Unit Three – Religion, the Religious, and the Religious-like

What to Do for Unit Three

 What to Post

1) Ethnographic Notes  A- A US Religious Affiliation
Visit the PEW’s Site titled U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, choose a Religious Affiliation (or religious group, as designated by the Survey),  review the various types of data presented for your chosen group, share what you have learned about your chosen group with your audience. Also, state what you would like to know more about your chosen religious group.

PEW’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey


2) Ethnographic Notes B – Shopping Malls as Sacred Sites
After reading and discussing Jon Pahl’s articles on shopping malls with your group members, observe and gather visual data from a shopping mall in the U.S.  and people’s behavior inside the mall, and present it in the form of visual ethnographic notes for your audience in your society.   In your place people do not have religion as a social or group phenomenon. They do not have private property, or the market, or capitalism, and, of course, they do not have shopping malls. And, you think that a major “religious orientation” in this society is commodity fetishism. 

Focus on writing about the mall as a religious or religious-like site. Describe the material cultural aspects of your visual data (architectural and other material aspects like commodities, …) and the way people act and think in relation to the material cultural items you visualize. Make sure that overall your notes are holistic and non-essentialist. Post at least 1 piece of visual  date per group member. 

Mention the site you observed and the time of your observation and the places in the site you observed. You could also find images on the internet, if you prefer, and mix them with your own observations and visual material, but give specific date about the visual material.

Malls as Sites of Religious Violence

Pilgrimage to the Mall of America

3)    Ethnographic Notes C –  Answer or discuss any of the following questions or discussion topics for your audience.

C1)      What are some of the similarities between sports and religion in contemporary America?

C2)      How are the characteristics of Pentecostal Christianity similar and/or different from other spiritual experiences with which you are familiar with (within or outside Christianity)? Try to discuss similarities and differences  by putting them in their cultural contexts.

C3)      Discuss one American television series that communicates moral messages (of how Americans are supposed to behave, what are they supposed to value, what happens to them if they refuse to adhere to these ways of acting and valuing, how they can return to a righteous path after they have strayed, etc.).

C4)      Search for the results of the most recent Pan American Games or Olympic Games. Analyze the way the media texts and images cover the games and try to discuss what phrases were used to describe the reasons for success or failure of American athletes.

C5)      Visit the site titled This Far by Faith  http://www.pbs.org/thisfarbyfaith/
Choose a historical period, read about the period and some of the people discussed in the site from that period and share the results.

C6)        Visit the following website on Religion and the Founding of the American Republic by the Library of Congress
Critically review some of the contents of the site (text and images) and its organization from the “politics of memory” point of view. Try to answer or discuss the following questions:
What does “Founding of America” or the “Founding of the American Republic” mean? Which groups, populations, religious beliefs, or practices, during the founding period of the America are not presented in the site?

C7)  Religions around the world share several characteristics. In what ways going to college in America is like learning and experiencing a religion?

C8) Choose an American film and review and describe its religious aspects.

D)      Research Project Progress – Historical Background and Religious/Ideological Aspects

Please do some research and thinking about the Historical Background and Religious/ Ideological Aspects of your research project topic and post the results with proper citation on your research project’s blog.


What to Read (Links and Notes below)

Document titled: Unit 3 Notes Religion

Document titled: Religion and the Founding of the US

Document titled: Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity

The PDF files by Jon Pahl on the Malls as (Semi-)Sacred Places




http://divinity.uchicago.edu/martycenter/publications/webforum/052007/desire_to_acquire.pdfRead about commodity fetishism

Commodity Fetishism – Perdue University




Fundamentalism- Encyclopedia of Religion and Society



Unit 3  Notes 

Religion   Anthropology of American Life and Culture


The following notes on religion and worldview is based on Chapter of Eight of

Cultural Anthropology: A Perspective on the Human Condition, Seventh Edition, by Emily A. Schultz and Robert H. Lavenda (Oxford University Press, 2008).

“People attempting to account for their experiences make use of shared cultural assumptions about how the world works. The encompassing pictures of reality that result are called worldviews.

Metaphors are valuable tools for constructing worldviews by directing attention to certain aspects of experience and downplaying or ignoring others.

Differences in worldview derive from differences in experience that people try to explain by means of metaphor.

American society includes a variety of people who subscribe to different worldviews.

Knowledge, like power, is not evenly distributed throughout a society.

More powerful individuals and groups often promote ideologies, imposing their preferred worldview on the rest of society.

Those without power can resist this imposition by creating their own contrasting metaphors and constructing alternative worldviews.

Anthropological studies of religion tend to focus on the social institutions and meaningful practices and processes with which are associated with religion.

Religious specialists – Maintaining contact with cosmic forces is very complex, and societies have complex social practices designed to ensure that this is done properly (like priests and shamans).

Many anthropologists have displayed the tapestries of symbols, rituals, and everyday practices that make up particular worldviews and religions, and to demonstrate the degree to which worldviews vary from one another.

They have also studied the ways in which drastic changes in peoples’ experiences lead them to create new meanings to explain the changes and to cope with them.

This can be accomplished through elaboration of the old system to fit changing times, conversion to a new worldview, syncretism, revitalization, or resistance.

Some anthropologists have begun to study the relationship between religion and secularism as these developed following the European Enlightenment.

Earlier generations of anthropologists took secularism for granted as the expected outcome of cultural evolution.

Contemporary resistance to secular institutions by religious groups in Western and non-Western countries, however, has prompted a reconsideration of secularism.

An important issue is the extent to which life in a liberal secular state is likely to be difficult for those whose religious practices do not recognize any domain of life in which religious considerations do not hold sway.”

Because of the diversity among religions, scholars now talk about elements that appear in varying degrees in the different spiritual paths.

These elements include:

A Belief System,

A Community of Believers,

Central stories called Myths,

Ceremonies or Rituals,

Material Expressions,

Ethical Guidelines,

Characteristic Emotions or Experiences that occur, and

A Sense of the Sacred.

Conceptions of the sacred are very diverse. Examples are a transcendent personal God, an immanent pantheistic power, and polytheism, or multiple gods. Other paths embrace atheism, agnosticism, or nontheism.

Use of symbolic images and actions conveys religious truth or ideas in a powerful way and may suggest a sort of universal language spoken by religions.

The comparative study of religion also has proposed three patterns of similarity and difference among religions.

1)      The first pattern concerns beliefs and practices in orientation toward the sacred. It identifies the sacramental, the prophetic, and the mystical orientation.

2)      The second pattern deals with views of the world and life, such as the nature of the sacred itself, the nature of the universe and humanity’s place in it, conceptions of time, human purpose, the role of words and scriptures, and notions of inclusiveness and exclusiveness.

3)      The third pattern addresses views of male and female according to both prescribed social roles and conceptions of deity.

These three patterns provide useful reference points for comparison and contrast between religions.

Religious studies as a discipline has grown in complexity and sophistication in over two hundred years of development. It draws on many disciplines because religion has influenced so many areas of life.

Today the study of religion offers many insights and pleasures.

It assists us in understanding the experiences of others and helps us to better interpret the complexity of the world and our place in it.

Anthropology of religion is both holistic and comparative. From the holistic perspective, it involves the study of religious institutions, practices, and belief systems (or systems of religious knowledge) in a larger context or whole–that is, in relation to other social institutions and aspects of the larger society and its history. As a comparativediscipline, it attempts to compare religious beliefs and practices across societies or cultures.


Shopping Malls as Sacred Places
Jon Pahl
Professor of the History of Christianity in North America
The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia





The following notes is based on the following article:

Joel Robbins. The Globalization of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity. 2004. Annual Review of Anthropology. Vol.33 pg. 117-144.

Pentecostal-charismatic Christianity (P/c), is the form of Christianity in which believers receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit and have ecstatic experiences–such as speaking in tongues, healing, and prophesying.
This form of Christianity is considered to be one of the great success stories of cultural globalization.

Its origin can be traced to early twentieth-century developments within Christianity in the West, particularly in North America.

Despite its origins in the West, just a hundred years after its birth, it is estimated that  two thirds of P/c’s estimated half a billion adherents live outside the West– in areas such as Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Oceania.

P/c culture has the characteristic of preserving its distinctness from the cultures into which it comes into contact and engaging those cultures on their own terms at the same time. 

P/c’s success as a globalizing movement has spread throughout the world in urban and rural areas. Its adherents of from the emerging middle classes and, most spectacularly, from the poor.


There is little standardization in social scientific usages of terms such as Pentecostal and charismatic, and several scholars have worried that these terms have become so broad as to be meaningless.

First, all of the terms social scientists use as analytic categories (Pentecostalism, charismatic Christianity, fundamentalism, evangelicalism, etc.) are also “folk”terms that have a wide range of meanings.

Pentecostalism’s roots lie in the Protestant evangelical tradition that grew out of the eighteenth-century,  Anglo-American revival movement known as the Great Awakening.

Evangelical Christianity, which includes such denominations as Methodists and Baptists, is distinguished by its emphasis on conversion.

People are not born into the evangelical faith but must “voluntarily” choose it on the basis of powerful conversion experiences (often glossed as being “born again“).

Because evangelicals believe this experience is available to everyone, they strongly emphasize the importance of evangelistic efforts to convert others.

They also hold the Bible in high regard as a text possessed of the highest religious authority and often endeavor to read it in what they take to be literal terms.

During the nineteenth century, Methodism was the most important evangelical denomination in North America.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, a largely Methodist Holiness movement arose around groups that experimented with different understandings of the nature and number of post conversion experiences that affected a person’s salvation.

Holiness followers emphasized a commitment to millenarianism faith healing.

Pentecostalism was born from the Holiness efforts to work out a stable form of openly supernatural and experiential Christianity based on the notion of the second blessing of the Spirit.
Its primary innovation was to see speaking in tongues as the necessary “initial physical evidence” of Spirit baptism.

This pattern of enthusiastic worship, relatively unscripted and egalitarian in offering the floor to all those who the Spirit calls, is the one observers would find all over the world by the end of the twentieth century.

Aside from its emphasis on tongues, Pentecostal doctrine bears much in common with that of the Holiness tradition from which it developed. Sometimes described as the fourfold, foursquare, or “full gospel” pattern of Pentecostal theology, it stresses that Jesus (a) offers salvation; (b) heals; (c) baptizes with the Holy Spirit; and (d) is coming again. strict moralism, these are the four core Pentecostal doctrines. They are the elements of the religion that have proved immensely portable, seemingly able to enter various cultural contexts without losing their basic form.

As broad a category as P/c is, it should be distinguished from Christian fundamentalism.

Pentecostalism and fundamentalism both are elements of the broader evangelical movement and both emerged in the early twentieth century.

As such, they share general evangelical features such as conversionism, respect for the Bible, and ascetic tendencies.

These similarities sometimes lead some scholars to view Pentecostalism as a branch of fundamentalism. P/c and Christian Fundamentalism together could be looked at as brands of conservative Christianity, but they are not necessarily the same.

Fundamentalists, based on the doctrine that the gifts of the Spirit ceased to be available to people after they were given to the Apostles during the original Pentecost, from the outset firmly rejected Pentecostalism. Fundamentalists today adhere to this rejection.

Pentecostals are less concerned with boundary maintenance.

Watch the following Pentecostal ritual on Youtube


Question: How would you interpret the text of the song and its performance?

The Holy Ghost People is the famous 53-minute documentary by Peter Adair. It was made is a 1967. It is about the service of a Pentecostal community in West Virginia.
The church service includes curing of diseasessnake handlingspeaking in tongues and singing.
This documentary has entered the public domain and is available at the Internet Archive.


It is also available on Youtube in segments.

Question: How would you interpret and analyze the service shown in the documentary in its historical and social context?


Digital History – 1920s – Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism



Metakinesis: How God Becomes Intimate in Contemporary U.S. Christianity

TANYA M. LUHRMANN – American Anthropologist



This Far By Faith

PBS- Religion and African Americans in History


How Buddhism Came to the West
PBS-The Buddha



U.S. Religious Landscape Survey

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life



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