This week we learned about religion becoming more individualized, as well as it being a source of community. The former was an interesting, if rushed, look at how people are taking preconceived notions of religion and changing them to better suit their own needs and desires. Fascinating stories like those of the Gospel Hour and the Dragon Festival were incredibly unique real-world perspectives on how radically personalized religion can be, and the essays by McGuire, Woodhead, and Zimbauer were really interesting discussions of how and why these trends are being introduced. The discussion of religion being used as a source of community also raised some interesting new viewpoints. It was a valuable experience for me because I have recently been having doubts regarding religion’s place in this world, but the idea of religion fostering a sense of community growth and acceptance illuminates quite a bit for me. The article I was assigned, regarding the reproduction of an ethnically faithful space for immigrants to America, was particularly helpful in this regard, showing me just how valuable religion can be as a way of bringing people together when everything else in their environment is strange and foreign to them.
Going forward into this next week we will be discussing our second congregation visits. I am very excited to see how other people experienced this vastly different religious world. I know that when it comes to me personally, this was the first time I’d ever visited a sectarian congregation, and the contrast between it and the congregations I’m used to was very startling. I look forward to comparing notes with the rest of the class.