Religion vs. Culture: Is There a real difference?

Being born and raised in a Christian background and now serving in the ministry, I have met several concepts and questions that challenge my way of thinking and expand my knowledge. One of the questions I have faced that made me think outside the box is the difference between culture and religion. I had never really thought about these two terms until a colleague casually brought them up in a discussion. After an intense discussion, I decided to dig deeper to learn more about their differences. You probably have also come across these two terms and wondered how they are different. I will compare religion vs. culture to answer your question.

Religion is a subset of culture and refers to the practices and beliefs that govern a group of people and relates to their spiritual life. On the other hand, culture is simply a way of living that defines a group of people in a particular geographical area. Furthermore, religion is predetermined while culture evolves.

Join me as I discuss more interesting differences between religion and culture. I will also discuss their similarities and whether Christianity is a culture or religion. Stick around for more information.

Religion vs. Culture: Differences in Definition

Religion vs. Culture
Religion vs. Culture. Image source: Pixabay

Though religion and culture intertwine at some point, they are quite different. Culture has no definition that is accepted universally; many agree that it is a set of beliefs and practices a group of people defined by geography adhere to. Culture includes every detail of how these people lead their life, from their religion, rites of passage, what they eat, how they cook their food, and celebrations to how they conduct themselves within a community. Culture is also reflected in the dressing, interaction manner, type of marriage, language, and tools this specific group of people uses. Cultures also have rules, and not abiding by them results in a taboo.

Religion, on the other hand, is a belief system and practices that govern a group of people and is related to one’s spiritual life. Religion revolves around a core belief which can include a God or not, or even have several gods. The most common type of religion is the Monotheistic religion which acknowledges one God and offers spiritual knowledge about the same. All religious institutions are governed by rituals, rules, and practices that their members need to adhere to. Not complying with these rules results in sin or obstructing one’s path to spiritual alignment.

Differences between religion and culture

Measure of comparison



Geographical limitation

It is not limited geographically as religions like Islam and Christianity are practiced all over the world.

Involves a way of living of people in a particular area hence limited geographically.

Practiced by who?

It is often practiced by people who belong to different cultures.

Culture is often unique to a particular group of people, and religion is often a part of the culture.


Religion is often predefined and does not evolve.

Culture evolves but does not stray from the practices that give it its unique identity.


Focuses on the way of living of a societal group.

Focuses and is associated with a higher being, often referred to as God.

Governing book

Practical and has no specific book that guides it.

Mostly written in texts like the Bible and Quran.

Going astray, the belief system

Going against its rules and beliefs leads to sin.

Going against its rules and beliefs results in a taboo.

Similarities between religion and culture

Religion vs. Culture
Similarities between religion and culture. Image source: Pixabay

Though culture and religion are pretty distinct from each other, they have some common things that join them. One of them is that they both have beliefs and practices that govern the people who adhere to either the religion or the culture. Some of the common beliefs between religion and culture are rules around the mode of dressing and what to eat. Most cultures and religions advocate for modest dressing. Furthermore, some cultures do not allow some of their members to eat certain types of food, like some meat types, which is also the case with religion.

Additionally, because both cultures and religions have a belief system that their members need to adhere to, not following these rules leads to sin in Christianity and a taboo in cultures. Both taboo and sin have their consequences, and you can even be ex-communicated from your community. Another similarity between culture and religion is that they are diversified. Just as there are a lot of cultures in the world, so are religions. Lastly, both culture and religion are fundamental ways in which people understand and experience the world.

Is Christianity a religion or culture?

Based on the above definition of religion and culture, Christianity falls more into the religious bracket. Hence it is a religion. This is because it is governed by a belief system and focuses on one God (1st Timothy 2-5-6), hence making it a monotheistic religion. Furthermore, Christianity is not limited by geography as many people around the world who associate themselves with different cultures share its faith and system of belief. Christianity is also governed by the Bible, which is written in text. It is, therefore, a religion and not a culture.

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