R W1A1

Hello everyone!

My name is Mashael, and my major is architecture. I am taking this class partly because it is one of the requirements I need for my degree and partly because the backgrounds and details of different faiths have always interested me. I have chosen to study this topic anthropologically because I also think that religions say so much more about a people and a culture than just what that people thought would get them a nice after life. Religions also direct most every norm in society, and so to understand the religions of a people and place is to understand what makes them “tick,” so to speak. I have taken a general anthropology class in the past, and I learned what anthropology is, as well as how it helps us understand both people of the past and the people that exist today. The basic idea that I have learned about anthropology is that it is the study of people, their norms, their values and how all of these elements worked together to create the societies of their time. The study of religion, then, is another way to get a unique look into the lives and people of a society, as it tells about what matters to them and what guides their lives. However, after reading the text for this week that introduced me to the way that anthropology studies religion, I had my eyes opened to an even broader perspective of what it can achieve. According to the textbook, “anthropology does not approach religion to falsify it nor verify it nor even to judge it,” but rather anthropology studies religion because it shows what people believe in and what they use to construct their social world (Eller 7 & 11). In other words, the anthropological study of religion is meant to explain the religion and what it says about the people who practice it. Eller explains that this involves three parts, which are to “construct a model of it, to identify processes or mechanisms at work in it, and to give reasons for it,” and so when an anthropologist turns his or her focus on a religion it is for these three purposes (13). While other fields might try to acquire or specialize in the religion, anthropology just wants to open up the clock of it, so to speak, and see all of the moving parts that make it “tick” for the people that practice it, as it is through this way that a deeper understanding can be found.

I would say that starting out our semester with these questions as the guides to clarify our study efforts will definitely help narrow what we are looking for and help us avoid the ethnocentrisms that often plague the studies of other religions. With an open mind and a curious nature, we can avoid all judgment and glean so much information from it, and thus make our time in the course all the more beneficial to us as academics and individuals that inhabit a very diverse society.


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