January | 2015 | The Sociology of Religion

When I was a young lad I was attracted to rock music that had spiritual, mystical, and religious overtones. Of course, because I had rejected the Catholicism of my birth I would never have shown up in a statistic on the prevalence of spirituality. I thus represented a spirituality that may be hidden from the view of many academics. This paper does a marvelous job of revealing some of these overtones in the rock music of today and yesterday. Maybe its a surprise to you because you think that only “Christian Rock” is spiritual, but maybe its not. However you approach this the key is to see that spirituality and religion penetrate our reality far more than proponents of the secularization thesis would be comfortable admitting, I think.

By: Anthony Renda Part 1, Question: Pick one of the two textbooks and write a 1600-word summary of the ways in which either the Christian Right or the New Age movement represents opportunistic exploitation…

Sociologists have thus far figured that religion is nothing more than elite ideology, collective delusion, or Sunday social event. While these perspective do represent truth, religion is ideology, it can be delusion, and it is often little more than a social event, it is also much more. Religion is the search for answers to the big questions and no where do we see this more clearly than when we compare what some might consider radically opposed traditions. When we look we see that pagan, Christian, Jew, heavy metal rocker, or even scientists, we’re all struggling (against ideology, self interest, and the exploitation of spiritual needs for personal gain.) to find the answers

In this course I define religion as an institution setup to answer the big questions and then I ask the students to evaluate the definition. Some love it, some like it, and some aren’t too sure, but nobody dismisses it outright because it has (in my opinion) profound explanatory power. It explains the persistence of spirituality in the lives of the the people, it explains why people pick a religion (i.e. because they believe it answers the big questions), and it includes science in the definition (since science is clearly an institutionalized attempt to answer the big questions).

The question in the first assignment of this course is all about science, and in particular the closed minded quality of elite scientific discourse like that found in the “big gun” journals like Nature and Science. You’d never think that you’d find high priests decrying heretics and calling us to burn books, but here you have it. It is part of the ideologically rooted “thought control” that silences open scientific debate on core spiritual ideas (for an example, see my article on Scientists and Spirituality.