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RELS 203 (64)
Lecture

WHAT IS RELIGIOUS STUDIES?? Lecture 1

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Department
Religious Studies
Course
RELS 203
Professor
James Apple
Semester
Fall

Description
WHAT IS RELIGIOUS STUDIES?  Disciplined inquiry into one aspect of human cultural practices, beliefs, and institutions Public study of religion: legalistic contours  First developed in europe. France and the netherlands. State universities  Government cannot encourage a particular religion, but can support classes that study religion.  Religious instruction vs. instruction about religion Study of Religion and the Canadian Legal Tradition  School may sponsor the study of religion but not the practice of religion. May expose students to all religious views, but not impose a particular view on a student. A member of the human sciences  Human sciences studies the minds, texts, institutions, political organizations, and economic activities of people Studying religion  Technical discourse that utilizes anthropocentric based analysis, descriptively accurate data, and non-evaluative comparative theories and techniques Anthropocentric  Primarily concerned with studying human beings.  Religion is a set of human expressions and performances that merit a humanistic or social-scientific analysis.  Religion is assumed to be an element within human cultural systems.  In a publicly funded department religion is considered an aspect of human cultural systems.  Theology--religious (faith based) study of religion CLASS NOTES What is the academic study of religion?  Influenced by colonialism and the comparative enterprise  Aka Comparative religion  Religious studies  History of religions-1960 and 1990 dominant study of religion. Comes from u of chicago. Mircea eliade--any religious studies department would have a student from chicago who either studied under eliade or took a class from him.  Or the science of religion. 1870. max mueller. Edited first edition of world's oldest set of literature. Established the science of religion.  Defining--what is religion? o Technical definition.  Describing o Historical and ethnographic (narrative account of human culture)dimensions. o Second order analysis. Ex. Culture in east asia, ethnographer describe what they see as sacrifice. Is it a sacrifice?  Comparison/juxtaposition o Humans must compare. o Defamiliarization. Enhance your knowledge of what is familiar is to make it strange.  Re-description--aim of study of religion. Going from folk level understanding to a higher, cross cultural scientific level. Recognition of differences. Moving from o Claude levy strauss--most famous anthropologist in the 20th century. Rediscription isn't from simple to complex. Moving from unintelligible cognition (doesn't make sense, is not clearly understood)to something that is more intelligible. Something ethnocentric to more worldly.  Rectification o Correction. Ammendment. Understanding things in a more intelligible manner. Defining religion  Distinguish technical definition (scholarly. Precise, specific. Scientific. h20) versus folk definition (common understanding among a group of people. Vague. Water.)  Anthropological or theological? o Academic study of religion is fundamentally an anthropological enterprise. That is, it is primarily concerned with studying humans o Observes and accurately studies the beliefs, behaviors, and institutions of human beings, rather than assessing the truth or truths of various beliefs or behaviours o Theology--confessional, religious or theological approach. Generally concerned with determining the nature, will, or wishes of the divine. o Traditionally the term theology refers to christian discourses on god. o Generally applies either to any religion's own articulate self study or its study of another religion. Religious pluralism is a theological pursuit.  Thomas aquinas--christian  Descriptive or normative? o Academic study of religion--concerned with judging such things as historical accuracy and descriptive accuracy  Eg what do muslims say when they mean they say thaat muhmmad was the seal of the prophets? o It is not concerned to make normative judgements concerning the way people ought to live or behave o The descriptive "is" of human behaviour as opposed to the prescriptive "ought" of the gods.  Comparison and theory o Academic study of religion is a product of nineteenth-century europe o Influenced a great deal by european expansionism and colonialism o Early scholars were interested in collecting and comparing beliefs, myths and rituals found all over the world o As such early scholars tried to perfect the use of thenon-evaluative comparative method in the cross cultural study of people's religious beliefs, ours and theirs. o Comparison or contrast? Monologue or dialogue? o To compare in a non-evaluative manner means that one searches for observable, documentable similarities and difference. o Without making normative judgements concerning which similarities/differences were good or bad, right or wrong, original or derivative, primitive or modern. Can be quite challenging. o To compare in a non-evaluative manner means that one searches for observable similarities and differences and then theorizes as to why just these similarities and why just those differences.  Look at the history of these religious practice. Four orders in the study of religion  First order--data. Ie. Stuff out there that people do, think, experience, practice, etc. raw data. o Facts accepted for scholarly argument= data  Second order--gathering and sorting. Data becomes classified ( classification. Monotheistic/polytheistic, eastern/western religions.).Definition. Comparison. o Religion is a second order activity. It is defined by scholars today. o We don't know where it comes from. o RELIGION IS NOT THE RESULT OF PEER-REVIEWED EDITING. o Religion is not a product of academia.  Third order--analysis. Test and create hypothesis about the nature of religion as a whole. Key for how the study of religion is different from theologyEXPLANATION. o Explanatory theories--why does religion exist? o Interpretation theory--what does religion mean to the practitioner?  Fourth Order--metatheory. Analyses concepts used in first three orders. Not used as much. The term religion  English term. We can ask do non-english speakers have religions?  Religion has equivalents in french and german.  All modern languages that can be traced back to latin possess something equivalent to "religion"  Re-ligare--means to bind.  For language families unaffected by latin, there is no linguistic equivalent term to religion. Unless european cultures have somehow exerted influence on non-latin based cultures, an influence evident in trade/conquest The concept religion  New testament--composed in greek--lacked the latin concept religion. 
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