RS170 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Antichrist, Omnipotence, Stained Class

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MODULE 3- Religion and Television
Week 4: Creation Myths and Morality Tales
Civil Religion in America- The Kennedy Inaugural
-he didn’t mention any religion in particular
-his only reference was to the concept of God, a word that almost all Americans can accept but that
means so many different things to so many different people that it is almost an empty sign
-President Kennedy was a Catholic Christian. Thus his general references to God do not mean that he
lacked a specific religious commitment. But why, then, did he not include some remark to the effect that
Christ is the Lord of the world or some indication of respect for the Catholic church? He did not b/c these
are matters of his own private religious belief and of his own particular church; they are not matters
relevant in any direct way to the conduct of his public office. Others with different religious views and
commitments to different churches or denominations are equally qualified participants in the political
process. The principle of separation of church and state guarantees the freedom of religious belief and
association, but at the same time clearly segregates the religious sphere, which is considered to be
essentially private, from the political one
-Although matters of personal religious belief, worship, and association are considered to be strictly
private affairs, there are, at the same time, certain common elements of religious orientation that the
great majority of Americans share. These have played a crucial role in the development of American
institutions and still provide a religious dimension for the whole fabric of American life, including the
political sphere. This public religious dimension is expressed in a set of beliefs, symbols, and rituals that
I am calling American civil religion.
The Idea of a Civil Religion
-the phrase “civil religion” is the outlines the simple dogmas of the civil religion: the existence of God, the
life to come, the reward of virtue and the punishment of vice, and the exclusion of religious intolerance
Civil War and Civil Religion
-Until the Civil War, the American civil religion focused above all on the event of the Revolution, which
was seen as the final act of the Exodus from the old lands across the waters
-The Civil War, which Sidney Mead calls “the center of American history,” was the second great event that
involved the national self-understanding so deeply as to require expression in civil religion
-Not only did the Civil War have the tragic intensity of fratricidal strife, but it was one of the bloodiest wars
of the nineteenth century; the loss of life was far greater than any previously suffered by Americans
-The Civil War raised the deepest questions of national meaning. The man who not only formulated but in
his own person embodied its meaning for Americans was Abraham Lincoln. For him the issue was not in
the first instance slavery but “whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can
long endure.”
-With the Civil War, a new theme of death, sacrifice, and rebirth enters the new civil religion. It is
symbolized in the life and death of Lincoln.
-the Memorial Day observance, especially in the towns and smaller cities of America, is a major event for
the whole community involving a rededication to the martyred dead, to the spirit of sacrifice, and to the
American vision
The Civil Religion Today
-American religion at least since the early 19th century has been predominantly activist, moralistic, and
social rather than contemplative, theological, or innerly spiritual
-“God” has clearly been a central symbol in the civil religion from the beginning and remains so today.
This symbol is just as central to the civil religion as it is to Judaism or Christianity
The Third Time of Trial
-The first time of trial had to do with the question of independence, whether we should or could run our
own affairs in our own way. The second time of trial was over the issue of slavery, which in turn was only
the most salient aspect of the more general problem of the full institutionalization of democracy within
our country. This second problem we are still far from solving though we have some notable successes
to our credit. But we have been overtaken by a third great problem that has led to a third great crisis, in
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the midst of which we stand. This is the problem of responsible action in a revolutionary world, a world
seeking to attain many of the things, material and spiritual, that we have already attained. Americans
have, from the beginning, been aware of the responsibility and the significance our republican
experiment has for the whole world
-Behind the civil religion at every point lie biblical archetypes: Exodus, Chosen People, Promised Land,
New Jerusalem, and Sacrificial Death and Rebirth
FROM THWARTEd GODS TO RECLAIMED MYSTERY? An Overview of the Depiction of Religion in Star Trek
-star trek says that there will be a future, and that we can and will solve our problems and learn how to
live in peace
-star trek is about challenging ourselves. It is about finding our limits by being willing to go beyond them,
it is about the ultimate nobility of the human spirit it inspires. It leaders individuals to pursue larger goals
and discover possibilities in themselves that they might not otherwise have realized
-after Gene Roddenberry(creator and executive producer) died, religion appears as a theme far more
often and treated more sophisticated and sympathetic manner
GENE RODDENBERRY AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE STAR TREK VIEW OF RELIGION
-star trek was an expression of his own beliefs using his characters to act out human problems and
equation
-one of those human problems is humanity’s relationship to God and to institutionalized religion
-he disliked hypocrisy and inconsistency he saw manifested in religion
-he ignored religion and kept his view quiet until the making of star trek
-raised a Baptist and taken to church every Sunday by his pious mother
-viewed conventional religious faith as a product and “a vestige of a pre-rational age”
-he thinks religious institutions help to keep people in a passive or nonquestioning state of ignorance of
themselves
-he was an agnostic humanist
CLASSIC TREK: CHALLENGING THE MACHINE IN THE GOD
-“religion” generally presented in the series as a set of rituals and beliefs whose source, efficacy and
authority are attributed to some sort of superior being, is occasionally depicted among “primitive” alien
cultures
-a recurrent motif in star trek is that a highly advanced civilization or the products of its technology may be
mistaken for gods by a “primitive” ie. Much less technologically advanced race
-THIS MOTIF HAS THREE RELATED THEMES: A computer mistaken for a god, an advanced being or
race mistaken for a god(s) and an advanced being or race that tries to present itself as god-like
GENESIS 1-4
God created heavens and earth first then formed water on earth and then he had light, he saw that the light
separated from darkness and it was good. Then god called the light day and darkness night and then there was
evening and morning, the first day. God also called the dry land earth, and the sea then plants and fruit trees that
bear fruit with the seed in it and he made two great lights- the greater light to rule the day and the lesser to rule
the night- and the stars. He created the great sea monsters and every living creature and humankind in his
image. On 7th day, God rested. The Lord god planted a garden in Eden, in the east, a river follows out of Eden to
water the garden and it divides into four branches. The name of the first is pishon, it is the one that flows around
the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are
there. 13The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. 14The
name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. He put the man
in the garden of Edon but told him he can eat every tree in the garden except for the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil, and if he does then he will die. Then he made animals so the man wouldn’t be alone and the man
named every single animal. He made the man fall asleep and took his rib and used it to make into a woman. The
serpant made them think that the tree was good for good and she ate it and then they realized they were naked
so they made clothes for themselves. Then they heard god and god asked where they were, and he responded
that he was naked so he hid, and god asked who told them they were naked, did they eat from the tree and the
man said the woman gave him the fruit then the woman said the serpent tricked her. Eve gave birth to Cain and
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Abel. Abel was a keeper of sheep and cain a tiller of the ground and Cain brought the lord offering of the fruit of
the ground and Abel for brought him fristling of his block, their fat portions. The lord had regard for Abel but none
for Cain and Cain got angry. Cain killed his brother, then God put a mark on Cain so no one could kill him.
THE FALL FROM EDEN, CRITICAL THEORY, AND THE TELETUBBIES by Brian Britt
This essay demonstrates how the biblical story of Eden (Genesis chapters 2–3) illuminates contemporary critical
theory and culture
Genesis 3 and Eden
-The serpent will be a permanent enemy of humans. Eve will suffer painful childbirth and, perhaps even
worse, desire for her husband. Adam will labour over the cursed ground from which he was made.
Together they will be sent out of the Garden, and a sword-bearing cherub will guard against any
attempts to return
-God’s decision to send the humans away suggests that their knowledge is great enough to be
dangerous and make them ‘like one of us, knowing good and evil’
-Eden represents a place too good to be imaginable
-Although people are distinguished from animals even before the Fall, the curse on the serpent
introduces the elements of humiliation and rivalry with humans
Critical Theory and the Fall
To Adorno, the pre-eminent critic of the culture industry, America looked more like the land of the Fall than Eden:
in their critical evaluation of labour, art, sexuality, and language of the culture industry, Horkheimer and Adorno
evoke all the moral themes of the story of the Fall: like the serpent, the ‘culture industry perpetually cheats its
consumers of what it perpetually’, through the ‘leisure’ and ‘amusements’ of movies and radio, for example, the
culture industry of post-war America offers happiness and ful lment, but it only robs the public of freedom and
dignity
Eden, The Camp, and the Park
-Seduced like Adam and Eve by the promise of human independence, modern consumers are drawn into
the structures of consumer capitalism only to nd they are more prison than pleasure gardens
Teletubbieland: Animals, Camp, and Park
-Teletubbieland turns out to be more like a camp than a park because like the world of the culture
industry, Teletubbieland is a place where every action of the Tubbies is regulated, monitored, and strictly
controlled
-their sanitised world, they gaze with delight on these images of another world, a world they can never
inhabit or experience directly. Like the promise of happiness made by consumer culture, life in
Teletubbieland is a matter of never-ending desire—even though all their needs are met, life remains
about the same. Star Trek , This Side of Paradise
The enterprise arrives at the planet Omicron Ceti III and they didn’t know that the colonists would be alive. Spock
encounters Leila that he met on earth years ago and she loved him but he didn’t love her. There is no animals
and cars. Spock gets blasted by spores of a flowering plant which causes him to confess his love for Leila and
was happy. The plant also infects others but not the captain. The captain than gets blasted as well and becomes
happy then suddenly he gets angry and it makes him unhappy free of the affect of the plant. He makes Spock
angry even though Spock is strong enough to kill him then everyone breaks out into an angry emotion due to the
transmitter and the colonists agreed to move onto another planet.
Week 5: Humour and Religious Identity
Moral Dilemmas: Dad, We may Have Saved Your Soul.
EXAMPLE:
Homer gets illegal cable hookup and when they went to church they were talking about the eighth commandment
about “thou shall not steal” and Lisa related the illegal cable to the stealing. She confronted Homer and he
agreed until she connected it with the cable and then he disagreed. She decided to protest and later asked the
pastor if it was wrong, and he used an example that it is stealing if they take more bread then they need to
survive. Later Marge decides to protest with her and Bart discovers porn on TV and charges his friend to
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