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rel. book chapter summary

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Kenneth Derry

-Christianity in western Europe and North America has been largely dominated by Protestant traditions, where there is a strong emphasis on Some basics chapter summary faith. In this chapter I have argued that religion is something that humans do. The study of religion is concerned with people and culture. -Catholics who argued for the traditional view: that a persons religion was primarily about what s/he did (through works). Religion is an ambiguous term, with a range of meanings and references. In particular, it refers both to specific religious traditions, and also -other, were Protestants who criticised what they saw as the simplicity and superstition of this view and argued instead (in various ways) that to an aspect of human behaviour which is often assumed to be universal. true religion was rst and foremost a matter of what one thought and believed in. We should remember that the term religion has a particular history. We need to be careful when applying it in non-English-speaking contexts. But the word is often part of common usage in many contemporary cultures, and is a useful way of describing how people talk Belief is often assumed to be a central and defining element of the study of religions. However, the concept carries a lot of theoretical and about their experiences. ideological baggage since it applies a predominantly Protestant Christian concept in often inappropriate ways to non-Christian contexts. Religion is part of everyday life; it is an aspect of culture. Many studies of religion may be classed as either reductionist or phenomenological, and both remain focused on the idea of religion as Culture Chapter summary belief. Reductionists tend to assume religion as false, whilst phenomenologists seek to treat it as a thing in itself, as sui generis. Religion can be understood as a form of culture, and the study of religion is a form of cultural studies. However, this does not necessarily Belief is such an ambiguous term that it is hard to know if it can be applied to the religious practices of other people an alternative term make the study any easier, since the idea of culture is a multifaceted albeit useful tool for analysis. such as knowledge might be equally appropriate. The term culture usually refers to two quite distinct areas of life: In order to study beliefs we must locate them within a much wider context, within a particular habitus, or cultural context, and across (a) culture as cultural products, i.e. what people do in literature, art, music, and so on; and different contexts, rather than looking at belief statements as abstract words or propositions. (b) culture as a shared system or way of life. The beliefs that Christians (and others) may hold cannot simply be reduced to mere bubbles in the brain; they are practised and done as But these two ideas of culture are related: a group which shares a culture will identify with particular cultural products, and religion may act much as they are thought out. to unite the two (for example, the English as a culture share not only Shakespeare, but also the King James Bible). The study of religion and cultural products needs to pay attention not only to popular and mass culture, but also to the relations of power Rituals chapter summary within a cultural group whether those power relations be articulated in terms of high/popular culture, or mainstream and sub-cultures, or Though not all rituals are specifically religious, the study of religion and ritual highlights the viewpoint that religion is a matter of practice, majority and minority cultures. and not just belief. 150 ritual Every culture (and religion) is not a fixed or static entity; the study of culture and religion requires us to understand that all cultures are The term ritual is ambiguous, since rituals are not things that existin themselves, but are ways of acting and behaving. Ritual is better hybrid and all religions are syncretic. Such hybridity is at the centre of the study of religion and culture. described as ritual action or, in Catherine Bells phrase, as ritualisation. Ritual is a way of thinking in action, working on creating a sense of ritualisation. Power chapter summary Classical studies of ritual have analysed ritual with respect tomeanings, symbols, communications, performance, society, repetition, and There are many means by which religion and politics interact in power transformation. Each of these approaches give us certain perspectives on some of the ways in which people perform rituals, but none relations, often described through the concept of ideology. explains what rituals are about. Marxs analysis sees religion (as ideology) as a by-product of economic relations of inequality, which it legitimates and helps to mask. It is As with all other forms of action, ritual actions express and create relations of power between people. not difficult to find examples of situations where religion is used as a means of articulating and obscuring relations of power. In contrast, Weber made a case for perceiving religious ideology and practice as an element of social relations (and social change), so that Text Chapter summary religion can produce economics as well as vice versa. The study of religious texts involves both major religious works, and more minor or popular texts, including other cultural products such as Gramsci and Althusser both point out the ways in which relations of power are internalised by those without power as ideologies, whether films. through participation in hegemony (for Gramsci), or through interpellation (for Althusser). Religious texts are always part of a larger field of cultural activities, through being read, spoken, and performed. The study of religious texts Religion (and ideology) can create power, and can itself be part of a discourse that is constructed through power relations. This can operate requires that we examine more than the content of such texts, but also their context and use. on both a large-scale level, for example, between social-economic classes, and throughout all aspects of social and cultural relations in Texts create cultural worlds and are the world in which we live. That is, they are often the means by which we think about and experience the everyday life. world. Religious ideologies, as a set of both ideas and practices, may be part of the justification and imposition of power relations, and also the The idea of the death of the author does not suggest the end of authored texts, but rather that authorship gives authority and particular means by which power is challenged and resisted. meanings to a text. Understanding of texts also requires us to look at how readers create meanings, either as individuals or as members of interpretative Gender chapter summary communities. That is, texts come to have particular meanings through being read, not only through being written. Studies of religion need to be gender critical. Indeed, gender is a very important category of difference, as a key element of the practice and The study of religious texts requires a study of human activity, not simply written words. ideology of power differences in many cultures. Gender-critical studies need to look at how religious cultures are constructed and practised around both women and men. However, a central Contemporary religion summary problematic about the study of religion and culture remains focused
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