RELG 207 Class notes I.docx

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Published on 13 Apr 2013
School
McGill University
Department
Religious Studies
Course
RELG 207
Professor
Lecture 1: Introduction
Course Outline
Midterm & Final = MC or short answer exam
Research essay how to select a topic will be discussed by TAs
Course Expectations
Read the chapter of the book for the religion we are studying
Lecture highlight certain topics of chapter in more detailed discussion
- give a question to think about
- expected to have some answers discuss the answers and the questions invite more than one
possibilities
- end with a thought for the day
Question: What is the opposite of love
My answer: apathy???
What is a religion?
No set definition of religion that all scholars agree upon
- but most have idea of what is meant by religion
- ie. Physics deals with study of matter
o study of natural phenomenon
o goal of study: to determine the ultimate nature of matter
what is matter ultimately made of
atoms subatomic particles, etc
o search for the ultimate nature of matter
- ie. Politics investigation into ultimate nature of government
o deals with power government = center of power
o distribution of power who exercised, acquired and distributed to various institutions
- these fields are broad orientations
Basic Orientation of religion: inquiring about the nature of the ultimate reality
- Physics focus of ultimate reality of matter
- Politics deals with ultimate reality of power
- Religion focus on ultimate reality of everything as a whole
- The Ultimate by itself gives rise to different religions of the world
God of some sort discloses nature of reality of us?
Study of religion investigations and attempts to find an answer of nature of ultimate realition
- Matter and Power are ultimate nature of sub-realities
Is there an ultimate reality? Can I exist? Can you feel it?
Religion: Ultimate Concern
- defined by many scholars
- can be interpreted in 2 ways
o that which should be ultimate concerned
o that which may be the ultimate concerned (may or may not be the ultimate)
- what is ultimate? God?
A jogger running takes an ultimate place in his life and is an ultimate concern
- as soon as it acquires the characteristic of ultimacy in a person’s life, it takes on ritual aspect
and is associated with characterisitcs of religion
o get up at certain times to jog, consumes a runner’s diet
What is supposed to be ultimate? God?
Should we take a substantial or functional view?
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- is Marxism a religion?
- Tension both the aspects are investigated
Academic study of religion vs. Confessional study of religion
- Academic setting of this course
- Religion is also studied in religious buildings
- What is the difference bt study of religion as it is carried out in confessional setting from our
own academic setting
- Can do both difference?
- Confession = the acceptance of your own religious traditions as true
o Those who concepts the premise of the religions they are studying
- Can study Christianity as a non-Christian or a Christian
o Very old in India at least 3000 yrs old
o Ppl study their own relgions
- Academic = you can believe in all religions or non, but purpose is to study it as a system
o Does not imply commitment on your part
o Study as systems
Why do they think they have the answer to the question, what are they doing
with the answer, how do we know they have the answer, is the answer for only
themselves
o Study with open mind what is it they find in their religion
o What makes a group of ppl follow a certain religion short or long time
Despite the critiques and the secular temptations or temptations of other
religions
o Very young started in the middle of the 19th century
2 aspects Academic study of religion
- in order to gain information of the religions of the world
Multi-traditional
Confessional usually only studies 1 religion
If studying other religions, it is from the POV of their religion
Poly-methodic
- Don’t just study all these religions by one method but many diff methods
- Historical (most obvious) when did tradition arrive, it’s teachings, evolution and where it is
now
factual stats on followers, sacred book, commentaries, when it was first
revered
Geology used to be called natural history (emphasis on fact)
- Phenomenological All of them have scriptures and rituals what we are, what we might
become, salvation
o Major themes across religions
o So you can horizontally study & compare religions across the world
o Ie. Christiantiy, hindusim , Buddhism, etc all have scripture, ritual
o We will do horizontal comparison
- Sociological look at religions as a function of social gathering and society
- Psychological religions it to cope with life
What are world religions
We will be studying 7 traditions
India Buddhism, Hindusim
China Confuciasm, Daosim
Middle East Judaism, Islam and Christianity
These 7 are the accepted world religions
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World Religions: either because a large # of ppl follow it, or they exhibit significant impact on the field
World’s Religion vs. World Religion
World’s includes all relgions of the world, past & present
- all religions found
World religion limited to the 7 major and a few others that are tacked onto these 7
Study of Aboriginal Religion
Native Americans and African tribes
- small scale tribal, primal religions
World religions scriptures, systematic
Why Should we study religion?
To learn how ppl understand the world they live in
- each religion has their own world view if ppl interact with each other, it’s good to know the
basic beliefs & practices of the ppl you meet in the world
Modern need globalism
- important to study religion b/c fundamental shift in policy and education
- after WWII it was often argued that religion was on its way out
- world will soon replace it with science and democracy
- Science = the right way to approach understanding the world?
- Marxist vision religion completely disappears
- Liberal vision religion becomes a private affair
o But share that role of religion in public will gradually decrease or ultimately disappear
o Belief in the long-term secularization of the world
With post-capitalism and communism
o Seems inevitable to scholars at the time even in the field of religion
- But string has reversed religion has resumed an increasingly prominent profile esp. in public
sphere
- 1979 Iranian revolutions
o whole country globally announcing that their society will be based on religious
principles (education, economy, politics, etc)
o since then profile of religion in public has risen not only in Islamic countries but also
Christian countries and other place in world
Religion tries to understand the basic question fo life
- most thoughtful moments that all of us deals with
- most intrinsic aspects of religion
How we plan to study them?
Next time: Hinduism Friday class after this week will be fore individual session with TAs
Thought of the day: Did God create men or did men create God?
Lecture 2: Hinduism
Review
Academic vs. Confessional study of religion
- multitraditional and polymethodic
- the method we will use is historical + phenomenological
o historical = looking at factual material
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Document Summary

Midterm & final = mc or short answer exam. Research essay how to select a topic will be discussed by tas. Read the chapter of the book for the religion we are studying. Lecture highlight certain topics of chapter in more detailed discussion. Expected to have some answers discuss the answers and the questions invite more than one possibilities. End with a thought for the day. No set definition of religion that all scholars agree upon. But most have idea of what is meant by religion ie. physics deals with study of matter: study of natural phenomenon, goal of study: to determine the ultimate nature of matter. Basic orientation of religion: inquiring about the nature of the ultimate reality. Physics focus of ultimate reality of matter. Politics deals with ultimate reality of power. Religion focus on ultimate reality of everything as a whole. The ultimate by itself gives rise to different religions of the world.

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