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Religion, Magic and Worldview

  1. When social sciences emerged as disciplines in the 19th century, there was a popular hypothesis called “the secularization thesis.” In looking at human history, it was speculated that evolutionarily as societies evolved, they would shift from notions of animism and magic to organized religion to principles of science in “modernizing.” If you look around the world today, would you say that that prediction came true? What “evidence” do you have to support your point of view?
  2. What two factors do you think shape increases or decreases in religions believed in or practiced in any part of the world including the U.S.?
  3. What is “magic”? How would you define it? Do you believe in magic? Does rational thought “replace” magical thinking? Or can these types of thinking serve different needs, situations, and circumstances? Can/ does magical thinking, religious belief, or spirituality co-exist in a rational world? Give “examples” to support your point of view.
  4. Do you think that people of a historically Christian nation such as the U.S. view people who are members of other world religions as cult members? (EG; Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, Islam)? If so, how so? If not, why not? Do you think that people of different beliefs are embraced and supported in contemporary western societies, or discriminated against? Can you provide any examples to support your point of view?
  5. According to a recent PEW Survey on religion in the US population, 13 million people identified as “nones” that is, atheists or agnostics, and, 33 million identify with no particular religion, but even though religiously unaffiliated the majority consider themselves religious or spiritual in other ways. What sense do you make of this?
  6. While many modern nations pride themselves on the separation of church and state, are they entirely separate, or can you identify ways that church and state “interact”?
  7. Does religion play any role in current Republican or Democratic political debates?
  8. An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer(April 12, 2011) discusses how France is enforcing a ban on veils saying that “women can bear their breast in Cannes but cannot cover their faces on the Champ-Elysees.” The law states that women can be fined $215 for attending special citizenship classes. In 2009, then president of France, Nicholas Sarkozy declared that the burqa was “not welcome in France. “While France is a traditionally Catholic country, today it sees itself as “proudly secular.” Do you see such rules and laws as a conservative, necessary approach to maintaining security, a matter of discrimination against freedom of religion, a violation of a human right, or something different? Explain.
  9. Why do you think there is so much discussion regarding matters of Islamic dress for Muslim women? Can you think of any other examples where women dress in a conservative dress or cover their heads and it is not a matter of global discussion or debate, or where they garner a different social attitude or response?
  10. In recent years, the government of Switzerland has voted on a popular initiative on banning the construction of minarets in the country (Do you think this is similar/dissimilar to matters of material culture in France noted in question 8?). Explain.
  11. What role does the media play in shaping religious views or perspective about religion(s) in diverse societies? Any examples?
  12. What do you think are some of the biggest questions regarding religion in the 21st Century……………..for multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic, multi-religious “societies? And how do these shape the dynamics of our schools, workplaces, and public places (the nation, and our everyday lives)?

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