My REL 245 course presses on and now we’re about to tackle Craig Martin’s Capitalizing Religion: Ideology and the Opiate of the Bourgeoisie.
So I’ve got some weekend reading to do.
The course is asking whether the study of religion ought to be founded on the assumption that the public, observable, material elements of religious life are but secondary manifestations of prior immaterial things — usually called beliefs, experiences, feelings, meanings, etc. Calling this common assumption into question is a way to further complicate how scholars (especially Americanists studying the pluralism of the US) often talk about religious change, such as the supposed decisions that so-called individual, rational actors are said to make when they convert or “shop for” a religion.
As I’ve noted in previous posts, we started by watching “North By Northwest,” talked some about Althusser’s notion of interpellaton, read a little rational choice theory about the history of religion in the US, then moved to a English history of domesticity and the invention of privacy, and then spent a little time on this notion of experience as well as some classic psychology experiments on the socially constructed nature of the autonomous selves we each claim to be.
So the move to Martin’s book at this point in the semester makes a lot of sense, to bring is all directly back to the study of religion.