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American Religious Diversity

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5. Give an example of a "consilience" explanation to one specific religious phenomenon (e.g., why do people worship snakes, etc.). Be sure to choose your own example.

Consilience is the understanding that each branch of knowledge studies a subset of reality that depends on other branches. Many religious phenomenons cannot be studied in isolation. Math underlies the working of physics, which studies chemistry, and it continues on with biology, psychology, sociology, and then we are able to understand theology.

A good example of consilience would be speaking in tongues. The biology of speaking of tongues could be explained as an abnormality of the mind. However, it could be normal depending on ones social environment. At the psychological level, doctors have said that speaking in tongues may be healthy regression of the ego. At the sociological level, speaking in tongues could very well be a learned behavior. People that belong to cults and heathen religions have also experienced speaking this phenomenon so speaking in tongues cannot only be attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit.

6. How can the theory of memetics help in understanding WHY certain religions are more successful than others (in terms of popularity) in the USA? Be sure to explain how memes are different than genes.

A meme is a unit of cultural information. They are the building blocks of people’s thoughts that are passed on to others. A gene is spread from one organism to another as a unit of genetic information and of biological evolution. Memetics takes concepts from the theory of evolution and applies them to human culture. Genes are passed on from one generation to the next through reproduction. Like genes, memes are passed from one person sharing their ideas or beliefs with another. Many religions today use memetics as a means of becoming more popular than other religions. The religions spread like a virus that effect everyone that it contacts. This is done by appealing to an individual’s conscience by punishment/reward in an afterlife. For example, in Christianity, if one believes in the God they are guaranteed everlasting life in heaven and if they do no believe they are told they will spend eternity in hell.

I found an example of the theory of memetics being less adaptive very interesting. There was an article that said that eight of the first nine colleges in the colonies before the Constitution was created were affiliated with a religion. However, because of the First Amendment, many of the colleges disconnected themselves from the church because they did not want to lose federal funding. The universities not continuing to be affiliated with a religion demonstrates less adaptive memes because they were eliminated under pressure.

7. Describe how evolutionary theory (via natural selection as first presented by Charles Darwin and later by Richard Dawkins) helps in understanding human migration, cultural development, and social identity. (Think of evolutionary psychology).

Evolutionary theory, such as natural selection first presented by Charles Darwin and later by Richard Dawkins, helps in understanding human migration, cultural development, and social identity. The principle idea of natural selection was a man fighting for a female in order to reproduce. The only way that a man’s genes are able to continue is through reproduction. By having sex, a man was able to create a new generation and prevent his genes from dying off. Humans would migrate to places that they felt their offspring would have the best chance of survival. As we know, we are all African- American because we all migrated from Africa. The people that survived from migrating support the survival of the fittest theory. While migrating, one had to compete for land, food, sex, and adventure. This influenced cultural development because they had to come up with new ways of survival and even when things were going good, it was common to be bored from lack of variety. The idea of cultural development, as it relates to natural selection, is that in a culture, traditions, beliefs, and ideas are passed on from generation to generation and therefore those components make up ones culture. Social identity allows humans to feel as if they are a part of something and belong to a group. Sexual selection contributes to the diversity in today’s population, along with quantum mechanics and geographic displacement.

8. Why is the notion of "race" biologically obsolete, yet culturally viable? (hint: difference between "nature" and "nurture"... or biology vs. sociology)

The notion of “race” is biologically obsolete because today all humans are mixed with different races. There are so many people within the same race that have totally different traditions, beliefs and ideas that race is not a factor in identifying an individual. Although race is obsolete, it is necessary for humans to use race for identification purposes and fulfill the need to belong to a certain group. Social concepts, such as culture, nationality, and ethnicity should be used instead of the term race.

9. Explain how a religious idea/ritual/ practice gets transformed in American soil. For ex: I described how circumcision evolved from a religious ritual (from Egyptian to Judaic to Islamic) into a routinely performed medical procedure. This is a tougher question than you might suspect. Think before you leap. You want to describe how a religious idea/ritual/ practice CHANGES in a North American environment. You can draw from ANY religion for your developmental example. Be sure, though, that it is YOUR example.

Hinduism is a religion that holds vegetarianism as an ideal ritual. The three main reason that they do not eat meat is to be nonviolent to animals, only eat pure foods, and for spiritual development. Many other religions also have restrictions on what the followers are allowed to eat if they are practicing that particular religion. Today, many Americans are vegetarian for no religious reason. It has become more of a fad and for health reasons and very few people know that being a vegan came from religious practices and beliefs.

10. Explain Peter Berger's concept of the "heretical imperative" (hint: think of class lecture: deductive, reductive, inductive) and how it applies to religious pluralism in general.

Peter Berger’s concept of “heretical imperative” is the concept to choose to seek God in Christ and to discover His Truth in a pluralistic, secular and materialistic world, being unafraid to listen or to ask awkward questions, of others and ourselves, as part of the quest. This can be done in three ways.

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