Monday, April 03, 2006

My Own Miniature Pluralism Project

This weekend I made a little road trip down to West Virginia to see my best friend at Marshall University. It was a 7 hour drive and it was through the states of PA, MD, and WV. I couldn't count how many religious artifacts I saw on the side of the road when going through MD and WV. Countless scenes of the 3 crosses from Jesus' crucifixion. There were billboards everywhere trying to put the fear of God into peoples lives with condemning Bible verses. More license plate coverings and bumperstickers than I have ever seen before covered automobiles with WV and MD tags. There were two items of scenery that stuck out to me more than anything else. The first was a huge sign on the side of the road corresponding with a massive structure being built right next to it. It read "reconstruction of Noah's Ark" by whatever church it was being built by. This was right alongside a major interstate. The second item was a church in Maryland alongside the interstate that was called the Lighthouse Church and had a gigantic lighthouse erected right next to the church.

For the first item, the ark, I thought to myself 'what's the point?' Does re-building an ark that was spoken about in Genesis get people to believe more? If so, how deep can their faith possibly be? Also, how much money is being spent on this structure? Couldn't the money go to a much better cause? Then for the 2nd, the lighthouse, I thought to myself that this might be one of the cheesiest, most superficial ways to get people to come to a church. "Hey let's try going to the lighthouse church, the lighthouse looks really cool." There were no bodies of water anywhere near the area. What was the point of the lighthouse? Very tacky.

Nonetheless, all artifacts were strictly Christian in nature. What does this say? Sure the states were WV and MD, located in the bible belt area of the country, and probably have lower educated people. But I find it hard to believe that they are so close-minded and so in your face about it. I know Eck brought up many instances of pluralism in the United States, but I believe she failed to focus on the opposite end, that which shows no diversity at all. In this case I believe that "Soul Searching" gave more evidence for lack of diversity in the US as being more prevalent than the instances of pluralism Eck gave. It amazed me to see these artifacts and gave me reason to believe that we really aren't that diverse at all in the United States.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

soul searching discussion

let me start by saying that i thought today's class was one of the best discussions we have had all year. also, let me apologize if i came off as challenging people's opinions. that was not my intent. all i was doing was trying to get people to understand the background and everything else that went into Kristen's life. I kind of felt like people took that the wrong way.

so anyway, the question that Dr. Rein presented at the end, about whether or not we were disturbed about Kristen raised a question in my head. Dr. Rein said that he was disturbed that this girl was so shut off to the rest of the religious realm and was so intent on her way or no way without even really knowing what she was believing in. This is where I ask: is it better to believe in something whole-heartedly or not to believe at all? This is the situation I feel that so many teens are presented with. Being that it is taught to many people growing up, that if they want to do something or achieve something, then they need to go at it with all they have. Kristen simply was put in a very difficult situation at a young age and was provided with few options. She could have gone Joy's route and done drugs and not believe in much or she could have picked something to believe in and get over her father's suicide by being devoted to her family and her religion. I don't know many people who would choose their son or daughter to go the route that Joy went. Of course, there are other options, but I don't see what is so wrong with a teenage girl believing in something whole-heartedly and living a happy, fulfilling life after the tragedy she had to go through. I think there is some point in everyone's life where they must reflect upon themselves and think 'what is it exactly that i believe.' I think that Kristen still has that opportunity, just the teenage years were not the right time for her to do that. How many of us did that when we were 13-17? My guess would be not many. But in college and when we learn more and are out making our own decisions, I feel this is when we can truly reflect and establish what we believe. Kristen had set a goal and went after it and she is doing great. She is not being shortsighted or anything like that, she is a teenager that is happy with herself and is achieving what she wants to achieve. She will reflect one day. But there is nothing wrong with the path she has chosen for herself.

Monday, March 20, 2006

a slightly new opinion on eck

after completing Diana Eck's book, i have a slightly new outlook on her. After the first 4 chapters or so, i saw the book going nowhere, simply being an extension her pluralism paper we read earlier. her chapters on hinduism and buddhism and islam took forever to read as all it did was point out what existed, what was out there and gave no opinions or suggestions on the topics. But after completing the book, i found out her goal from these chapters was to give a long, extremely long, background and knowledge of what exists in the United States today. I thought this was simply a longer version of her pluralism project paper that we read earlier. However, then her chapter "afraid of ourselves" changed my opinion. Her goal started to unfold a bit and i began to see some of her own opinions coming out for the first time in all of her readings. I saw her telling of the problems existed because of these various religious foundations in the United States. She told of how we are scared of difference. We are scared of change. We are a nation founded on difference, we are the United States of America. However, we fear not knowing about other religions and what that may mean for society. We fear change of what we have known our whole lives. We stereotype those different from us and label them. The result of this is hate crimes and violence. Her tone suggested this saddened her. That we built such a glorious nation, so accepting and diverse on the outside of various religions and their institutions, but deep down on the inside, it frightens us and we react in an immature manner.

Her "bridge building" chapter was a chapter offering hope for the future. She outlies a plan, her opinion of a plan, in order that we may change these prejudices and stereotypes. Talking and negotiating and finding what is best for the whole community is a prime example of one of her solutions. Acceptance and knowledge allows us to become a new America, an accepting America. She suggests building upon our differences instead of ignoring them and acting upon them harshly. We cannot ignore our differences, but we need to build bridges so that we can connect on our differences. This is the only hope that we have for developing as a nation and fulfilling our title as the land of hope. She focuses on our differences and how we need these differences to be acknowledged in order to build. And she is right.

However, I feel education is the most important way to go about this. If our children are educated, and parents are educated as well, then the youth will not learn hatred and violence. It's like the 5 year old that doesn't know shes playing house with a black boy, she thinks she's playing house with a 5 year old boy. We need to get to that stage, and I feel the best way is through education. If some of the concepts are not taught, such as that there are people different from us and that that is ok, our nation cannot grow and will not be accepting. This is the best foundation I can come up with to build the sturdiest bridge possible. And my hats off to Eck, for giving an opinion of her own. A new found respect from me, slightly. I think I could conclude better than her, although I believe we are suggesting solutions along the same lines.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Knowledge: Good or Bad?

Something i was thinking about during the end of class on Wednesday that I wanted to save for a blog was the concept of knowledge. We were discussing how Eck was shyly suggesting that gaining knowledge and understanding of other religions may result in the change of one's own religion and that this is acceptable. She gave the example of how the Christian woman had Buddhist neighbors and actually adopted some Buddhist concepts into her Christian identity and that this was good. In class, we had been hinting at as a class that changing one's religious identity is not a good thing, that it sacrifices part of who we are and denounces the idea of 'faith.' Where was the faith that we had if we can quickly adopt foreign concepts and drop the concepts that we have believed in for so long?

Therefore I pose the question, is knowledge a good thing or a bad thing? Is it good to have a firm understanding of other religions, even if it sheds light on your own and may change your own beliefs? I would say that knowledge is good in all situations. To hold back on learning more because one could potentially change their identity and beliefs is uncivilized. I feel that if someone is enlightened to new ideas and concepts that make sense to them, then maybe they were believing the wrong thing all along because they did not have the more sensible alternative. I am a firm believer that everyone creates and operates according to their own religion. (if they, in fact, label themselves as religious) I believe that people create their own rules based on things they find more sensible. In a religion, for example Christianity, the only thing that is taught are rules and guidelines from that religion, leaving no room for growth. If there is to be growth on a national standpoint, let a lone an individual one, knowledge is the key ingredient, even if it means changing the identity that one has kept for a long period of time.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Another Old Post from Pluralism Discussion (trying to get my Blog updated)


after todays discussion during class, theres only one reasonable conclusion i could formulate. that is that pluralism is a utopian idea rather than a reasonable concept. pluralism means sacrificing age old traditions and practices simply to assimilate or mix religions in a common area. Based on human nature of greed and the inability to truly understand inherent rites and rules of other religions, pluralism can never truly be achieved.
what possibly may need to happen for even a simple form of pluralism to occur, is in fact to separate. to accept anothers beliefs and practices is one thing, but to sacrifice parts of your own beliefs and practices and compromise your religion leads to tension and conflict. therefore, the idea of separate areas for separate religions may be the only way that all religions can keep their true identity. im not suggesting buddhists in asia, muslims in the middle east and christians in the west, but i am possibly suggesting religious communities without overlap all over the world. stupid and impossible as it may sound, the world could very well be headed in that direction right now. think about it, the amish are pretty much already isoloated as are mormons. as all religions gravitate to diverse areas of the world, conflicts will arise. being that it is unlikely a certain religion will compromise its beliefs, separate but operative areas could be the only solution to deter conflict and tension.

Old Post from the Nacirema article (couldnt post it correctly before)

I don’t really know what to think about this article. Some of the concepts he talks about are so foreign and some really aren’t that foreign at all. First of all, the area he is talking about is vague. It says it’s somewhere between Canada and Mexico, and I don’t understand the other jargon that describes where it is. Somewhere in the US but I don’t know where.

The hog’s hair in the mouth and the magical powders makes it seem as if these people were foreign to us, but the idea of seeing a mouth man with different instruments reminds me of a kind of dentist.

The concepts of the charm box don’t make sense. I don’t really get what he’s talking about there. Maybe medicine boxes of some sort? I don’t know.However, the breast reduction and implants are the same as our culture. Also, the sticking heads in ovens sounds similar to tanning. So all in all, these people sound primitive but their primitive concepts are strikingly similar to our advanced technologies. So how different are they really? Or are we really not that advanced as we think we are?

Branson and the Ozarks: Where Superficial Religion Reigns

Doesn't it seem a bit awkward that it takes a place like Branson, Missouri to bring out missing aspects of peoples religious lives? The fact that an oversized, cliche Jesus or gigantic praying hands may bring the conviction out in the lives of the tourists strikes me as a bit tacky. I understand how the whole simplistic, natural scene of the Ozarks can bring out an idea of selflessness (similar to that of Buddhism) but the fact that these monuments and Precious Moments dolls are recognized in the same context makes me lose all believability. (if that is a word)

It makes sense that religious people can find their religion in new institutions rather than churches and Branson would make a picture perfect place for the religious experience. But something that came up in class the other day needs a bit of examination. The fact that Branson "works" for the tourists makes me question the meaning of "works." If people need to see superficial monuments and dolls to believe and become closer to their faith, where does the concept of religion come into play? I believe a key concept of religion is belief in not seeing. If everything could be viewed, then there wouldn't be a question as to what the truth is. The idea of religion here is diminished by the fact that tourists can view oversized Jesus and praying hands and be personally convicted.

To me, when something "works," it means that that the picture becomes clearer or a solution to a problem is found. When I put gas into my car, the car works. However, when I see a Precious Moments doll, and I say that now my religion is "working," I fail to see how. A lot of times this is where religion gets a bad name in society; when believers say they believe based on tacky symbolism.

There is a possibility that I am missing the point of the article. But with the authors tone in writing the article from an etic perspective, I would say he would comply with my belief. His hint of sarcasm and disbelief is what lead my thoughts in this direction in the first place.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Bellah Comments; very utopian

Bellah has a very convincing article going until he makes his own suggestions for the future. I believe he captures the idea of a civil religion excellently and even labels what civil religion means and has meant as an American nation. I agree that God has had a presence in our nation as a rallying cry as well as justification for certain goals and decisions. I feel, however, that this presence of God was a passive label. Using God in ways such as "one nation under God" is a method to placing fear in the citizens, to defent the nations leaders decisions and actions. That our nation is placed forth under the direct supervision of God and will operate through God's given will, is less than likely. The reason we use the term God is as a defense mechanism. Bellah touches on this when he speaks of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address; that the men died honorably is a sacrifice, and Lincoln was a martyr. All seemed to work out to God's divine plan. The same can be said for the American Revolution. The same can be currently said for our war in Iraq and our powerful position on the world. But I feel that using God to justify everything is a label, and not the real motive behind our actions. God is the shield, but human nature is the weaponry. Concepts of greed, power, envy and righteousness propel our national decisions. To say it is part of God's will seems almost, I don't know, anti-religious. It defeats the whole purpose of what an all-encompassing loving God would ultimately want, which is unity, understanding and love.

I am getting a bit off topic now, so back to my main point, that Bellah's closing statements are utopian. Hopefully, I have interpreted his conclusion correctly, in that he says he would like to see a civil union of the world, and America should be the example to which it is made. To say that American civil religion should be the basis of a new civil religion of the world would be saying that our nation is best, and follow our lead and join our paths and goals. Good luck with that. Also, this would be saying that God favors the American way ahead of any other way. Why would God favor anyone? And who's to say any other nations would adopt our way of thinking? This would work in a utopian society, where human nature aspects of greed, power, envy and righteousness do not exist. But definitely would not happen in the world we live in today