Old Assignment I did for RST535

This is stuff which might be food for people. Cites a book i’ve found difficult to place.

This is where I saw a word I ainno I knew: theodicies. Probably an industry term, or McGuire’s coinage – def woulda been from the chapter, and lock in with the text. Helps cite inside the work to an extent – 30-40 pg chapters these.

Done in 2 sessions. Long story- if there are fontoddities.

Yes, I wrote those sentences. That aint surveillance – working with the text I was given, clearly inspired to great work, and i’d gotten better with it. (I just put my hand up like manny ramirez hit a rbi double in front of me readin one of these!)

I’m in a LIBRARY!


God is great.

Enjoy, I hope.

May 25 2010

How does religion support the status quo?

    Simply by its nature religion is conservative. The traditions, beliefs, and rituals upheld by a faith’s adherents preserve the past. Once religious practices or allegiance to symbols are tied to the approval, protection or love of a Higher Power, they will be very difficult to change.

    Social scientists like Karl Marx and Max Weber have also postulated ways in which faith furthers the status quo.

A classic Marxian analysis would contend that religion and religious ideology are nothing more than tools of the dominant class to protect their material interests.

Marx believed that the religious experience was the projection and misattribution of our needs and wants. Religious fervor served to keep the workers of the world in chains by dulling the sharp pangs of hunger which might spur them to demand economic justice.

Weber showed how theodicies, like the Hindu concept of reincarnation, could work to preserve social strata by linking acceptance of the caste system and one’s “lot in life” with the disposition of lives to come.

Unlike Marx, Weber made a distinction between stratification due to economic considerations and lifestyle or prestige differences.

While this does allow for more flexibility in analyzing modern movements which may not overtly coalesce to further their own economic interests, by seeking “power-over” in the political arena – especially when, like the example of the “New Christian Right” offered by McGuire, presenting a vision which is not pluralistic – the distinction need not even be made.

To my eyes, it remains an attempt to control and subjugate others which has no long-term viability.

    Religions can, of course, can also directly legitimate the status quo.

There can be collusion between corrupt parties, with a mutual game of manipulation being played. Machiavelli even advised rulers to support the religious institutions and rituals of their nation for the express purpose of social control and cohesion.

Religious figures, using God’s name, have legitimated slavery, imperialism, war, segregation and antiunionism.

In fairness, however, there were doubtlessly some clerics of conscience during these epochs in human history.

How is religion a potent force for social control?

    There are several important ways in which religion contributes to social control.

The judgment of the group to which an individual belongs alone does a great deal to keep human [beings] in well defined roles.

This opprobrium is often all it takes to control individuals.

    I can speak from personal experience.

Raised a Jehovah’s Witness, there were sometimes people with whom my family or I were close who were disfellowshipped by the governing body of the faith.

We could not speak with the individuals, though we never told as a congregation what the offense was.

    Once, a great friend of our family was disfellowshipped. I was told she played Lotto. This unbelievably sweet woman, a Dominican national named Mercedes Garcia (may she rest in peace), would still bring my mother gifts from her trips home. Our doorbell would ring, and on the doorstep were plantains, assorted tubers and candies. She would call our house and not speak. Mercedes loved my mother dearly, and she respected the rules of our religion so much she dared not speak her love. It is truly a tragic story, one which illustrates the powerful effect religion can have over its adherents.

    As we look at the issue more closely, we come to see that religion can often be a more powerful way to reinforce social control than the authority society wields because the control reinforced by the spiritual tradition becomes an independent internal mechanism moving its subjects toward socially acceptable behavior and away from behavior which, whether or not it is socially proscribed, is often well within the lines of societal stricture.

How does religion promote social change?

    The classic example of how religion promotes social change is the American civil rights movement, spearheaded by the religious leaders of the SCLC, chief among them the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The prophetic vision which McGuire describes in Chapter 6 (7?) was brought to bear on America’s archaic policy of segregation.

Especially through the use the doctrine of nonviolence, the masses of people fighting segregation demonstrated a superior moral character which ultimately won the day.

    The example of the Indian lawyer turned man of God, Mohandas K. Gandhi, is another excellent case study of religion forcing social change.

Gandhi often spoke of “noncooperation with evil”, and their peaceful actions, including strikes and economic withdrawal from imperialist industries (like the boycott of English dyes), were the major contributors to India gaining independence from the United Kingdom.

    Even the Muslim leader, Malcolm X, transformed many lives with his message of empowerment and social freedom for American blacks.

Tragically, all 3 of these leaders paid for their selfless work with their lives at the hands of assassins.

Their lives, however, continue to be a shining example of the ability to transform society within the religious framework.

What are some of the factors shaping the interrelationship of religion and social change?

    I did not get this far in the chapter (I was writing as I went). This question, while I could offer an answer, would not be “using McGuire”, as requested.

    I’ll say this: While I am not a Jehovah’s Witness, I admit that their belief that this system of things is hopelessly corrupt continues to resonate with me to this day.

At the same time, I put nothing past our incredible species.

Without some acknowledgement of our interdependence and deserved equal protection, we will continue to benefit some at the expense of most.

I am very, very grateful for all the blessings and opportunities available to me as an American citizen.

Still, we must develop a global awareness to move our shared experience of life to a “higher octave.”

I cannot argue some religion’s determination to separate themselves from what can seem such an unjust society, wherever that society may rule.

To me, whatever mode of thinking makes one a more loving, accepting, forgiving and inclusive person is wonderful.

May we all come together, under God or just the Lord’s blue, blue sky.


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