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RELI 1710 Study Guide - Final Guide: Burning Bush, Sigmund Freud, Mosaic Covenant

Course Code
RELI 1710
Zeba Crook
Study Guide

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Sept 4th 2015
- Religionswissenschaft= the science of religion
- Science seeks to define, classify, and analysis. This can apply to religion. The study of
religion requires you to define and classify religion.
- How do you decide what constitutes religion and what doesn’t?
What is Religion?
- Devotion to or beliefs in God; this is an emotional response that doesn’t fit all religions.
Not all religions have a God. They may have multiple or not at all. Religious people may
hold other actions higher (Sacrifice, etc.) than belief in God. We cannot say that faith is
the essence of religion. It would eliminate too many things that are obviously religious.
- Religion comes to people in revealed or sacred scripture: the word sacred doesn’t mean
the same thing to any two groups. To some people it could mean that the writing came
from God without any intervention, and to some people it could mean that God gave the
information to a human to write. There have been many religious communities who did
not have a written text.
- You can’t classify religion. To classify means to exclude something, and you can’t define
religion without excluding at least one religion.
Theories of Religion
- Tyler and Frazer (Social anthropologists): social evolution- magic to religion to science:
each does a better job at explaining the natural world.
Argued that people used magic to try and control natural functions of the earth
Argue that religion is valid- giving the God personality. If you pray for no flood
and flood comes anyways it’s because “God doesn’t like me” or “God has a
different plan for me”.
Argued that science is the most valid- science can answer the questions people
have unlike religion. Genesis doesn’t tell you how the world was created, science
The order of their theory doesn’t make sense. We didn’t leave one and move into
the other. There are still magic, religious, and scientific elements in everything.
Their theory makes religion and intellectual process, which it is not. Religious
people is sometimes an intellectual process, but for the most part, it is emotional.
- Animism: the idea that everything has breath; everything is alive (the trees, the waters,
the mountains, etc.).
- Emilie Durkheim (sociologist): “God is society, writ large”; religion was the cement of
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By looking at primitive societies, we can see religion at its root.
He is interested in the social functions and practices of religion. These
communities see things and make things different and special and meaningful and
sacred (totemism- the process of taking things and separating them into the
sacred, the special and profane).
The objects they see as sacred comes to represent a group. The identity of the
group revolves around their sacred objects of the group.
Durkheim is wrong about all groups distinguishing sacred and profane objects.
His view about religion is too peaceful.
- Sigmund Freud (psychologist): religion exists because people are weak/sick; it is the
result of psychological distress
Religion is irrational because science answers all the questions.
Argues that there must be some traumatic event at the beginning of religion that
causes people to still be religious (psychoanalytic view), and that ancestors
experience trauma that was passed down through genes.
Thought that if you dealt with the trauma inside of you, you could rid yourself of
religion, like a crutch that holds you up.
Freud wasn’t wrong about religion having crutch qualities, it does, but there are
also many other components of religion.
- Karl Marx (political philosopher): Religion fools the poor and oppressed into accepting
their submission
Religion forces people, instead of taking responsibility for their actions, to place
responsibility on someone else for their actions.
“religion is the opiate of the masses, and is commonly misunderstood”
Religion functions positively for those who are oppressed, lonely, sad, etc. It
gives them hope of entering Heaven or paradise. It dulls the pain of living in this
Clergy oppresses people as the government do- uses Heaven to keep people from
- Eliade (historian of religion): religion cannot be understood except of the inside. Religion
is unique.
Believed that religion was totally separate from politics and anthropology.
Religions primary characteristics
- Religion is an empty category: Religion must be filled by humans. It gets filled up with
scriptures, sacrifice, tradition, etc. People will not fill up their “pots” the same way. It’s
why religions differ (some have prayer, some don’t, etc.). The content is what comprises
- Religion is a concept: concept does not exist. It is not a thing, nor an entity. They do not
have matter. Religion does not have matter. Concept is mental representation. Concept is
scholarly invention. They create them as a way of grouping things together. Physical fruit
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exists, but the category was invented. Same as religion- religious people really exist, but
religion is a scholarly invention.
- Religion cannot be reified: religion is responsible for crimes against humanity; religion
makes the world a better place. Reifying a religion means that it can do something. It
cannot actually do anything, it has no action. Religion also can’t make people do things.
- Religion cannot be totalized or essentialized: the essence of religion is prayer; religion is
violent; Christianity and other faiths are struggling with secularism.
- Religion is not majority rule: boundary and identity formation; internal debates, non-
scholarly. Ex. Not all Christians celebrate Christmas. Majority does not rule, not all
religious people follow the main and commonly known beliefs and practices.
- There are no data for religion: getting dressed, traveling, speaking, and killing an animal.
Something is religious when the person wearing/using it tells you it is. Actions are
indistinguishable from one another- one time it may be religious and one time it may not
be (ie. Speaking to God= religious; speaking to a friend=non-religious). There is nothing
around us that is not potentially religious- people can make anything religious.
The Study of Religion
- Religion is what we study, not how we study.
- Religion is studied as a human invention: every group fills their religion differently, with
different stuff.
- Religion scholars- methodological atheism: assume there is no God within the classroom
and while studying. Wipe God out of the explanation.
- The scholar of religion does not set out to offend, but she can inadvertently offend.
September 14th 2015
Jewish History
Words, Definitions, Clarity
- Who is a Jew?- it depends on who you’re asking. There are religious ways and cultural
ways of defining Jewish people.
- Is religion different from Ethnicity?- some people may identify as Jewish but not practice
Judaism. They may not eat kosher or follow religious practices that still self-identify with
the history of Judaism. We cannot separate religious practice from cultural practice.
- Do Jewish history + history of the Jewish people + history of Judaism all mean the same
- Avoiding Christian-centric terminology
Old testament vs Hebrew Bible/Tanakh
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