Theory for Education: Adapted from Theory for Religious Studies

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Mitchell Classic Ritual Theories, by Ulrike Brunotte From Ritual to Ritualization, by Jon P. Scott The Phenomenology of Religion, by James L. Cox Mircea Eliade, by Gregory Alles Pierre Bourdieu on Religion, by Terry Rey Jacques Derrida on Religion, by Ellen Armour Foucault and the Study of Religion, by Jeremy Carrette French Feminism and Religion, by Morny Joy Goldenberg Part Religion, Coloniality and Race Religion and Violence, by William T.

Religious conservatives often reject Darwinian science because they think it promotes a morally corrupting materialism.


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In fact, the underlying motivation for American conservatives adopting intelligent design as an alternative to evolution is their fear of Darwinian immorality. So if students were to read Darwin, they could judge not only the scientific truth of his theory but also its moral and religious implications. This would help them to think through the complex interaction of science, morality, and religion.

Reading: Theoretical Perspectives on Religion

For example, the fossil record today is better known; and we now understand the genetic basis of inheritance. So teachers might want to supplement the reading of Darwin with some reading from a recent textbook of evolutionary theory. A few months ago, at a conference in Washington, I presented my proposal for having high school biology students read Darwin. One of the leading opponents of the intelligent design movement was on the panel. He also argued that what I was proposing would be more suited for university students.

I have done this in some of my university teaching in political science classes that include many biology students. My students read Darwin along with some of the contemporary writing of the intelligent design proponents. This stimulates a lively debate. One of the professors in the biology department at my university has also been successful in using readings from Darwin in his undergraduate course on evolutionary theory. He said that universities such as Cornell needed to do a better job in helping students and the general public to understand the nature of these controversies -- while teaching evolution and not intelligent design as science.

He recommended that Cornell promote interdisciplinary courses on evolution and religion that would illuminate the ideas of creationism and intelligent design as compared with evolutionary ideas. Natural scientists, social scientists, and humanists should all be involved in broad-ranging teaching that would explore the scientific, moral, and religious implications of evolutionary thought. To illustrate what he had in mind, he cited the work of Will Provine, a Cornell professor who teaches biology courses that explore the moral and religious dimensions of evolutionary theory.

Although Provine dismisses intelligent design as worthless, he has been known to invite defenders of intelligent design such as Phillip Johnson to speak to his students. I agree with President Rawlings. Most biologists believe that debating intelligent design or creationism as alternatives to Darwinian evolution has no place in a science course, because such a debate really belongs in a philosophy or religious studies course.

President Rawlings implies that he agrees with this.

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At most universities, the organization of the curriculum separates science from the humanities and the social sciences. This promotes the idea among both teachers and students that the study of science must be separated from the study of morality, religion, and politics. This discourages teachers and students from thinking through the moral, religious, and political implications of a scientific idea like Darwinian evolution. Darwin himself thought deeply about the broad implications of his evolutionary theory. There is no better way to explore such questions than to teach the controversy over Darwinian evolution by teaching Darwin.

Larry Arnhart is a professor of political science at Northern IllinoisUniversity. The ideas expressed in his later writings on religion, however, do have pertinence for this study. In an essay in the volume Religion that he co-edited with Gianni Vattimo, resulting from a conference held on Capri, Derrida investigates the contemporary phenomenon of the 'return of religion'.

Assuming an ironic attitude, he delves into what is understood by this turn of phrase, especially the indications of the word 'religion'. In doing so, Derrida decodes a number of things, among them the unacknowledged presupposition of the conference that the religion that is under discussion is actually the Christian religion, with its masculinist monopoly. This monopoly is clearly reflected in the sex of the conference participants.

Theory for Religious Studies

Derrida comments: 'Not a single woman! He ponders the seemingly unquestioning acceptance of this Christian orientation, illustrated by the absence of representatives from any other religions - especially Islam p.

Derrida does concede, however, that there is a nominal representation of Judaism - no doubt due to his own presence. He also remarks on the homogeneity of the participants - all are Europeans, mostly from Mediterranean countries. While he acknowledges that they are all beneficiaries of the Enlightenment, he nonetheless detects a certain Latin legacy.

This leads him to muse that such a legacy bespeaks the imperious bearing of the Roman empire, with its assumed accoutrements of power, that also seems to have been unconsciously assumed at the conference p. Finally he worries about the present day 'military interventions' that are being undertaken by a contemporary 'colonizing' empire in connection with an offensive 'return to religion' that merits political and righteous slogans against perceived 'terrorists'.

He recognizes this move as having apparent ties with what he views as 'an essentially economic and capitalistic rationality'.

Religion and science - Revision 4 - GCSE Religious Studies - BBC Bitesize

This, in turn, operates in conjunction with a 'tele-techno-scientific machine' that fuels the engine of contemporary globalization p. Derrida is obviously very much alert to the imposition of specific boundaries that disparage others, and that employ exclusionary language, e. In this context, Derrida attempts to dismantle the false dichotomies thereby constructed to justify struggles that are far from disinterested, and differ greatly from their ostensibly stated aims of 'democratization'. The later Derrida has no time for injustice, and looks to a 'messianic', though unattainable, ideal of democracy' as a touchstone for justice Michel Foucault's early work has also been dismissed by some critics as a mode of nihilism in the tradition of Nietzsche, especially in connection with his alleged 'death of the subject' Foucault But such a reading is far too simplistic; what Foucault is questioning is an Enlightenment heritage where both identity and agency are assumed as an entitlement.

This form of self-sufficient righteousness, in Foucault's estimation, does not take into account the matrices of power enabling such an arrogation of authority to occur. Foucault describes his resistant strategy in an interview:. What I refused was precisely that you first of all set up a theory of the subject - as could be done in phenomenology and existentialism - and that, beginning from the theory of the subject, you come to pose the question of knowing.

Foucault further states that there can be no easy assertion of such a right to power without an informed awareness of the various exclusions that have been created by such a maneuver. His investigations are undertaken so as to detect the voices of peoples who have been silenced in order for a single self-prepossessing subject to emerge. Foucault also confirms that he never denied that there is subjectivity.

Instead, he demonstrates the abuses that can occur when a subject simply assumes attitudes of permanency and control. His intention is to encourage more self-reflexivity concerning the manner in which such an identity is constituted by multiple influences. These, in turn, are inevitably determined by specific interests, e. Such an approach is more apparent in Foucault's later work, where he delineates the ways in which a subject or self can be cultivated in a self-critical manner that does not necessarily exploit others. It involves a careful self-assessment of one's cultural mores and ethos.

As he relates:. I would say that if now I am interested, in fact, in the way in which the subject constitutes himself in an active fashion, by the practices of the self, these practices are nevertheless not something that the individual invents by himself.

10a Seven Classic Theories of Religion - origins of the academic study of religion

They are patterns that he finds in his culture and which are proposed, suggested and imposed on him by his culture, his society and his social group Foucault From Foucault's perspective, there needs to be a critical awareness that these practices are never neutral. He carefully differentiates between the various aspects of power that are endemic in any given society, as well as endorsing the appropriate critical tools needed to determine such influences: 'On the critical side - I mean critical in a very broad sense - philosophy is precisely the challenging of all phenomena of domination at whatever level or under whatever form they present themselves - political, economic, sexual, institutional, and so on' Foucault Though Foucault doesn't specifically mention religion as one of these regimes of power, his work is a crucial reminder that all definitions and structures are of a disciplinary nature, and need to be similarly scrutinized in a philosophically critical manner In these brief and highly selective references to the work of both Derrida and Foucault, which focus on their questioning of received knowledge, what is being recommended is an orientation that is suspicious of false presumptions to authorial privilege.

These unfortunately result in the imposition of definitions according to predetermined categories of dubious provenance. Their respective critical methods are extremely cogent for contemporary studies in religion. While this is not an unequivocal recommendation on my part of the unilateral use of a postmodern or poststructural strategy, I think that there are certain critical tools in their repertoire that could be integrated very effectively into both theoretical and methodological approaches in Religious Studies, and that could prove most salutary.

Religious Studies may well be a compromised discipline because of its implication in the damage inflicted by civilizing ministry of modernity. In this, however, it shares its suspect inheritance with the other disciplines that were generated by modernity's optimistic project of bringing European enlightenment to the 'uncivilized'. As scholars of religion, our own involvement - conscious or otherwise - in this complicated inheritance is a given. Religious Studies may well also be complicit - as I have also argued elsewhere Joy - in present-day global economic enterprises of an unsavory nature.

Most scholars who are employed by universities which operate according to the tenets of economic rationalism participate to some degree in such practices. Given such occupational hazards, what protective devices can scholar employ? Perhaps a healthy dose of suspicion, supplemented by cultural critique, could prove to be therapeutic. One consequence of acknowledging such inevitable connections with tainted goods, even if not undertaken deliberately, is that no more time need be spent searching for a new, less guilty term, or some irreproachable substitute for the word 'religion' and for the discipline of Religious Studies.

What I would encourage instead, is a more strenuous study of the contemporary ills that beset such 'civilization' as has thus far been achieved - with all its betrayals, exploitation and compromises, as well as the possible recuperation of certain admissible elements of modernity that, as Dussel attests, may merit reclamation.

In particular, more attention needs to be paid to other disciplines, such as anthropology, that have introduced a healthy self-reflexive approach. This step is necessary if Religious Studies is to be of relevance in today's world. The recent work of decolonial authors needs to be carefully studied, e. Grosfoguel , Ndlovu-Gatsheni , Mandair , and Marcos In addition, the work of contemporary critical theorists on globalization and its discontents, such as Saskia Sassen , Marguerite Waller and Sylvia Marcos , and Arjun Appadurai , as a supplement to those mentioned in this essay, would help to furnish pertinent material for further reflection.

There are indeed scholars who are endeavouring to engage honestly with the challenge that globalization brings, including its capitalist rapacity and the ensuing displacement of human beings, livelihoods, and resources. If taken seriously, these changes could well require a rethinking of the terms of reference for the discipline of Religious Studies. It is not simply the meaning of 'culture' and 'gender' that need to be revised, but the mode of thinking that has been content to insist on neutrality or objectivity, when all too often - in both past and present - this has simply been an excuse for unacknowledged interests.

Religious Studies as a discipline has also been content to remain satisfied with seemingly false dichotomies and simplistic dualisms that categorize, to the point of distortion, the entities that they create by their descriptions. It has too easily become distracted in its own 'cultural wars' between various proponents of a secular social scientific approach.

Scholars continue to squabble amongst themselves concerning the most efficacious way of limiting the incursions of theology upon their territory. While I am no supporter of theology as prescriptive in Religious Studies, I do not find these debates as particularly productive.

They divert attention from other more urgent problems, and encourage complacencies and insular preoccupations. These have prevented Religious Studies from addressing in critical and constructive ways the issues of life and death that are confronting humanity today. Not that I anticipate that there will be any immediate or easily reached conclusions on these matters. As Terry Eagleton has sagely observed: 'Modernity Postmodernism in its less helpful adaptations may even have exacerbated this trend.

But at least we could begin to be open to advances that have been made in other disciplines that could energize and even revitalize Religious Studies. Appadurai, Arjun ed. Armour, Ellen T. In Morny Joy ed. Dordrecht: Springer. Asad, Talal Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. An Interview with Michel Foucault on January 20, In The Final Foucault.

The Postmodern Turn. New York: The Guilford Press. Beyer, Peter Religion and Globalization. London: Sage Publications.

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