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RS 121 Test 1 Study Notes Includes all lecture notes from Modules 1-5

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Religious Studies
RS 121
Marybeth White

RS 121 Study Notes Test 1 Study Notes Module 1: Approaches to Studying Evil The Modern World Modern societies are human-made If we made society we can change it Society is understood as a project The myth of progress- The belief held by modern people that their societies represent the height of human development and we have a responsibility to improve them Human beings believe that they have the obligation to improve society All modern societies are revolutionary societies Robert Nisbet suggests that modernity (the revolutionary society) was introduced by two great revolutions: 1. Industrial Revolution 2. Democratic Revolution - These two social transformations completely redefined the social elements of social life - First in Europe, the Americas, then the West globalization - Two aspects make up modernization Modernization entails the restructuring of an entire society according to an abstract plan / ideology Every element of human life is changed (political organization; economic life; social relations; psychology) Because people believe that they can/should change society, they create abstract plans or blueprints to guide that change, called ideology Ideology provides how a society should look like, how members of that society should interact, what the goals of society are, etc. Example: debate around healthcare can open up to an ideological debate whether it is best for the state or a private enterprise be responsible for the provision of healthcare or healthcare insurance Modernity: The Revolutionary Society - Our own society is a revolutionary society - Constantly replacing older forms with new ones - Constantly engineering and fashioning a new social order Globalization of the Free Market - Capitalism, then, is by nature a form or method of economic change and not only never is but never can be stationary The fundamental impulse that sets and keeps the capitalist engine in motion comes from the new consumers, goods, the new methods of production or transportation, the new markets, the new forms of industrial organization that capitalist enterprise creates. Joseph A. Schumpeter - Social change in capitalism, driven by economic innovation, is unstoppable Ideology and New Forms of Evil Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn concludes that Shakespeares villains only killed dozens because they had no modernist ideology: Thanks to ideology, the twentieth century was fated to experiences evildoing on a scale calculated in the millions. The Soviet Gulag system claimed 15-30 million lives Total deaths under the Soviet systems are estimated to be between 30-63 million 1 RS 121 Study Notes Eric Hobsbawm characterises The European short century from 1914-1989 as one of the most violent, bloody, and genocidal centuries in the history of humanity But none of the centurys horrible massacres can be said to have been caused by religious fanaticism and intolerance Jose Casanova on the short century: neither the senseless slaughter of millions of young Europeans in the trenches of WWI; nor the countless millions of victims of Bolshevik and communist terror through revolution, civil war, collectivization campaigns, the Great Famine in Ukraine, the repeated cycles of Stalinist terror and the Gulag; nor the most unfathomable horror of all, the Nazi Holocaust and the global conflagration of WWII, culminating in the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. All of these terrible conflicts were rather the product of modern secular ideologies. Evil can be seen in different ways: 1. Traditionally looked at from the Individual Level 2. Cosmological Level (i.e. God vs. Devil) 3. Societal/Communitarian Level (institutions, culture, values) modern society New Forms of Evil: - The Industrial and Democratic Revolutions that ushered in the modern age gave humans power - Powers have introduced new forms of evil such as total war and the world arms race, genocide, the ecological crisis, poverty and world hunger, totalitarianism - New forms are enabled by improvements in society (Example: ecological crisis made possible by industrial production and consumption; Total war and genocide made possible by new technology and tool of propaganda; Totalitarianism made possible by new political forms created by democratic revolution) - Ambiguity of modernity: It is not our weakness, but our strength that allows us to do great evil Often it is not our personal intent, but the structure of our society and the content of our culture that allows us to do evil Religious Responses to Modern Evil Participation- Religion inspires or reinforces social evil (sacralisation blessing of the dominant social order and the evil it performs) Denial- Acceptance of and accommodation to modernity; refusal to accept evil and their consequences Isolation- Radical conservatism and condemnation of modernity; Modernity itself is the problem Compartmentalization- Privatization of faith Separation of faith and spirituality from their participation in modern society Engagement- Critical engagement with modern society; accept modernity, but ask what are the negative effects of industrialization and democratalization Religions are interested in a critical engagement with modern society - They look at modern evil and seek beliefs, values, and forms of community from their religion to help modern people address those modern problems - They look back at religious tradition and realize that there are some things in the past that need to be corrected critical of religious traditions - Dialectical/Cyclical relationship between modern problems and religious traditions 2 RS 121 Study Notes Module 2: Personal and Social Sin PART A: The Social Dimensions of Evil Gregory Baum introduces discussion of difference between personal sin and social sin Traditional focused on individual sin, cosmological (Satan, demons) and communitarian sin (Israel, the nations) Baum wants us to focus on social dimensions of evil in comparison to the traditional view Traditional Dimension 1. Individual Dimension- Traditional Christianity emphasizes individual dimension of evil - Individual Sin - Evil is usually understood as an individual act - The act of an individual who is overcome by temptation - The individual wants so much what evil can deliver to them (power, wealth, sexual satisfaction), they cannot resist the urge and give in to temptation - They do evil act in order to get the reward a. Subject of evil is the individual/the agent doing the evil (the one person) b. Person has intention to do evil; not an accident c. Person has the knowledge between the difference of good and evil and know that what they are doing is wrong and evil d. Person has a morally responsibility; has the capacity to make moral judgments - If all conditions are met, they understand this action as sin or evil - This definition of evil/sin has been secularized and integrated into the criminal justice system; deals with individuals who know they are doing evil and have the motive - Those that are criminally insane do not know they are doing wrong and are treated differently 2. Cosmological Dimension (ex. Satan, demons, etc.) - Christian traditions especially among conservative American evangelical fascination for the end of time: Satan and demons engage in cosmic battle with Christ, the angels and the saved - Evil is thought to be a personified force that is thought to be active in all of the cosmos - Focus on the battle between Satan and his fallen angels (devils), and Jesus, his angels and saints - Personal choices are influenced by demons and angels who constantly battle over the fate of individual souls and the fate of the earth - Apocalyptic tradition; second coming of Jesus and the defeat of Satan 3. Communitarian Dimension- Frequently mentioned in Hebrew bible and new testament - In Hebrew bible, God talks about Israel, as a nation, that can perform evil - Not individual but the nation who are called to be holy - Examples: Leviticus You (plural) shall be holy for I, the Lord your God, am holy Deuteronomy when Israel follows commandments of God, they are rewarded and are punished when they sin and dont follow commandments Matthew parable of sheep and goats - of last judgment; people are judged not as individuals, but as a nation; whether they treat the poorest among them in a humane, compassionate manner or whether they fail to do so - Generally downplayed in modern age by mainline churches; preaching on community obligation tends to be moralizing - No social analysis of structures, cultures, etc. Example: The church preaches that we as society should be more generous and more charitable, but this form does not push people to be less generous 3 RS 121 Study Notes Social Dimension: Sociological Imagination is beyond traditional concept of evil as an individual act or conflict between cosmological forces, or even a comm
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