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When Cultural Identity Becomes Sacred



12619427694?profile=RESIZE_584xIn contemporary American society, a striking phenomenon has emerged: the sacralization of culture and cultural identity. To put it more directly, culture has become a religion. Cultural identity has become a religious identity.


Cultural and ethnic identities have ascended to positions of reverence and unassailable authority in the lives of many individuals. This shift is emblematic of a broader social transformation, where culture has, in some respects, supplanted traditional religion in its role as a moral and ethical compass. This post delves into this dynamic, shedding light on how culture has become a new creed and why it has gained a status that is beyond challenge.


Culture as the New Creed

The decline of traditional religious adherence in many Western societies has left a vacuum that has been filled by the rise of culture as a source of meaning. Cultural or ethnic identity has become the primary source of meaning, ethics, and community for many individuals—roles traditionally played by religion.


This transition is not merely about rediscovering or reconnecting with cultural roots; it is about elevating those roots to a status that is beyond reproach or challenge, where cultural practices, norms, and values are viewed with a reverence akin to religious dogma.

Religion, for centuries, has provided frameworks for understanding the world, moral codes, and a sense of belonging. As the grip of organized religion loosens, these alternative frameworks are increasingly drawn from cultural narratives. The stories, traditions, and collective memories of culture provide a scaffolding for individuals to construct their identities and moral understanding of the world.

This reverence for culture has reached a point where it has become a creed— a set of beliefs and practices that command the ultimate loyalty and devotion.


Unchallengeable Authority

The sacralization of culture is marked by the idea that cultural identity and its related practices are beyond criticism. To question cultural norms and values is to risk being labeled as an offender of cultural sanctity. Such social “sinners” are deemed “bigots,” “colonialists,” “racists,” “close-minded,” and some flavor of -phobic.

Much like how religious dogma has historically been protected from scrutiny, the challenge to cultural norms is often met with vehement opposition. In public discourse, this dynamic plays out in debates where the criticism of cultural practices or perspectives is met with severe backlash, often framed as a defense against cultural insensitivity or appropriation. “Cancelling” is one of the most common mechanisms used recently.


In this context, cultural identity is not only a source of personal meaning but also a form of authority that dictates social interactions, political discourse, and personal relationships. The perceived inerrancy of cultural norms can be so ingrained that it assumes an almost canonical status, guiding behavior and thought in a way that parallels religious texts.


Cultural Identity and Personal Meaning

The sacralization of culture (i.e., making culture sacred) addresses a need left by the decline of traditional religious structures by providing personal meaning and identity. In a society characterized increasingly by secularism and individualism, cultural identity offers a sense of belonging and a connection to a larger narrative. This need for connection and meaning is a fundamental aspect of human nature, and as traditional religious observances wane, the rituals, symbols, and collective memories of a cultural identity step in to fill the void.

For many, their cultural heritage is not just a backdrop for their life story but the very essence of their being. This heritage provides a link to ancestral history, communal values, and a sense of continuity in a rapidly changing world.

The deep connection to cultural identity infuses everyday practices and traditions with sacred significance, turning cultural festivals into solemn celebrations and traditional costumes into ceremonial garb. Virtue signaling is an act of devotion. Cultural narratives become not just stories of the past but moral lessons and guiding principles for the present and future.


The Veneration of Cultural Identity

The sacralization of cultural identity also manifests in the elevation of symbols and figures that represent cultural heritage to a status of veneration. Icons of cultural history are treated with a reverence that mirrors the respect given to religious saints and prophets. Murals, statues, and other representations become sacred relics that embody the collective spirit and pride of a people.


To deface or disrespect these symbols is to commit an act tantamount to sacrilege, provoking a defensive response that is both visceral and intense. In some cases, one must be born into a culture to participate in the pseudo-religious rites, lest one be accused of “cultural appropriation,” a type of social sacrilege.


The Role of Media and Education

In this climate of cultural sacralization, the role of media and education becomes ever more critical. They are the main channels through which cultural narratives are disseminated and reinforced. Through film, literature, and the arts, cultural stories are told and retold, each time reinforcing their sanctity and central role in the community’s moral fabric.

With evangelistic fervor, media and schools are primary engines for spreading propaganda.

Education systems have the responsibility of imparting knowledge about cultural heritage, but with the added challenge of doing so in a way that respects the sanctified status of culture while still encouraging critical thought and individual interpretation.


Challenges to Integration and Cohesion

While the sacralization of culture can strengthen communal bonds within cultural groups, it also presents challenges to social integration and cohesion. When cultural identities are held as sacrosanct, they can become barriers to cross-cultural understanding and interaction.

The reluctance to challenge or critically engage with different cultural practices can lead to a form of cultural isolationism, where communities become echo chambers that reinforce their own sanctity while being resistant to external influences.



Sacralizing (“making sacred”) culture and cultural identity in American society represents a fundamental shift in how individuals find meaning and a sense of belonging in the modern world. It is a testament to the power of culture to provide a moral compass and a communal identity in the absence of traditional religious structures.

However, this elevation of culture to a sacred status also brings with it challenges that must be navigated with sensitivity and openness. As America continues to grapple with its diverse cultural landscape, the dialogue around the sacralization of culture will remain a pivotal part of its ongoing narrative.




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