All posts by Robert

When Tragedy Strikes

Today the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was the victim of a fire and currently, no one knows the cause of the fire. Photos show that the spire and parts of the roof are severely damaged. The cathedral is a cornerstone of the Catholic church in Paris, not only bringing in around 12 million visitors a year but also being the seat of the Archbishop of Paris. It’s interesting to think about the community aspect of religion especially in times of tragedy, reports say that there were people outside the burning cathedral singing hymns. Being considered a national emergency the French President Emmanuel Macron came to the area and took post in a nearby police station. Following after arriving he made a post on Twitter saying “A part of us is on fire”, from his post and the reactions of nearby people, the community, including public safety officers, Catholics, and the people of Paris are all trying to do their part and help in what why they seem fit. From this tragedy, we are able to see the influence and many aspects of a community in work. We also see aspects of an outside community (The United States) and their reactions, President Trump has a tweet saying “So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!” There is something to be noted about the sincerity and tone of people who are speaking from within the community and from outside the community.

A Prayer

On Monday State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz used Jesus in her prayer 13 times before the Pennsylvania House of Representatives swore in its first female Muslim member. Many saw  this as a political stunt, and some are quoted saying “we need to be promoting inclusion, not division.”  Johnson-Harrell is also quoted saying “But to use Jesus as a weapon is not OK.” I have never supported the integration of church and state, but I understand why some support it. However, I have to agree that using prayer as a way to make a point is going a bit too far. Now in terms of using it as a “weapon” is a bit dramatic and too pointed, creating the feeling of hypocrisy. Now my first reaction after listening to the pray was my eyes glazing over and my jaw hitting the table. After a minute or two I rewatched the prayer and the first thing that I noticed was the face of the speaker and some of the other members in the camera shot they looked shocked and as if they wanted it to just be over. When she implies that we need to start rethinking our laws and how we need to refocus them towards Christian standards because “we have forgotten about you God” it is laughable and completely out of line for the situation. She also implies that the U.S has become corrupted and needs the help of God to “heal our land” and to justify our wrongs. State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz was completely out of line in using prayer as a political too and her lack of respect towards the new member of the House of Representatives.

Community and taking on bigger issues

In the article “Organized Religion in a Voluntaristic Society” by Nancy Ammerman, she talks about Robert Wuthnow’s idea of the issues in the world are so daunting that some tend to do nothing at all. She then talks about how churches with more community service aspects tend to get more followers. Through the church followers are then able to feel that they are able to take on the more daunting realities of our world and 1) get involved and 2) gain the feeling of making a difference. I found being assigned this reading funny in some odd way, because this is also the opening week of Sense and Sensibility that is being put on by our theatre department. Now the play itself might not have ties to this idea but the process and intent of the actors are exactly the same as those who join churches for the volunteering aspect. Most actors and participants of theatre, definitely do not go into this field for the pay, but they participate because they also see the issues of our current world and want to take on these problems. The idea of faith is not limited to just religion. Theatre doers, religious or non religious volunteers, rely and actively practice faith, in the sense that what they are doing really is helping. This pushes me to agree with Ammerman’s argument against Robert Putnam’s view on the state of voluntary organizations in the US. If we try to be too narrow in our research we will always be painting a “gloom and doom” picture for society. If we use a wider scope for our research you will see how many people as a whole are using volunteerism and theatre as a way to improve the world, we have to look at movements or volunteer projects at a much lager scale and relate them to separate events that are pushing for the same thing.

Evil Doers and Good People

I read the opinion based article Are we witnessing the triumph of evil on RNS (Religious News Service), and as much as the article lacked facts and fully fleshed out ideas it did bring a very interesting question to my attention. Are there good and bad people? The article did not hesitate to jump head first into our social climate and the tragedies that happened this week. The author talked about how he thinks that we are being overwhelmed with negative news and how he connects these ideas to Amalek (a nation in the Hebrew bible that are the enemy of the Israelites). He started the article with asking his 7th grade class if there are bad people, they responded with “No, there are just people who do bad things” the he proceeds to ask if there are good people and without hesitation they responded ” Of course there are”. Now I’m not saying that 7th graders are the forefront of ethics in society but they give a very straight forward answer. I would even say that most people would agree with them. The issue that I find with the article is that unlike the the students the author is too quick to jump to the conclusion that people are bad and that we as a society are witnessing evil triumph and control our society. I think that we need to establish a more neutral context while discussing ethics and the idea of good and evil doers. I am a strong  believer in that no one is inherently good or evil but we just make decisions that we think will best suit us.

Rational-choice Theory and The Religious Marketplace

It has become part of human nature to try and maximize our profits, whether it’s working in the stock market, finding the best deal on discounted goods, or even spiritual fulfillment. In the religious market, costs and benefits take a different form from what we are used to thinking about in a “standard” market. Most churches are on a “subscription” based pay system, where the subscriber shows up and pays via time or sometimes financially. It’s hard to find a supplier (a church) to subscribe to because of the vast customization options of religions and subsections and beliefs in different branches. So this creates a market of infinite options in which the suppliers react slowly to a fast paced change in want in the consumers. It’s hard to try and find the pulse on the religious consumers because of their ever changing wants and shifting beliefs. Its hard to gage the ration behind the choices of the consumer because of the difference between what is promised and what is actually fulfilled by the church so at the time of starting they think they are maximizing their profit when in actuality they aren’t. The equivalent of this is a  damaged good or a malfunction in a product, its out of the consumer’s hands. Determining if a consumer is rational or not in their decision making, is almost impossible due to the vast varying scales of priorities and definitions in what they believe is the most important aspect of their time and faith.


The Growth of Technology in Congregations

It’s no surprise that technology has become a key part of our religious experience. With services becoming less and less formal it allows technology to play a bigger part in the spectacle of practices.  We have added projectors, monitors, amps, speakers, and LED lights all adding to the modern and concert aesthetic that many congregations are trying to achieve to appeal to a younger audience. With that, it becomes less about the what is said and focuses more on what the practitioner feels or what is calling to them through these events. Technology has ironically made the practice of faith more natural because of the removal of the feeling of forcing yourself to be something you aren’t and allows you the opportunity to express yourself. The joining of social media helps with appealing and contacting a younger market. It allows congregations the opportunity to advertise, reach out, and interact with the society around them. Making it easier to set up volunteer and out reach work, making it more appealing to people. The issue however is that technology is that it limits its audience to people who enjoy that type of spiritual experience and to those who are in touch with social media and online trends. So while these congregations are starting to get more involvement from a younger audience their elderly participants are starting to find a home in different congregations. 

How to define the feeling behind Religion

This weekend my friends and I watched Bohemian Rhapsody.  I couldn’t help but notice some of my friends experiencing a change in behavior, almost like the transition in mindset that many experience while meditating.  After I asked them what happened to them while watching the movie. Most asked back “You couldn’t feel it?” and I could but I was curious about what they meant by it and one compared it to going to church, without any prompting. This lead to me questioning them more of what do they feel and how it affects them. The common answer was “It just makes me feel full” or “its just that feeling no one can name.” Something that I think is a key aspect of religion is filling that want to experience the unexplainable and a part of it is using religion to give it a name. I continued to ask about what parts of the movie sparked these undefinable feelings and it broke down to either was when Freddy was going through hardship and overcoming it or when music was playing. These are two key things in story telling and favorite story types. Everyone loves a redemption arch and there has always been magical sense about music that inspires and forces us to experience a wide range of emotions. While working on my congregation visit  I made a key point about the music that was being used and many of the stories from religions follow the redemption arch or the from suffering comes greatness arch. I think the “undefinable” feeling that most people experience is just good story telling followed up by strategically timed music.

Spiritual Practices in Day to Day Life

In the spirit of connecting our group readings to my personal life, I started to take note on how religion affects my day-to-day life, under the same guidelines as the author’s instructions to her subjects. The author asks her subjects to take photos and connected them to their faith or beliefs. What I found myself doing is taking photos of trees, people, and buildings, the main notes that were repetitive were the ones about feeling connected by more than just being human or man-made. It was mostly people interacting, people under trees or people talking, but just places and people interacting. This makes sense because a core belief of mine is that we are all connected and we should all understand this and try to strive for helping one another. Now this isn’t necessarily religious but it connects to one of the key aspects of religion and that is community. A lot of the people who took part in this study also felt that community was most important and prevalent because it’s what affects us in our day-to-day life. She also wanted her subject to just take notes on habits and things so most of my notes were made up of songs I have been listening too and questions I would ask God if I believed he was real. What I noticed was most of what I was listening too was more poetry than music and most of the lyrics were made up of call to actions to start working together and were are all individuals together. Most of my questions were me asking if this is how God wanted this to be or if we got lost somewhere along the way. The funny thing about this is I don’t find myself to be a religious or spiritual person and answering these questions just had me shift my mindset to that of a religious person. 

Finding Religion in Weird Places

So this weekend I attended a party for Groundhog Day and to say the least it was an experience. A room filled with people watching the news to watch the ritual of Groundhog Day. To my surprise, there is actually a mystical aspect to this tradition. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle believe to have their own language called Groundhogeese, which they use to communicate with Phil. The President of the Inner Circle communicates with Phil via an ancient magical wooden cane made out of acacia wood. After the discussion of charismatic leaders in class, it was easy to establish that this was the type of leadership this tradition holds. The dress of the Inner Circle is very import they can be seen wearing top hats and suits. Now many people including the people who host the event don’t really believe in many of this, but it’s a fun tradition that many people want to take apart of. The thing that struck me is that even in the things we jokingly play into we tend to mimic religion and the religious structure. It is interesting to think about how often we use religion as a structure in things. Also this weekend was the Superbowl and just like Groundhog day this was very much a religious experience, even in one of the invteriews with some of the fans they said that they had “Faith in the Rams for next season” I want to believe that these are the same people that say that they are spiritual but not religious. Again you can see the paraleles between religious ritual and this, start off every game with the pledge of allegiance, a coin flip, and a kick off.

McGuire’s Self Help Book To Creating A Religion

The more I read of McGuire’s Religion The Social Context, the more I realize how this book is essentially a self help book for creating a successful religion.  

By breaking it down by chapter and looking at the book through a business point of view it allows us to play with the idea of how we would make our own religion.

  1. Chapter One “ The Sociological Perspective on Religion”
    1. Understand the Market Climate for Religion – This chapter reviews what is the current market for religion and how it relates in a social perspective. It helps the reader understand how important studying sociology is and exactly how that impacts ones understand of religion.
  1. Chapter Two “ The Provision of Meaning and Belonging”
    1. How To Create An Individual Experience  – This chapter reviews how it is very important for people to belong. It shows how religion helps people belong to something and through that belonging learn the meaning of the religion they may be joining.
  1. Chapter Three “ The Individual’s Religion”
    1. How to Create a Lifelong Consumer  – In this chapter religion and ones commitment is looked at. It is a time to look at conversion and perhaps disengage from one’s current religion to begin a new one.
  1. Chapter Four “ Official and Nonofficial Religion”
    1. Product Templates and Models – This chapter goes into structural changes that have occured in religions. It goes over researching official and non official religious beliefs and feelings. It looks at the actual social construct of religion. Finally it looks at women’s religion as well  gender role.
  1. Chapter Five “ The Dynamics of Religious Collectivities”   
    1. Understanding Consumers and How They Adapt To A Changing Market  – The focus of this chapter is the reactions of Religions in their social environment and how they develop and change. Another  aspect of the chapter is how people define and see Religious Orientation.

  So as you can see each chapter is sharing different aspects of religion and product aspects of it. But not one particular religion is looked at. So someone reading this can take what information learned in these chapters and make up their own religion that meets their own social needs.