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Exploring Religion

Discussion Topics

Session 1:

After reviewing the videos on Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus, what did you find most surprising? What did you perceive as the greatest differences between these religions? What were the greatest similarities?

Session 2:

Continuing our discussion from the last module, what did you find most surprising about the videos you watched this week on Jews, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians? How were these groups similar or different from each other and how do they compare to Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus?

Session 3:

The “Exploring Congregational Neighborhoods” activity helped you learn more about a congregation’s neighborhood by using the ARDA’s GIS tool. How could this tool be used by a congregation to meet the needs, demographics or other features of a neighborhood? Be creative in explaining how these data can be used.

Session 4:

This week, you read an article by Williams (2010) in which photo elicitation interviews were used to understand lived religion in people’s lives. Now, for this discussion, take 1-2 photos of places/objects that are meaningful to you, upload them to the discussion board, and explain their significance. The significance doesn’t have to be spiritual/religious, but it must convey special meaning to you. Afterward, comment on the photos and explanations of two classmates. NOTE: Be sure to read Williams (2010) first, otherwise this activity will not make as much sense. The reading also will give you ideas.

Session 5:

Now that you’ve conducted an interview with someone (congrats!), tell us a bit about the experience. In your response, answer the following:

1) How do you think the interview went?

2) Is there anything you would change if you could do it again? If so, what would you do differently?

3) What did you learn about the interviewee that you probably would not have learned from a survey?

After answering these questions, comment on the response of one of your peers.

Session 6:

This week, you will read several explanations for the gender differences in religiosity between men and women. Which one of them makes the most sense to you, and why? Feel free to mention your own experiences, but also think theoretically about the “big picture,” as the readings do. Be sure to cite at least one of the readings, and try to incorporate evidence, either from your own observations or from the survey data you've analyzed in the assignments. Feel free to also offer your own explanation, if you think the readings missed something. Comment on the response of two other classmates.

Session 7:

In your readings and activities this week, you will read about many patterns, trends and changes over time on issues of sexuality. Choose TWO findings from any of the course materials (e.g., readings, activities, interviews, videos) this week that you think are particularly important, and briefly explain the findings and their importance.

Note that a “finding” includes a pattern in the data, (quantitative or qualitative), or perhaps the absence of a difference where one was expected, any of the results from the papers you read, and any of the conclusions those authors make from their analyses. After writing your own entry, comment on the entries of two classmates.

Session 8:

Many sociologists of religion in the U.S. have made the point that "religion is raced," that is, religion can look quite different, or even mean different things, depending on the racial group. In this session, we also learned how the religion of immigrants changes when coming to the U.S., with congregations becoming more similar to other American religious congregations. So, in what ways does religion in the U.S. unite, or divide, people of different races, ethnicities, and national origins? Give a few examples of how religion unites, divides, or both, and discuss the reasons that religion does both. Comment on the posts of two other class members.

Session 9:

Think about the example of the mindfulness movement from the Kucinskas readings. How did mindfulness leaders recruit/attract new members? Where do you see mindfulness leaders innovating in their methods but not in their teaching, or vice-versa? What seem to be the consequences, for those that engage in the religious group, and those that do not? Post your own response, then comment on two others' posts.

Session 10:

Watch the Extended Trailer of the PBS documentary, “The Black Church” and read this associated article. Compare to the role of religion in the BLM movement as described in this article.

What are the main differences between the role of religion in the Civil Rights movement versus the Black Lives Matter movement? Why might there be such differences? Comment on two of your course members' posts.

Session 12:

Based on the readings this week, do you think religion is playing an increasing role in American politics? At what intersections (race/class/gender) might religion be more closely connected to politics? Based on your answers, what do you think are the problems or opportunities for religious engagement in politics? Incorporate your readings and assignments, and comment on the responses of two other classmates.

Session 13:

The two readings document that government restrictions on religion are high and increasing. The Finke and Goff article highlights 10 lessons learned about the causes and consequences of restrictions on religion. Which of the lessons learned was most surprising to you? Which of the lessons seemed most/least concerning? Why do governments want to restrict religious freedom?

Session 14:

Based on the three readings, how does religious competition relate to religious conflict? What role does the government have in exacerbating competition into conflict, or preventing conflict?

Post your own response and respond to two other posts.

Session 15:

This week, you read about how secularization can be conceptualized and measured at the (1) societal (macro) level, the (2) organizational (meso) level, and the individual (micro) level. Now, pick ONE of those three levels of analysis and provide evidence both FOR and AGAINST secularization happening at that level. Try to think of two arguments for each side. You may use the readings and text examples, but also feel free to incorporate examples outside the text. You may draw on examples not discussed in the course and/or your personal experience. However, do not simply repeat responses from your colleagues on this discussion board. After posting, comment on the responses from two of your colleagues.

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