September 9, 2011
The academic study of religion
Object of our study: religion
What is religion? The hardest part of the discipline is to define to everyone’s approval
what it is
Ex (see ppt). George Frazer (“the golden bow”, social anthropologist): religion
helps people explain things that they would not otherwise be able to explain (ex. Genesis)
Primitive animism (sp): the sea storm is the god, not god being angry.
Sigmund Freud (psych): religion exists because people are weak; it is the result of
psychological distress; neurological distress
Religion is a crutch.
Emile Durkheim (sociologist): “God is society writ large”; Religion was the cement of
society. God is a projection of the social structures of the real world projected into the heavens.
Humans have “family”, therefore God is “father”. Has absolute power (father in most societies).
Usefulness of religion argument. Very Irenic (warm and fuzzy around the edges). This def. Is still
Karl Marx (political philosopher): Religion is a tool used to fool the poor and oppressed.
alienates the person from the moral value. Humans without religion, are
immoral. They gain morality from religion. If they didn’t have it...need religion to
be “good”. It is the opiate of the masses. Religion is a candy used to oppress.
Keep poor poor, and elite priests, and rich. Keeps the poor from rebelling,
because heaven will reward you. Whereas the priests eat meat daily from the
sacrifices of the poor. The poor are kept complacent.
Mircea Eliade (historian of religion): Religion articulates the diff. Betw. This world and the
builds the divide between this world and the sacred world. Focus on the
experience. All religious people feel like religion is physical (they feel it).
What is Religion?
-re=again, ling=to join (as in ligament)
-connecting our natural human world to the sacred world?
Material vs. Sacred reality
-Religion -Din (Islam)=path
Halakhah (Judaism) =way
The langue. Of going away from god, means off course, or turning your back against it. It shows
action. More important to jud and islam than Christianity. Emphasises fact that islam/Judaism
are more intereste in orthopraxy (opposite of orthodoxy; firght pracice) Orthopraxy->Jud (right
belief) xity->orthodoxy-> Christian(?). Ortho=straight
-even asking this question is tricky. Comes from latin: Christian centric. Doesn’t apply as
well to other religions. Religions are so different, not always inspired by scripture. Some believe
in one being, several, no, or one split up. Not all teach moral codes, laws, commandments, or
guides to daily living. Must be expansive enough to cover all religions (and their differences).
That’s why they group islam, Judaism, and Christianity together, similar. All have legal codes,
believe in one god, and each grows out of the other, and engage extremely closely. They borrow
and reject from each other. Live side beside for a 1000 years.
-Defining it is pointless.
-Religion is a vehicle for transmitting myth.(simpler definition)
-ex. Santa. A lie.
-what is more believable? More inherently rational than others?
-heaven and hell
-god: shy but destructive (show to some people, but not others, and yet