Week 3: Exploring the Three Pillars of Analysis: Part 2—Rituals and Institutions

Week 3: Exploring the Three Pillars of Analysis: Part 2—Rituals and Institutions

The preeminence of the coming-of-age ritual for women among the Navajo is congruent with their matrilinear social structure… [T]he young woman who has reached menarche is believed to be especially powerful in both spiritual and physical realms. At a certain point in the ritual, she individually blesses each of those in attendance with health and strength. At another specifically propitious point in this ritual, there is a space for all in attendance to put forward a request for whatever they need or desire for good reasons.
—L. R. Kurtz

Many who were raised in societies predominantly influenced by the Western religious traditions of Abraham tend to associate “religion” primarily with “belief.” For many societies, however, the concepts that unite followers under a given sacred canopy are the religious rituals performed in everyday life and the institutionalized social structure in which an individual in a religious tradition resides. This week, you will explore additional religious rituals as well as the institutions that support the tradition.

Learning Objectives

Students will:
  • Evaluate religious authority and power within the context of two religions
  • Analyze how religious authority and power shape religious institutions and influence culture
  • Select a pillar of analysis within the context of our globalized culture

Photo Credit: [Alpha-C]/[iStock / Getty Images Plus]/Getty Images

Learning Resources

Required Readings

Kurtz, L. R. (2016). Gods in the global village: The world’s religions in sociological perspective (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Chapter 1, “Religious Life in the Global Village”“Religious Rituals” (pp. 30–42)
Chapter 2, “A Sociological Tour: Turning East”“Hindu Rituals” (pp. 62–67)
“Buddhist Rituals” (pp. 74–75)
Chapter 3, “The Tour: Western Religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam”“Jewish Ritual” (pp. 99–101)
“Christian Rituals” (pp. 106–108)
Chapter 4, “Indigenous Religions”“Indigenous Rituals” (pp. 141–150)

Discussion: Religious Authority

Just about every world religion has an authority figure that presides over the religious institution and interprets and oversees the doctrine. In Christianity, for example, the structure of the religion’s institution has shifted over time and is currently rigidly centralized in some sects while decentralized in others. The related role of religious authority has been particularly contentious and has shifted as the institution itself changed over the centuries. Today, many Christian sects have split from others because of conflicting beliefs in who has authority. In this Discussion, you will compare religious authority and attendant institutions of two religions you have studied in the week’s readings.

To prepare for this Discussion:

  1. Review your course text’s selected readings for this week.
  2. Choose two religious traditions to compare. Be sure one of the traditions is the tradition you selected to focus on in your Final Project.
  3. Consider these questions:
    • Who is in charge?
    • Who is allowed a say in religious actions?
    • Are the religions deeply centralized? Loosely hierarchical?
    • How does a culture evolve and change if religious institutions govern the values and practices of the culture?
By Day 3

Post a paragraph of your evaluation of religious authority and power in the two religions you chose. In a second paragraph, discuss the idea that if a higher power confers authority and shapes the religious institution, how does this influence the culture that practices the religion? Can people change values in the culture if the religion originally sets the precedence? Support your assertions by making at least 2 references, in proper APA format, to your course readings.

Be sure to support your ideas by connecting them to the week’s Learning Resources or something you have read, heard, seen, or experienced.

Read a selection of your colleagues’ postings.

By Day 5

Respond to at least one of your colleagues’ postings in one or more of the following ways:

  • Ask a probing question.
  • Share an insight from having read your colleague’s posting.
  • Offer and support an opinion.
  • Validate an idea with your own experience.
  • Make a suggestion.
  • Expand on your colleague’s posting.

Return to this Discussion in a few days to read the responses to your initial posting. Note what you have learned and/or any insights you have gained as a result of the comments your colleagues made.

Submission and Grading Information
Grading Criteria

To access your rubric:
Discussion Rubric

Post by Day 3 and Respond by Day 5

To participate in this Discussion:
Week 3 Discussion