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rel. book chapter summary

Course Code
Kenneth Derry

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Some basics chapter summary
In this chapter I have argued that religion is something that humans do. The study of religion is concerned with people and culture.
Religion is an ambiguous term, with a range of meanings and references. In particular, it refers both to specific religious traditions, and also
to an aspect of human behaviour which is often assumed to be universal.
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
about their experiences.
Religion is part of everyday life; it is an aspect of culture.
Culture Chapter summary
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
make the study any easier, since the idea of culture is a multifaceted albeit useful tool for analysis.
The term culture usually refers to two quite distinct areas of life:
(a) culture as cultural products, i.e. what people do in literature, art, music, and so on; and
(b) culture as a shared system or way of life.
But these two ideas of culture are related: a group which shares a culture will identify with particular cultural products, and religion may act
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
within a cultural group – whether those power relations be articulated in terms of ‘high/popular’ culture, or mainstream and sub-cultures, or
majority and minority cultures.
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
hybrid and all religions are syncretic. Such hybridity is at the centre of the study of religion and culture.
Power chapter summary
There are many means by which religion and politics interact in power
relations, often described through the concept of ideology.
Marx’s analysis sees religion (as ideology) as a by-product of economic relations of inequality, which it legitimates and helps to mask. It is
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
religion can produce economics as well as vice versa.
Gramsci and Althusser both point out the ways in which relations of power are internalised by those without power as ideologies, whether
through participation in hegemony (for Gramsci), or through interpellation (for Althusser).
Religion (and ideology) can create power, and can itself be part of a discourse that is constructed through power relations. This can operate
on both a large-scale level, for example, between social-economic classes, and throughout all aspects of social and cultural relations in
‘everyday life’.
Religious ideologies, as a set of both ideas and practices, may be part of the justification and imposition of power relations, and also the
means by which power is challenged and resisted.
Gender chapter summary
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
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
problematic about the study of religion and culture remains focused on questions of women’s experiences of religion.
Western perceptions of women in other religions – such as women in Islam – require a subtle and carefully examined exploration of the
politics of religious behaviour, such as the wearing of hijab, i.e.‘the veil’.
Such an analysis also needs to recognise other aspects of difference, such as ‘race’, class, ethnicity, age, and sexuality, which are all
important social elements that affect religious and cultural practices.
Belief chapter SUMMARY
Belirf notes
-Edward Tylor, who gave a famous definition of religion as ‘the belief in spiritual beings’ (Tylor 1871: 8).
-The focus on belief in the study of religion, and as the means of trying to ‘explain’ or ‘interpret’ religion, is by no means as106 belief
straight forward as Tylor’s comments seem to suggest.
-Christianity in western Europe and North America has been largely dominated by Protestant traditions, where there is a strong emphasis on
-Catholics who argued for the traditional view: that a person’s religion was primarily about what s/he did (through ‘works’).
-other, were Protestants who criticised what they saw as the simplicity and superstition of this view and argued instead (in various ways) that
‘true religion’ was first and foremost a matter of what one thought and believed in.
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
ideological baggage since it applies a predominantly Protestant Christian concept in often inappropriate ways to non-Christian contexts.
Many studies of religion may be classed as either reductionist or phenomenological, and both remain focused on the idea of religion as
belief. Reductionists tend to assume religion as ‘false’, whilst phenomenologists seek to treat it as a thing in itself, as ‘sui generis’.
‘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
such as ‘knowledge’ might be equally appropriate.
In order to study beliefs we must locate them within a much wider context, within a particular habitus, or cultural context, and across
different contexts, rather than looking at belief statements as abstract words or propositions.
The beliefs that Christians (and others) may hold cannot simply be reduced to mere ‘bubbles in the brain’; they are practised and done as
much as they are thought out.
Rituals chapter summary
Though not all rituals are specifically religious, the study of religion and ritual highlights the viewpoint that religion is a matter of practice,
and not just belief. 150 ritual
The term ritual is ambiguous, since rituals are not things that existin themselves, but are ways of acting and behaving. Ritual is better
described as ‘ritual action’ or, in Catherine Bell’s phrase, as ‘ritualisation’. Ritual is a way of thinking in action, working on creating a ‘sense
of ritualisation’.
Classical studies of ritual have analysed ritual with respect tomeanings, symbols, communications, performance, society, repetition, and
transformation. Each of these approaches give us certain perspectives on some of the ways in which people perform rituals, but none
explains ‘what rituals are about’.
As with all other forms of action, ritual actions express and create relations of power between people.
Text Chapter summary
The study of religious texts involves both major religious works, and more ‘minor’ or popular texts, including other cultural products such as
Religious texts are always part of a larger field of cultural activities, through being read, spoken, and performed. The study of religious texts
requires that we examine more than the content of such texts, but also their context and use.
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
The idea of the ‘death of the author’ does not suggest the end of authored texts, but rather that authorship gives authority and particular
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
communities’. That is, texts come to have particular meanings through being read, not only through being written.
The study of religious texts requires a study of human activity, not simply written words.
Contemporary religion summary
Contemporary religious traditions are embedded within the processes of modernity. All religions are shaped by forces such as
postcolonialism, multiculturalism, globalisation, nationalism, ethnicity, and transnationalism.
To study any particular religion we must look at both the local and the global level, to see how particular processes in a region or country
may be affected by global issues such as the movement of people and international communications and travel. Post-colonial economic and
political inequality may also produce both global and local responses.
Multiculturalism can be understood not only in terms of nationality and ethnicity, but also with regard to religion. All three parts of this
‘multicultural triangle’ can change and influence each other.
The discussion of a decline in religion in western countries has largely been concerned with changes in traditional Christian churches.
Secularisation can be seen as a transformation in religious practice, producing responses of privatisation, pluralisation, innovation, and de-re-
For many people in the west, ‘religion’ has become ‘spirituality’ that is, de-institutionalised and more individualist religion.
An understanding of religion is a significant element of understanding the complexities of the contemporary world.
List four was in which the movie Thor may be connected to religion.
→ The movie is connected to religion because Thor is seen as a Alien.
→ He is arrogant – gets punish – change – gain power again.
→ He is like a savior figure (like Jesus), he dies and come back to life.
→ In most religion is you are separated from community and than you come back in a new role.
→ Religion Perspective – you need to learn certain things ex-Thor had to learn passion, love, peace, etc.
How does spider man 2 show the relationship b/w religion and culture?
→ Show Peter as religious, Jesus being sacrifice like Peter was in one of the scenes.
→ Superheroes come out of American cultures.
→ Christ figure superheroes like spider man who is there to save people.
→ He's a lone figure like many religious figures. Also heroes are mostly male in cultures.
→ In one scene where peter looks crucified resembling him to Jesus
What is “syncretism” and why is it a problem for “world religion” approach?
→ Syncretism – influence b/w traditions as they overlap each other. (which refers to religious mixing, is considered to be offensive and insulting, implying a process of‘watering down’ or even ‘bastardisation’ because its taking an original religion and mixing
in another one, making it more concentrated.
→ ex- Christians Japanese pray like Buddhist.
might make assumptions that since Christians sacred place of worship is the church, that all Christine’s go to church. But in fact that is not the case because there are Christian Buddhist
Is culture fixed/static (why or why not) give three examples to illustrate your point.
→ Never fixed or stay same. Hybrid culture is now in Canada more than before with new idea.
→ Restaurant you love to go to is gone.
→Not fixed/static always changing- why? Because of hybridity(Means 2 things combine)AND syncretism(means rel. mixing). Hybridity: merging of rel. to make better religion, similar to syncretism.
→3 ex. North American culture deeply influenced by Christianity , African rituals have incorporated elements of Islam, Japanese Shinto have written text under the influence of the Chinese Buddhist.
Explain Stuarts Halls view of power and culture and illustrate this view using the “bad romance” video.
→ P.O.V was popular culture
→ In the video there is rebelling – bad romance rebel?
→ In the video you see cross, T in monsters, symbol one-eye, also we see man watching women which show the power of man being rich. hegemony
→ There is a overlap b/w cultures and religion.
Give an example of a scene from the big bang theory that illustrate Gramscis idea of counter hegemony.
→ Hegemony – predominant influence.
→ Sheldon says he's not religious but he is deeply religious as he is so involve in science which is another part of religion.
→ He also has a ritual of dinner eating pattern for example they have game nights, and he also eat at the same spot and no one else can sit at that spot.
→He knocks on the door 3 times, so thus his life is constructed of routines and repetition.
How does video footage of the G8 summit in Toronto relate to the panopticon and to the idea that power relations are complex.
→ Panopticon is like a prison where people are being watch.
→ In the G8 summit there was many police officers in front of the crowd but no one could tell who's looking at who.
→ Police has power, but the idea of panopticon is reduce because either side don't know if they are being watch.
→ Panopticon can be related to the god and humans and how good can see us where we cannot
In what ways is the high esteem in which the mind is held to gender issue?
How were gender relations in many indigenous culture affected by colonization?
→ There was a strong division b/w male and female roles, women have their own rituals/stories and men have their own rituals/stories and neither side know each other rituals and stories.
→ Tricksters – mostly men stories.
→ Decisions made by men and women together.
After Colonization many men lost their roles, it caused tension b/w men and women and the community started to turn to themselves like rapping, abuse and such things.
How is Martin Luther relevant to the emphasis on belief in the study of religion?
→ He was a catholic and he wasn't happy with the church so he created 95 thesis which started protestant reformation.
→ He argued that catholic church has institution b/w person and God; emphasis on rituals.
→ *He said that beliefs is most important thing in religion and everyone should be able to read the bible by themselves.
Explain the difference b/w cognitive and affective beliefs, illustrated with examples from the big bang theory.
→ Cognitive is what we think is believe and affective is how we act/actions.
→ Ex from big bang – Sheldon believe that there was never a break up with Amy, but than he ends up getting bunch of cats. He doesn't agree that he whined about Amy, but in reality his behavior show that he did.
Give two examples of religious home rituals associated with food rituals that take place in formal places of worships.
→ Passover – which has a story behind it as it is to remember the time of Jesus.
→ In Cuba the food is prepared with yellow feather and yellow spices which represent “Oshon” spirit female.
Explain how making a food offering to Buddhist monks is different than religious food charity that seeks to help the poor.
→ It is different cuz monks represent closeness to Gods, they are the one known to guide that people to the future, and giving them food is not charity. It is offering food to yourself as people who give food think that they will turn like monks in next life time.
Food offering is more important than charity.
Explain how rituals of three different Indigenous culture reinforce and express power relations.
→ Vision quest, wiradjuri rite of passage (male), Xosa – cow sacrifice (female) but yet done by male.
→ It shows gender power.
Explain two ways in which the issue of context is related to interpreting the last words of Jesus in the NT gospels.
→ One way is historical development of understanding Jesus...written 30 yrs later.
→ second way is when it was written/how things have change from that period. Also it looks at how Christians themselves look at the text...now Christians vs before Christians
Give three examples of Indigenous art or architecture that demonstrate the idea that “what you see is not what you get.”
→ Malagon - death rituals (sculpture), Navajo – sand painting (washed), clothes, baskets, totem poles, shrines, etc they all have whole other meaning to what you see.
Using three examples show how elements of visual culture relate to the “religious belief” of the lion king.
→ Be who you are meant to be, everyone has a role to play...
→ Mark on simba forehead – show special role.
→ Drawing made of simba and than erase cuz evil uncle thinks simba is dead.
→ When realize simba is alive he put circle around the picture.
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