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Richter 14 “Religion and Society in a Global Age” Man makes religion, religion does not make man . . .

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Richter 14

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Richter 14

“Religion and Society in a Global Age”


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Man makes religion, religion does not make man . . .

Religious misery is in one way the expression of real misery, and in another a protest against real misery. Religion is the sigh of the afflicted creature, the soul of a heartless world, as it is also the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusionary happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. The abandonment of the illusions about their condition is the demand to give up a condition that requires illusion. Hence criticism of religion is in embryo a criticism of this vale of tears whose halo is religion.

--Karl Marx


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Do you not know that each of you (women) is also an Eve? . . . You are the Devil’s gateway, you are the unsealer of that forbidden tree, you are the first deserter of the divine law, you are the one who persuaded him whom the devil was too weak to attack. How easily you destroyed man, the image of God! Because of the death which you brought upon us, even the son of God had to die.

--Tertullian, De Cultu Feminarum 1:1


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It is the nature of women to seduce men in this (world); for that reason, the wise are never unguarded in (the company of) females.

For women are able to lead astray in (this )world not only a fool, but even a learned man, and (to make) him a slave of desire and anger.

--Hinduism: Laws of Manu 2:213-214


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There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.

--Judaism: Deuteronomy 15:11


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Duke Jing of Qi asked Confucius about government. Confucius replied: “let the lord be a lord; the subject a subject; the father a father; the son a son.”

--Confucianism: The Analects 12:11


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There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

--Christianity: Galatians 3:28


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Karl Marx believed that religion was a human creation resulting from workers being exploited by capitalism. Thus religion, he claimed, is a human creation with no basis in a spiritual world. It is only the “sigh” of people wanting a better life because economic oppression in this life is so bad. Do you think Marx is right?

Could there be a sense in which Marx was both correct and incorrect?


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Do you think religion helps unite people across economic and social classes, or is it an expression of social class?


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Churches and temples often seem very ornate and decorated, even in places where poverty may be prevalent. In the pictures, does the gold or decoration seem unnecessary and wasteful? Do you think religions ought instead to “serve the poor”? Could religions instead have both a concern for the poor and elaborate, decorated churches and temples?

Explain your opinion.


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Issues of gender equality (or inequality) are increasingly important in world’s religions of the global age. Tertullian’s view about women is based on the story of the fall in the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 3:1-24). Do you agree or disagree with the way this story is interpreted by Tertullian?

Compare it to the Laws of Manu excerpt.

Within religion, is this apparently negative view of women common? Why?

Do you think these interpretations are accurate?


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In light of the divisions between rich and poor, between the genders, and between races, how do you think Saint Paul hopes to find unity among Christian believers? Do other religions have similar hopes? Are they reasonable hopes that religion can unite people of various economic and social backgrounds? What do you think?


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For Confucius, being “religious” might be nothing more--and nothing less--than knowing one’s place in society. Do you think religion should control or define society? Or should religion be a purely private, internal matter?

Defend your view.


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Religions are formed in and by groups, and they emerge within specific cultural contexts.

Many religionists prefer to think of their religion as somehow “beyond” culture: some Muslims may criticize Christianity and Judaism for being “corrupted” by their cultures; some Christians claim that their expression of Christianity is more authentic than the compromised faith of the majority of Christians.


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Culture: the shared way of life or lifestyle of a particular people. This includes a people’s traditions, history, beliefs, and practices. It also includes a people’s economic, educational, political, family, and religious systems. These are often referred to as the basic institutions of modern societies.

Social Structure: The complex patters of relationships among these institutions, and among other elements of society.


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Religions and cultures vary in the way they understand their relationship to each other.

Theocracy is a form of government in which a religion actually runs the society.

Sometimes religion legitimates the social structure ( and vice versa).

At other times, religion seems to seek to undermine the social structure ( and vice versa) often leading to a “pie-in-the-sky” religion.


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Official religion is the formal orthodox religion as taught and practiced by religious professionals.

Popular religion is the religion as it is actually practiced.


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Religious universalism encompasses those religion- based reactions to modernization and globalization that stress the unity of humankind along with the necessity of finding common ground for religious and social cooperation.

Religious particularism involves those forms of religious expression that stress their own uniqueness, along with a desire to remain separate from other religions and their cultural expressions.


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Fundamentalism is a socio-religious reaction to modernism and globalization that stresses the uniqueness of a particular religious tradition, rejects selected aspects of the contemporary world, and proposes its vision of a religiously based society as a solution to the perceived inadequacies of contemporary culture.


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