The academic study of religion first and foremost understands that whatever “religion” is taken to mean by a group of people, it is a social phenomenon. Religion happens in society and can thus be observed and analyzed. We’ve also learned guidelines for how to study religion. Before we discuss how religion works, we need to come to some understandings about society. Craig Martin will help us with this over the next few chapter readings.

The first things he has us understand is this notion of “classification” (the politics upon which we’ll elaborate in class). To tease this out, I have highlighted themes upon which I’d like you to focus over the next two class sessions.

For the first class session, we are going to move beyond “the common-sense view of language” toward a more analytically savvy position.

  • In up to 500 words, elaborate on what Martin means by “words create worlds.” You can summarize, paraphrase, and restate what he says. But provide as clear an understanding as you can. You want to be able to teach this to a roommate or friend.
  • Included in the 500 words, provide and discuss an example of a word(s) creating a world. Don’t use one of Martin’s. Choose your own, maybe something you came across recently or that you know well. If need be, go down an internet rabbit hole and find something. But make sure that you choose an example and you show how it illustrates Martin’s point.

For the second class sessions, we are going to discuss social constructionism.

  • List the seven principles of social constructionism as written by Martin.
  • After each principle, paraphrase (that is, put in your own words) the principle or present an example of it. You can do both of these things if you wish, but do at least one.
This is a music video of the song “Society,” by Eddie Vedder (front man of the band, Pearl Jam). Vedder composed and performed the soundtrack for the Sean Penn film, Into the Wild. Should you so choose, you might take a look and see if any course themes/ideas come to mind. This is one way to wrap your head around tricky information. I’ll even make a deal with you and let you replace one of the bulleted items if you reflect on the connections for 500 words. But make sure you’ve written down what Martin means by “words make worlds” and list the seven principles of social constructionism. They’ll for sure appear on the test. Lyrics for the song can be found here, but they also appear when you play the video.