Last week in class we presented on our sectarian congregation visits, and attended a talk in Orton about mental health and religious activism. On Monday, everyone presented on their sectarian visits, and talked about their experience while attending the service. I expected my sectarian visit to be similar to my denominational visit, but they were very different. The sectarian church I went to was called Redlands Church of Christ, and they are an evangelical Protestant group. Their beliefs are very conservative and traditional, which was very interesting to me as I have never attended an evangelical service prior to this. This group takes the Bible literally and believes that it is inerrant. I could feel some tension within this group, as they believe that the rest of the world will be damned when Christ comes again. I got a sense of an “us vs. them” mindset, and I really felt like an outsider, although they did their best to welcome me. I think the other people who attended an evangelical service also felt the “us vs. them” mindset during the service.
On Wednesday, we attended a talk in Orton that subsituted for our class. We saw two speakers, one of which was our professor. The first speaker talked about mental health and how important it is to remove the stigma surrounding it. I really enjoyed her presentation because mental health does not get the attention it deserves, and when it does it is in a negative light. Many people suffer from mental health issues, and removing the stigma that surrounds mental health would be an important step for our society. Jim was the next person to talk, and he talked about religious activism, especially among Catholic groups. This was very interesting because I was raised Catholic myself, and a lot of time people have misconceptions that all Catholics are traditional in their beliefs and very conservative, which is not the case. It was nice to see someone highlight a group of devout Catholics who were fighting for human rights, even if it went against what the Catholic church believes in.
This week in class we presented different articles that we were assigned to read. On Monday, many of the articles that were assigned focused on the effects of gender and sexuality in religion, and how they can affect personal religious beliefs. The article that my group read was called “Queering the Dragonfest” and it focused on the relationship between sexuality and religious beliefs. The author of this article noticed that throughout her study, her viewpoint changed, and she started looking at the way sexuality and gender are connected with religion, rather than focusing on feminism in religion. The second article I read on Wednesday was “At East With Our Own Kind” and it was about the relationship between social class and religion. This article really intrigued me because I previously assumed that religion was very separate from social class, but I realized how influential it actually is when deciding upon a religious organization to join. While both of these articles seem to be very different in topic, they both focus on the many outside factors that affect religion and religious beliefs, such as gender and social class. I found these articles to be very interesting because they both shed light on the outside factors that influence religion that I never gave much thought to previously.
In this article from Fox News 8, it states that Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion. In a recent Pew Researach Center study, it is projected that by 2050, 10% of all Europeans will be members of the Muslim faith. This study also states that from 2010 to 2050, those practicing Islam across the world will have increased by 73%, followed by Christianity, which is expected to grow by only 35%. Hindus are also expected to grow by 34% in this time period. This article is very interesting to me because in today’s society, there is a lot of fear surrounding the Muslim religion, but it appears to be the fastest growing. I previously assumed that Christianity was the most prominent religion in the world, but it appears that will not remain true for long. I wonder if the rise in Islam will make the American society, and society as a whole, more accepting towards this religion. If it is going to grow as much as Pew projected, I am hopeful for a future of acceptance and greater tolerance towards different religions.
Last week in class we focused on secularization in religion. We broke up into groups and each read a different article focusing on this topic. The article I read was “Secularization and its Discontents” by Warner. This article was very informative, although a little long and hard to follow. The main points of this article were sectioned off into five parts: empirical data of church decline, the intellectual context of church decline, social forces of secularization: individualism and rationalization, further socio-cultural dynamics of secularization, and secularization theory and the marginality of religion. This article talked about many reasons for secularization in Europe, but the point that stood out to me the most was about the Age of Enlightenment and how that affected the legitimacy of some people’s religious beliefs in the nineteenth century. I found that point to be the easiest to understand and the one that made the most sense to me. Religion has always been a way to explain the unexplainable, and the rise of reason and science took the place of religion in some sense. All of the articles that we discussed in class touched on different points about secularizaiton, but they were all very informative and shed light on a multitude of different theories. This topic is something I would like to continue to discuss in class, as it seems to have many layers.
In a very recent article from USA Today, it reports a new decision in the EU that allows employers to ban visible religion symbols such as Islamic headscarves and Christian crosses. The article states that this decision came about from the firing of two Muslim women in Belgium and France for refusing to take off their headscarves. While the ban refers to religious symbols in general, it is clear this decision was targeted towards Muslim headscarves, as we rarely-if ever-hear news stories about people being frightened or feeling threatened from a Christian cross. Personally, I own many Crucifix necklaces gifted to me from friends and family from numerous religious occassions, and I have only ever received compliments when wearing them. I have never been asked to take off my Crucific necklance, nor have I have heard of such a thing happening in the workplace. This article was very disappointing to read, because I previously had the notion that European countries are more accepting of different religions since they are typically less religious than the United States, according to surveys. This does not seem to be the case. This ban is another opportunity for women and men to face prejudice in an already problematic society, and it is very unsettling to know that this degree of prejudice exists in a multitude of countries around the world. This article makes me hope that the United States will not follow in the EU’s footsteps, and that we can honor our basic right to freedom of religion and the personal use of religious symbols.
Last week in class we discussed religion and social change, while also preparing for our midterm. On Monday we watched a film documenting the role of religion in African Americans’ lives and its significant influence. I really enjoyed the film as I have never considered the role of religion in African Americans’ lives, and it was interesting to see how many funcitons religion really can serve. In the film, it was apparent that religion was more than just a way to become closer to God. Religion and the church provided a sense of community and a safe space for those involved in the church. The film portrayed the church to be a place of acceptance and a place everyone can come together as equal. Especially in a society in which African Americans have faced prejudice and unfair treatment, having a safe space like a church to turn to feel like you’re a part of a larger community really is essential. It was clear to see that religion to those documented in the film was so much more than just going to church every week.
In this article from The Huffington Post, it talks about a study conducted by Pew Research Center, which surveyed approximately 4,000 Americans to see how accepting they are towards other religions. The results of this survey showed that Americans are increasingly becoming more accepting towards other relgions, as compared to a similar survey conducted by Pew in 2014. Jews and Catholics received the “warmest” rating, while Muslims received the “coldest.” I think this article is really interesting because I never would have assumed in today’s political climate that Americans are feeling more accepting towards thsoe of different religions. If anything, I would assume that there would be a decline in acceptance, especially with the large controversy surrounding Trump’s travel ban which targets Muslims, and the severe increase in threats towards Jewish community centers. While this article is surprising, it does give me hope that our soceity today is recognizing the need for acceptance, and hopefully acting on it. This article relates to our class discussions on Monday because we all gave a short three minute summary of our congregational visits, and every person who spoke had a positivie, peaceful experience. While some students were greeted and welcomed a little more enthusiastically that others were, no one spoke of being turned away or not accepted at their congregation, which really demonstrates how peaceful and welcoming many religions can be, regardless of how others “feel” about them.
As our presentations are coming to a end, I’ve noticed a couple common themes throughout every text so far. From Passionate Journeys to Tradition in a Rootless World, the common themes seem to be acceptance and longing for a sense of belonging. In these presentations we really get to see that religion is more much more than going to chruch and praying. It’s about being in a place where you feel comfortable and welcome, and finding a sense of belonging in a “rootless” world. Especially in Tradition in a Rootless World the theme of searching for a sense of belonging is very clear, although it appears in a different way than most of the other books. Instead of searching outside the realm of traditional religion, the women in this book chose the strict orthodox way, but nevertheless were still looking for
In this article from Religion News Service, it talks about Pope Francis’ opposition to Trump’s proposed “wall,” and how it is a very un-Christian thing to do. Pope Francis states that we should be building bridges instead of walls, and to “overcome evil with good.” The Pope also stated that Trump should be guided by ethical values, and take care of the poor and the outcast during his time as President, as these are very unique times in US history and history in general. Inclusiveness, generosity, love, and compassion are all Christian values, yet many Christians seem to lose sight of them. This article relates to the presentation on The Shared Parish because many Christians lose sight of their values, but when it comes down to it everyone wants the same thing and by helping others in need you are only gaining from that, never losing. Although it is an unideal situation to share a parish with a group of people you don’t know, the most Christian thing one could do is open up their doors and welcome those in need. Just like The Shared Parish, Trump should remember his Christian values since he claims to be one, and welcome those in need rather than turn them away based on minor differences.
Last week’s discussions were a little different as we started our presentations on our specific books. Having presented on Wednesday on my book Passionate Journeys, I thought it was really interesting to think about religion from the point of view of God Needs No Passport. Passionate Journeys focused on the Rajneesh cult and how thousands of men and woman found fullfillment within the teachings and values of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, while God Needs No Passport had a broader focus on religion. It was very interesting to think about the different types of religious acceptance, like religious tolerance, pluralism, and exclusivism, and especially how they relate to today’s current events. Especially in the US, it is very important to accept new religions regardless of whether or not you agree/ believe in them, as our country’s founders were also escaping religious persecution. The question of whether or not a pluralistic society can successfully exist was raised during the presentation, and while a pluralistic society may be unreasonable in today’s political climate, I believe it is possible to acheive a tolerant society.