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Chapter 1&2

RLG101 Chapter 1 & 2 Book Notes.docx

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Kenneth Derry

Chapter 1- Religion: Some Basics  First defining moment of 21 century occurred at 9 a.m. in New York on September 11 , 2001 Jet airplanes and tall steel and glass skyscrapers key images of modernity st  Since 9/11 clear that religion is part and parcel of unfolding of 21 century  Religion: something that humans do, and so study of religion is primarily concerned with people and cultures The Basics: Religion and Culture  For many, religion is: something that involves going to church, reading and reflecting on certain sacred texts, believing and having faith, performing certain ritual practices, and living in certain way  Religion very often impacts on levels of life  Culture influenced by the predominant religion of society  Religion person practices always influenced by cultural context and location  Should not analyze it and set aside  Practitioners of religions may consider abstract and transcendent issues to be most central aspects of their religion  Religion is integral to other aspects of cultural activity  Religion: both set of ideas and beliefs that people can engage with  Study of religion: understanding how religion may be an important element of how people across the world may manifest their differences  Religion is cross-cultural  how certain religions are different in other countries  Search for ultimate truths and answers  Require element of scholarly agnosticism we should only claim competence in field of experience which is known: the human world  Human-centered approach: study of religion as human practice, activity that appears to be integral to all humans  Human practices are not human creations; maybe divinely inspired  Theology: study of religion on such religious (faith-centered) basis Religion and Culture  Psychologists have looked at personality while anthropologists and sociologists have looked at culture  Beginning of 20 century, reason for existence of religion was personality  Writers tried to explain that individuals got religious ideas from childhood  Sigmund Freud: religion is a misguided and unhealthy outcome of the problems inherent in a young boy working through his relationship with his father  Area of parenthood, culture and cultural differences is important factor in order to understand religion  Religion is not some free-floating thing that exists outside of the cultural setting; to understand it we must also understand that context Page 1 of 7 Religion and Religions  Four statements: 1) religion is an aspect of most cultures 2) Buddhism is an important religion in Tibet 3) A mosque is a religious building for Muslims 4) meditation is a religious action Religion:  a) a common and quite general aspect of humanityb) specific religions c) adjectival d) verb  When person practices their religion they are “religioning” Religions: Particular Traditions  Religion is a: a) Noun- Universal aspect of human life b) Noun- Specific Religions refer to particular groups and traditions (ex. Buddhism…) c) Adjective- used in general sense to describe a type of thing or behaviour or experience d) Verb- Not a thing, but an action, more of a process of doing  We have to be prepared to learn how to apply and adapt our concept of religion into these other context  In order to do that^^ we need to break down religion into religions  Describing different religions world religions paradigm  What makes religions different? : -major texts (sacred books) -foundational ideas, beliefs, and worldviews -particular histories and leaders -sense of having a distinct identity  Indigenous religions: cover area around globe that puts them on more equal footing with other world religions  Common religions = recent western history Religion as a Universal  Not label to divide and classify different traditions, but as broad category for describing universal aspect of human life  Problem: may in western world don‟t seem to have religion  Many describe themselves as: humanists, Marxists or plain atheists  Religion may be a matter of choice and socialization  Civil religion- seeks to create a sense of religion that binds together those of many different religious backgrounds as well as none Page 2 of 7  Quasi-religions: post-traditional, post-modern, secularized world  Religion is an English-language word  can‟t easily be translated in other cultures Defining the term “Religion”  Jonathan Z. Smith: “religion is solely the creation of the scholar‟s study”  Religion- way of talking about the world, perceiving differences and similarities with other types of activities  Based on human activity  Religion is not something mystical and detached from human sphere, it is what people do and how they talk about what they do The Study of Religion and Culture  Religion does not exist as a thing it‟s a term with multitude of meanings and references  Study of religion based on methodological pluralism and interdisciplinary  Religion is an ambiguous term Chapter 2- Culture  For writer, Raymond Williams (1976), culture is one of the three most complicated terms in the English language  Cultural studies: broad range of scholarly ideas and approaches  Religious studies: form of cultural studies  Cultural studies are relevant to most aspects of human life: work, play, adulthood, youth, films, literature, sports…  Term „culture‟ doesn‟t refer to an entity itself  Culture is something that is done, it is found in material products (books, clothing, buildings, objects, etc.) Raymond Williams: Types of Culture  We have culture that we belong to and that makes us who we are (Scottish, Italian, Indian, etc.)  Three ways in which culture can be used: 1) culture as an ideal 2) culture in a documentary sense, and 3) culture in a social sense  Culture is a shared way of life, in relation to anthropological and sociological studies of religion Elite Culture  Ideal culture: used to mark out and distinguish particular types of product which are through to be of high quality and of considerable artistic worth  Not every book or piece of music is considered to be culture  Most type of music, usually classical music (ex. Mozart, Vivaldi and Bach) seen to express this type of culture Page 3 of 7  One could pursue the study of culture as study of the attempt by humans to reach perfection and civilization through cultural expressions  Culture is a primarily process of discovering and describing peaks of human expression  May choose to begin study of religion with examination of major cultural products (books, music, art, etc.) (example: Christian Bible literary and artistic)  Relationship between religion and high culture extends well beyond texts (Example: “The Dome of Rock”  significant piece of early Muslim architecture)  Much of European art and culture was structured around religious themes  How the study of religion can be explored through cultural studies Culture on the Popular Level  There are questions for artistic quality about any cultural expression, needs to be more critical analysis of how work itself related to a wider field  Documentary level of culture: study of culture should not only focus on elite type of culture (like, Shakespeare) but also on other cultural artists and products (like, Madonna)  Analysis not concerned with which one is better, but both have produced serious pieces of cultural work  Culture on the popular level: leads into area of study which appears to have very wide boundaries and may include very wide range of approaches  Forms of culture studied in this way are extremely diverse, like the methodologies  If study of religion needs to be related to study of culture, it should not be focused more on the study of elite forms of religious culture, but how certain texts and products are used  We can see culture as being integral to contemporary religion and vice versa Stuart Hall: Popular Culture  Concept of “popular culture” central to understanding of cultural practice and needs to be explored in detail  Stuart Hall suggested that there are 3 different ways in which we can talk about the “popular” 1) popular as well liked by the masses 2) popular as simply what people do, and 3) popular as being in contrast to the dominant (or elite) culture Mass appeal and the business of culture  Popular refers to anything that has mass appeal  Critical issue: mass appeal is bound
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