All posts by Maria A.

Reflection on Family and Religion

Last class we had two more presentations that emphasized something that I think is vital to religion and that is family, or a sense of community.  In the presentation on the two communities Bais Chana and the Lincoln Square Synagogue, one of the biggest draws was the sense of community and sense of belonging to something greater than one’s self.  This also seemed to be the case with the paradigm churches discussed in the second presentation.  I personally found the idea of the paradigm church to be appealing but would most likely enjoy smaller spaces for service rather than auditorium size.

In this day and age, I think it is very easy to get lost and feel disconnected from the rest of society.  In big cities it’s easy to feel like just one of many, to feel small, and it is difficult to create communities with people and feel connected to others.  I think this is one of the reasons why community and family are so appealing.  Humans are wired to be social beings, arguably, it’s because that ensures our survival, but also because connection with others and the world around us can allow us to find meaning in our lives.  Religion is one of those ways in which we can find meaning in our lives while also being part of something greater than ourselves. However, for me religion provided meaning but I was never part of a religious community the way it seems the members of Protestant paradigm churches and Bais Chana and Lincoln Square Synagogue were like.  Maybe my own religious path would have been much different if this was the case.

(Sunday 2/16 Reflection)

Losing My Religion – Dear Sugars

In a recent podcast from Dear Sugars Radio on NPR, one listener writes to Sugars about their difficulty in letting their parents know they are no longer Christian, and in fact, are now atheist.  She considers not telling them at all.  However, she no longer knows how to be herself around her parents.  When she participates in LGBTQ rallies her parents ask her why (in fear that she might be gay).  When she feels uncomfortable about them not recycling, her parents feel uncomfortable at any mention of sex.  In short, her beliefs and identity have come into question and she tiptoes around her own spoken opinions in fear that she will be found out by her parents.  Sugars (consisting of six people), replied with different opinions.

One piece of advice to this writer was that she needed to stop being so hard on herself and her parents and instead of looking at it as ‘religion’ or ‘God’ she should just think of it as faith.  Faith is what allowed her to become who she is.  Another person advises to be transparent with her parents about her faith.  Another wisely advises to question what she has denied.  She has denied the conception of “God” from the Christian faith but maybe God doesn’t have to be who they say he is in the Christian religion.

I personally agree with this last piece of advice.  When one has been raised into a certain religion it is easy to associate these things with that particular religion and not question alternatives.  It is easy to deny what we do not agree with and let bygones be bygones but it’s much harder to let one’s self live in a state of ambiguity while searching for answers.  I thought that the different pieces of advice given were interesting perspectives on religion, faith, and it’s role in people’s lives and families.

Podcast Link

(Religion in the News – February 15th)


In our last class we learned about two different presentations.  The presentation on the book, “God Needs No Passport” made me think about how we see the people around us who are involved with religion and those who aren’t.  I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark for four months, and while I was there I noticed how secular the people seem to be as well as their emphasis on humanism, equality, fairness etc.  This reminded me of the two terms discussed in the presentation.  What I saw in Denmark appeared to be a great example of religious tolerance.  Religion isn’t something that is really talked about to your friends or people you know and is something private in Denmark.  The majority of the Danish people seem to be accepting of other religions, but the next step to pluralism doesn’t seem to be there.  It takes effort to be able to find communities or spaces in which to practice your religion with others, so in this way Denmark seems to be tolerant, but not pluralist.  All of this is just my opinion from what I have learned and experienced in Denmark.

The presentation on different types of people in terms of their relationship to religion was interesting.  I think it is hard to have only four categories of people just because the relationship an individual can have with their religion and how they treat others can not be reduced to four archetypes. There are many factors that can play into how one sees religion in the world versus in their lives versus in their communities and I think people and nations need to learn to be more tolerant of different beliefs to allow people to coexist.

U.S. Shows Explicit Bias Towards Christian Refugees

In this article published by the Pew Research Center, the author discusses the recent data from the 2016 fiscal year regarding the religious affiliation’s of refugees accepted into the United States.  Katayoun Kishi states that the majority of refugees who are being accepted into the United States are Christians who are religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries.  However, the author states that Christians are not the only religious minorities in these countries. This makes me wonder as to the fairness of the criteria used to determine which refugees are accepted into the U.S.  Applying to enter the U.S. as a refugee is a long and arduous process but many refugees are willing to endure this for chances at a better life, yet for these roadblocks to be placed in their way due to religious discrimination and ignorance is both angering and disheartening.

Trump has stated in an announcement that preference for refugee applications will be given to those who are Christian.  This increasing discrimination toward Muslims and Muslim countries is disgraceful and shows a real need for more dialogue and awareness of global issues and the religion of Islam.  I hope that the continuous protests and loud voices against things like the Muslim Ban, the DAPL, and de-funding of sanctuary cities will make Trump reconsider his policies.

News Article Link

No Change in Doctrine

Chapter 5 in “Religion: The Social Context” discusses in-depth the different types of collective religious stances and individual religious orientations.  Within this typology is that of the denominational stance which describes groups that “exist in a positive relationship with society and accept the legitimacy class of other religious collectivities with a denominational stance” (Pg. 157).  In the article, C of E Bishops Refuse to Change Stance on Gay Marriage, the writer talks about the Church of England’s long withstanding orthodox doctrine on marriage.  According to their doctrine, marriage can only be between  a man and a woman.  A ruling like this seems to put the Church of England in a position of tension with the greater society today for refusing to adopt doctrine to fit in with the 21st century.

Members of the Church of England were divided, some stating that the church accepts divorce now and other biblical orthodoxies are no longer taken literally, while the other side says that biblical principles need to be upheld and doctrine should not “bow” to contemporary culture. Despite their ruling, the C of E wants to advocate freedom for gay people and stand against homophobia.  I think these are the kind of rulings that influence the religious orientation of some people.  The changes or lack of in doctrine disagree with an individual’s beliefs or clash with society in ways that cause their religious orientation to shift.  This could lead them to move away from their religious faith to something that matches their beliefs better such as spiritual or cult collectives.

Article Link

What makes a religion official?

This week we learned about the differences between official and non-official religion.  In addition to learning about mysticism and cults.  The cultic stance vs the churchly stance have some main differences.  Society views cults with relative negative tension, much more so than other groups such as churches or larger denominations.  Cults do not claim to have the truth and are tolerant of other groups and other beliefs.  Often the larger society will hold dissent to cultic groups, vice versa, cultic groups can hold disdain for the cultural shallowness and distractions that the greater society provides which takes away from members achieving higher spirituality.

The churchly stance on the other hand is widely recognized by society and in fact, some countries still do not have a separation between church and state.  Also, unlike cultic groups, they do not recognize the legitimacy of any other religious groups. In relation to society, a churchly stance tends to support the societal status quo.

I found these things interesting to learn about, but I still find it difficult to understand the role of cultic groups and how they are formed or recognized as such.  In relation to religious collectivity stances, McGuire also discusses with individual religious orientations.  “The two key characteristics for conceptualizing individual orientations are: the extent to which the member’s role as a religious person is segmented into a separate role or is expected to be diffused throughout every aspect of the person’s life, and the extent to which the individual judges self and others according to standards of ‘mass’ or ‘virtuoso’ religiosity.” I personally would fall more into a churchly/mystical orientation.  I don’t believe there is one truth and am open to the claims of other religious groups, however I have an intrinsic religiosity that stems from my upbringing. McGuire shed a lot of light on the many ways religion can express itself in an individual and society.

Religion Changing Communities

Reading this article, “How Islam Took Root in One of South America’s Most Violent Cities”,  reminded me of all the ways in which religion can bring people together and also empower them in some ways.  The people of Buenaventura, Columbia live in a city in which there is much violence, crime, and poverty.  In the 1960s Islam was first brought to this community by Esteban Mustafa Melendez, and African-American sailor who taught about the Nation of Islam.  To the people of this city, “The Nation of Islam offered an alternative identity and it was a way to fight back against the situation of structural racial discrimination in the port.”  90 percent of the population was Afro-Columbian and to them the message of black power and self-esteem united them in a time that was fraught with racism and violence.

The people who joined the small Muslim community learned to read Arabic, read the Qu’ran, and looked to Saudi Arabia for guidance on Sunni and Shia interpretations.  The community that started off small quickly took off in the 1979 following the Islamic Revolution.  A community center that doubled as a mosque was built as well as a school that integrates Spanish and Arabic songs praising Allah.  portraits of Malcolm X and the Ayatollah Khamenei are hung on the walls and the people greet each other with ““Salaam alekum” and then switching back to Spanish.

This is an amazing example to me of how religion can take root in a community and bring people together as well as provide a means for self-empowerment and a haven from the violence that surrounds their daily lives.  This community is also an example of how religious organizations can interact with their social environments and embed itself into the culture of a people.  In McGuire Chapter 6, she talks about social cohesion in society and how religion is the expression of social forces and social ideals.  The people in this community wanted to change the rhetoric of how they view themselves and strove towards ideals that were accomplished partially through the adoption of Islam.

How Islam Took Root in Buenaventura (Link)


In Chapter 3 of McGuire’s book, conversion is discussed as a gradual change in an individual’s meaning system and worldview.  If someone who is committed to one religion decides to convert to another, this person’s outlook on life would have had to change in meaningful ways to warrant this.  One would have to give up previous attachments to their ex-religion and further immerse themselves in their new one in order to cement their faith.  I find it interesting the idea of conversion though.  What kind of reasons or thinking process would lead one to abandon one religion for the other?

McGuire talks about the gradual change that occurs through interaction with members of that faith, and a growing identification with the beliefs of that religion, as well as the stages of disaffiliation.  When moving away from one’s religion McGuire discusses four stages to this process including: “first doubts, seeking and weighing role-alternatives, a turning point, and establishing an ex-role identity” (McGuire 92).  I find it really interesting to learn about the ideas behind conversion or just disaffiliating from one’s religion.  For me, the faith that I grew up in has become such a large part of my worldview and belief system.  In order to completely stop calling myself a Catholic, I would have to change a large part of my worldview and start identifying myself with something else.  Due to the role religion plays in people’s lives, I imagine that this is a life-changing process for most and it reminds me of Glen from the movie we watched in class.  Although he wasn’t a man of faith before, it is because he changed his worldview and committed himself to his religion that he underwent a great transformation in his life.  The power of religion is truly astonishing. (295 Words)

Increase of “Nones” Due to Politics

In Chapter 2 of Chaves’ book, “American Religion”, he discusses reasons for the accelerating number of people who would reply “none” when asked the question, “what is your religion?”.   I found an article from NPR talking about the prayer leaders that Donald Trump has chosen to pray at his inauguration.

Among them, “an African-American megachurch leader from Detroit, a Florida woman known for her lavish lifestyle and preaching on “abundancy,” a rabbi from Los Angeles, and a Hispanic evangelical — as well as Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham) and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York.”  This article got me thinking about how one of the reasons stated for the increase of “nones” is how people in the U.S. have seen the rise in political stands that their religion has taken and associated being part of that faith with those political views.  They start to think that they don’t want to be like “them” (Gjelten, 2017).  They don’t agree with those views and so more and more people decline to identify themselves with that certain religion.

I can understand this way of thinking as it is also one of the reasons for why I have distanced myself from the Catholic church and hesitate to call myself a Catholic.  Religion and politics are becoming increasingly intertwined to the point that being part of a certain religion would mean people will stereotype you or have prejudice against you.  Prejudice against Muslims, for example, and the attributions the media give to people who follow Islam.  Religion is being used as a form of manipulation and political tool and can make people wary to align themselves with their faith.

Gjelten, 2017.

Religion and Personal Meaning

I grew up raised as a Catholic and with everyone around me also raised as a Catholic.  In school, I was taught not to questions the things we learned and to instead accept everything with blind obedience and faith.  A lot of my beliefs, early on, were centered around the teachings of the church and the teachings of Jesus.  My religiosity was intrinsic rather than extrinsic, however, as I never really found a community within the church that I felt a part of.  McGuire talks about personal meaning, and in class we also learned about the different paths our classmates took in regards to their religion/spirituality or lack there of.  I learned from reading Victor Frankl, that the search for a purpose and the task to create personal meaning, is one that each person must find on their own, but once it is found, the world takes on a new light.  “If one has a ‘why’ to live for, one can endure almost any ‘how’.”  These words have proven true for me as I have lived my life.  Recent months have been one of the most trying of my life, but my own ‘why’ allowed me to be resilient and endure.  Religion can be the ‘why’ of a person’s life.  It was not the case for me, but it has the power to be for many others, as I recognized in hearing the stories of others in class.  This shows how much power religion has over people’s hearts and actions and I just hope that it is used for good rather than to harm in those who accept religion into their hearts.