For the first time in years a French politician used religion as a means to gain a vote. In France there is a clear line between the church and state. It is not only an odd way to promote presidency, but the way Marine Le Pen went about gained more press. She refused to put on a headscarf to meet with a Muslim leader in Beirut, however, she met with a Roman Catholic leader and Lebanese Maronite leader where there was press and cameras to capture the moment. Many people commented on this believing she was sending a clear message: Christians- good, Muslims- bad. In any case, these publicized meetings resulting in the resurgence of religion in France.
This relates to our readings and the way that religion can play a role in both society and politics. While France is not considered to be a religion country, there is still an awareness of the role of religion. Politicians are trying to take new angles and use religion for their benefit.
This week there were multiple presentations and readings on the religious landscape. Some articles that were read had a focus on religion within the direct society and its importance or lack thereof. In other articles there was an emphasis on theory and the theorists who helped develop the sociology of religion. The theorists where not all specifically sociologist, but rather applied their ideas to the realm of sociology. In this way we are able to look at religion and its importance from the view point of those like Marx.
McGuire’s reading on religion and the individual was the most interesting to me. I had the same questions that she presented: is religion itself on the decline or is the way people practice different than traditional ways, therefore there isn’t a way to measure it as easily as before. After talking to people and taking multiple religion classes, this is what I think it happening. Religion is not declining, but the way that people practice is. People are becoming frustrated with the idea that “one size fits all,” therefore they are making religion their own and practicing it in a way that helps them to get closer to a higher being.
Last week we only had one discussion in class because of the midterm. This discussion was based around McGuire’s Chapter 7. A main focus that McGuire talked about was the role religion plays in people’s lives. It provides a world view and shows individuals how to be human; this in itself has an effect on society. In contemporary times religion has found a decrease. Chapter 7 was a framework for the questions and ways in which sociologists are able to explain religion.
The reading for the class this week provided different explanations for the decline of religion. One main focus was individualism and secularization. There are statistics that show religious attendance is declining, therefore religion itself is declining. However, with the growth of spirituality, as previously discussed in the class, and the rise of individualistic religion, is religion itself declining? Or, is it simply, the ideas of what we believe religion to be are changing? Religion in a society has multiple roles and one of these is the importance in community. However, as America becomes less community based, the church is no longer the center of people’s lives and therefore is not the center of the society. Church is not only a place of worship, but it is a place to learn about what is going on in the lives of others, to stay connected, and to create relationships. As churches become less important and people’s lives become busier and filled with other things, religion is no longer a staple, but it is more in the way we practice religion. This brings it back to McGuire’s definition of unofficial and official religion. Maybe people are practicing in other ways, maintaining their religion in a different way.
Chapter 7 depicts the way in which religion influences social change. McGuire starts by stating “a religious idea or movement may become transformed into something very different from what it’s originators intended, and the influence of religion is often indirect” (237). This idea interested me. She used Quakers as an example, but it reminded me of the Nazi movement and the effects that “religious” movement had on the world. While some consider this movement strictly political, I would argue that it is an example of a civil religious movement. It continues as a trend throughout history as well as the world that religious movements don’t always continue to preach what they did in the beginning.
McGuire continues her chapter with a small section on how religion supports the status quo. This section grabbed my attention as well because my religion has always been counter cultural. I have grown up being told “you are in this world, but not of this world.” This idea of religion is that it goes against the status quo and while the world continues to change, Orthodoxy stays the same. However, as we learned from the presentations, not all religions or Christian denominations believe this. Religion can be a way to incorporate modern ideas and promote them even more than they usually would be. Religion can release propaganda that can further a cause.
Like McGuire said “change itself is neither necessarily good nor bad” (237).
In wake of the stressful political climate and negative views of some religions in the news, two senators are trying to go against other politicians political agenda and create safe havens for religions. A Democrat and Republican are calling Congress to invest $20 million “to improve security at these centers — whether they are Jewish or affiliated with another faith.” The money will not be used towards the establishment of churches, synagogues, or mosques, but rather for community centers which are religiously affiliated. The article highlights the high number of bomb threats that certain centers have received.
This article relates to what we talked about in class because of the duality of forms that religion can take. In this case, civil government is playing a role within religion to help the community and society. However, religion is also the cause of a divide within the same society. It is being attacked by individuals of other religions or who find religion a threat. It is not a “black and white” problem or solution. Religion is a gray area within society.
The diversity of the presentations this past week was astonishing. From a discussion of a cult and freedom, to the strict aspects of women who choose a life of Orthodox Judaism, the experiences varied. While all the presentations this week were interesting, two stuck out to me: Traditions in a Rootless World and Reinventing American Protestantism. I think they interested me more because of the opposite experience individuals were seeking for their religious life. For the women who chose to be Orthodox Jews, they lived strict lives with guided rules and structure. Their traditions consisted on following concrete rules which in a very specific way. On the other hand, Reinventing America Protestantism focused on the idea of a casual experience with God and your religious practices. While both can be considered to be based on more conservative ideals, the experience of these ideals vary.
One question that the group on the Paradigm Church proposed to the class was “do you think the popularity of the mega church will lead to the extinction of the type of churches and religious institution that have come before it?” This question stuck out to me because I think this trend has always been a part of religion. There has not been a time where a church or another community has come from another and gained more popularity than the more traditional counterpart. However, early churches such as the Eastern Orthodox or Jewish traditions such as Orthodox Judaism are still in existence. It is obvious that the numbers in America differ between the mega churches and more traditional, but that is religious freedom. Each person is seeking something different and we have the ability to search for what we are most attracted to. In my opinion the paradigm churches are very unattractive. I don’t want it to be as “relatable” as social media or other things. I want to church to feel like it is other worldly, but I might be the only one. The beauty of having a choice is being able to do what you think is best.
On February 14 there was an article posted on scpr.org titled Religion and Culture: Refugees of Different Faiths Seek LA Armenian Church Help. It explored a diverse community coming together to seek aid from a common source. Both Christian and Muslim refugees are going to Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Los Angeles. They call the priest there “abouna,” which is father in Arabic. They have sought his help in both financial and moral issues. He stated that he has more than 30 people contact him throughout a day looking for assistance. The priest mentioned other places which refugees are seeking assistance as well.
The article included a lot of logistical facts such as which countries the individuals were coming from and the number of refugees which have been displaced. However, I think the highlight of the piece was the ability to show the coexistence between different people. They were not only from different religions, but also different countries. This related to the presentation about the shared parish. Our Lady Queen of Martyrs is a parish that is a haven for refugees of all kinds.
This week was mixed with talking about the book and the film we watched as well as listening to, and in my case presenting, book presentations. Within the first class we discussed the different roles religion can have within a society. Two of these roles were contradicting. One was role that it plays in bringing communities together, while the other consisted of the ways in which religion causes destruction and separation. This related to the book I presented on. In God Needs No Passport, Levitt tried to show the positives about religion’s influence to America in the form of immigrants. She argued immigrants who come to America help to diversify the population and help us to build bridges with the world around us. I agree with Levitt on some issues, but not all. I agree that immigrants can help the dynamic of America and I believe they have a place and home within our borders. However, as we discussed in class and what Jim brought up, is that Levitt cannot see that there are people who agree with their religion and believe it to be true, but can also be in conversation with others who don’t agree.
Religions are different and acting as though they are all the same is not honest. While I might be the outlier of the class and believe myself to be tolerant rather than pluralist, I know that there are somethings in other religions that I do not agree with. However, I still believe in conversation for knowledges sake. It is not realistsic to believe that you will have a conversation with someone of different thought and change their mind completely. I think going into conversations with this objective can only lead to more problems. However, I do believe that one can be a human about issues such as different opinions and immigration and look to treat others with love, despite their beliefs.
In Chapter 6 McGuire highlights the different roles religion can play within a society. Two ways she proposed was that it helped to hold a society together through cohesion, while the other suggested religion tears a society a part. However, it is clear that religion can do both at the same time.
An article entitled ‘Ring of Peace’ Surround Canada’s Mosques in Wake of Deadly Attack posted on The Huffington Post portrayed McGuire’s depictions well. In Toronto Canada a group of individuals from multiple religions stood in solidarity around the Islamic Center. Last week a gunman open fired in a Canadian Mosque. He killed six individuals and injured nineteen. In response to this, others held hands around their local Islamic Center protecting it and sending a message that despite their religion, they are humans.
Throughout recent years Islamophobia has become more prevalent. There have been religious extremists from different religions both aiding Islamophobia and trying to prevent it. I think this article is an example that while extremism and fear can tear a society a part by means of religion, religion can also bring people together to fight against this.
This week in class we discussed religious organizations, typology, and trends in American religion. Within Christianity there are different polities. These power structures and hierarchies range from being run by elected and elevated officials to simply a group of people following someone. As noted in class, there is a similarity between the religions(Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism) in which once they migrate and settle in America, the polity becomes congregational. The term that is used to described with polity is autonomous, or self governing. The churches, temples, and mosques no longer belong to an outside governing power. I think this is interesting because it is somewhat mimicking the “American dream.” Thry are becoming separate to do the best for each individual organization; this is something only seen in America.
McGuire presented her own religious typology. The chart which we saw in class describes where each organization or sect can fit. Throughout time these can shift and change. Some more traditional denominations have become more lenient. Other trends that have appeared in America is the increase in spiritual, but not religious and a decrease in the Bible being literal. These trends continue to appear despite their source. It makes me wonder if we will see a rise in religion after this period of decreasing religion. Throughout history this has happened before, such as the first and second Religious Awakening. It is intersting, however, to learn America is more religious than other countries. Maybe it is only the Western European countries that we have talked about, but I still think it is surprising.