Monotheistic
  • Pentateuch
    • First five books of the Old Testament (pact that Jews would follow God’s law as written here)
    • Moses as an interpreter plus today’s Rabbis
  • Sects: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform
  • Israel
    • Homeland for Jewish people
    • Created 1948 (Romans scattered Jews from this region in AD 70)
    • Jews in ghettos - C13 – 18 (Venice: iron foundry (getto)
      • Conflict between Israel and Palestine over sacred space


  • Emerged from Judaism
  • Coptic Church
    • Founded in Alexandria in A.D. 41
  • Official religion of Roman (fall about 500 AD) and British Empires
    • Facilitated geographical spread
  • Jesus as being the son of God
  • Significant contemporary growth in Africa, Asia and Latin America


  • Adherents of Islam are known as Muslims
  • Muhammad functioned as a messenger of one God, Allah, in writing the Koran
  • Five Pillars of Islam
    • Belief in one God
    • Five daily prayers
    • Generous alms
    • Fasting during Ramadan
    • Pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj)
  • Sects
    • Sunni (orthodox)
    • Shiite
  • Islamic law: Sharia law as interpreted
  • by scholars: fatwa (rulings/interpretations)
  • Religion and ethnicity
    • Many Muslims are non-Arabs


  • Buddhism as a religion and a philosophy resulting in a path of practice and spiritual development aimed at leading to insight into the true nature of life.
  • The foundation of all Buddhist practice is ethical conduct and altruism
  • Nirvana: cessation of suffering
  • Buddha – Enlightened One, not a god
  • Diffused from India (Siddhartha Gautama)
  • Current spiritual leader of one branch of Buddhism (Tibetan) is the 14th Dalai Lama
  • Geographical seat Lhasa (taken by China in 1959)

Lhasa, Tibet was center of Tibetan Buddhists until 1959, now Dharamsala India

diffusion of universalizing religions
Diffusion of Universalizing Religions

Fig. 6-4: Each of the three main universalizing religions diffused widely from its hearth.

sacred places and religion holy sites in buddhism
Sacred places and religion: Holy Sites in Buddhism

Fig. 6-9: Most holy sites in Buddhism are locations of important events in Buddha’s life and are clustered in northeastern India and southern Nepal.

mecca islam s holiest city
Mecca, Islam’s Holiest City

Fig. 6-10: Makkah (Mecca) is the holiest city in Islam and is the site of pilgrimage for millions of Muslims each year. There are numerous holy sites in the city.

hindu holy places brief mention
Hindu Holy Places (brief mention)

Hindu religion: Conglomeration of different religions

Many gods

Religion of people in India

Sites: Often rivers, caves, mountains, places often remote

Fig. 6-11: Hierarchy of Hindu holy places: Some sites are holy to Hindus throughout India; others have a regional or sectarian importance, or are important only locally.


Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh is considered to be the birth place of Hindu god Shri Ram.

Bhimashankar Temple , near start of Bhima River, site of legend of god Shiva slaying a demon

Shiva, one of the primary gods


Shamanism: Ovoo

Mixed with Buddism

place names in qu bec
Place Names in Québec

St Sauveur

Fig. 6-12: Place names in Québec show the impact of religion on the landscape. Many cities and towns are named after saints.

religious conflicts
Religious Conflicts
  • Religion vs. government policies
    • Religion vs. social change
    • Religion vs. Communism
  • Religion vs. religion
    • Religious wars in the Middle East
    • Religious wars in Ireland

Fig. 6-14: The Old City of Jerusalem contains holy sites for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. See pg 213 - 214

muslims the movie
Muslims: the movie
  • Made in 2000/2001
  • Terms:
    • Hijab, burka, fatwa, shari law, Sheikh
    • Imam: prayer leader
    • Ayatollah: very high-ranking cleric
  • Aims to provide insights
  • What insights/surprises? Make a list.