SOC 420 Lesson 5 SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1: Keep Moving Forwardâ€”Media and the Future of American Religion
At this point, many of those young people are turning away from organized religions. Historically, about 5 percent of people identified as having no religion at all. “Among young people, that figure is now 30 percent,” according to [Robert] Putnam’s research [including inÂ American GraceÂ ]. “It’s a huge increase.”
Many of those young people say they believe in god, they simply don’t belong to an organized religion. And, since the “habits you form early tend to stick with you,” Putnam says, “That rapid increase in the number of young Americans who are dissatisfied with religion portends a drop in American religiosity over the years ahead.”
According to Putnam, a growing number of young people today are saying, “Look, if religion is just about conservative politics and homophobia and so on, I’m out of here. That’s not for me.”
â€”Public Radio International, â€œThe Future of Religion in America,â€ first published October 19, 2010 atÂ this link from PRIÂ .Â [Note: The 30% figure cited above from 2010 is gradually increasing according to several reliable measurements, including Pew Forum statistics.]
First Things Firstâ€” The Free Marketplace, Media, Megachurches, Globalization, and Religionâ€™s Future
Welcome to Lesson 5! For this lesson, we will be reading about the concepts ofÂ the free marketplace of ideas/religious pluralism,Â media and religion,Â megachurches (and its related concept, multi-site churches), globalization, and the future of religion, among others. This should be excitingâ€”thereâ€™s a lot of interesting material here as we move into religion and its role in the modern era. The media in particular is a lifelong area of interest for me, as Iâ€™m sure many of you will shortly be able to tell. ( Ever since I first read about theÂ Orson WellesÂ War of the WorldsÂ radio broadcast in 1938Â , I have been interested in exploring how media can broadcast messages to areas as wide as an entire country and why these messages can sometimes be highly convincing. So hereâ€™s one of my many opportunities to do exactly that. More in the lesson supplementâ€”which I highly recommend to those of you interested in writing about media and religion!â€”and also in STS 494, Narrative, Technology, and Society! (
One advisory note before we beginâ€” in much of what we cover here, we will be focusing a great deal on the North American Judeo-Christian tradition. The US is the focus of our class, as defined in the ASU course catalog; moreover, given the historical and demographic prevalence of this tradition in this country, this should not be too surprising. However, in the 21st century it is abundantly true the doors have been opening to more globalized religious groups and identities, as well as a general shift away from organized religion in general. So I most certainly encourage any of you who would like to explore how these concepts apply to other religious traditions and identities to take up the challenge. ( Please, examine these concepts in the other contexts that interest you! This could make a fascinating Assignment 7 for anyone who wants to take that on, and Iâ€™d definitely consider including insights from such a project in future supplementary material in Lesson 6! (
So given that note and encouragement, here we go:
Required Readings (copies also attached on Canvas):
Globalization and Future of Religion:Â Pew Research Center Presentation: Peter Berger, â€œReligion in a Globalizing World,â€ 2007Â (first half required, remainder optional).
The Megachurch:Â Scott Thumma, 2015. â€œLearning from Megachurches.â€ Interview in Reflections: A Magazine of Theological and Ethical Inquiry from the Yale Divinity SchoolÂ .
Future of Religion in America: (Links to PDF)Â Hout et. al., 2012. â€œMore Americans Have No Religious Preference.â€ Institute for the Study of Societal Issues, University of Cal-Berkeley.
Optional Readings and Resources (see also PDFs on Canvas):
Religion and Media:Â This essay from Richard Fox of the University of ChicagoÂ .
The Megachurch:Â Scott Thumma, 1996. â€œExploring the Megachurch Phenomenon.â€
Multi-Site Churches:Â Jacob Prahlow, 2018, â€œWhat are Multi-site Churches,â€ via pursuingveritas.comÂ . (Yes, this is essentially a blog, but well-researched, as the sources are good and core facts check out.)
Religion and Music/Megachurch:Â Advertising and the megachurchÂ from the Wharton School; an interestingÂ analysis of Pentecostal megachurch musicÂ .
Future of Religion in America:Â Pew Research, 2019, â€œIn US, Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Paceâ€Â ;Â Berger on Religion and Modernity, 2013Â ;Â Wuthnow, 1988, Two Civil ReligionsÂ .
The Free Marketplace of Ideas
To introduce this lesson, we need to start by considering at length the idea of the American religious context as something of a Free Marketplace of Ideas. As mentioned in Lesson 3, this concept is interconnected with the idea ofÂ religious pluralism, which has been a staple of religious culture in the US even from colonial days. Although weâ€™ve made it to this point without really examining the pluralistic marketplace in depth, it is a profound idea with deep historical roots. This philosophical concept was critical in the formation of America as well as in the political reformulation of a number of other European societies. Think in terms of an open-air marketplace where consumers are free to wander from vendor to vendor, seeking the best deals on the goods in the marketplace and ultimately buying from the seller who offers the best value for the price the consumer is willing to pay. Rather fittingly, this free marketplace of ideas was not a concept developed or advocated by only one single philosopher, but rather stemmed from the general notion that all ideas needed to be weighed and considered on their own merits. Those in the marketplace also need to be free to make choices based on their own wishes and judgments. Those who participated in the marketplace could be trusted to know what was best for them and act in their own best interests. Accordingly, like a marketplace, the ideas that were best and true would be accepted and practiced; those that were inferior and false would be rejected and abandoned.
One prominent proponent of the Free Marketplace of Ideas was poetÂ John Milton, best known today for his epicÂ Paradise Lost. Two decades before he produced that masterpiece, however, his impassioned defense of freedom of speech,Â Areopagitica,Â resounded before Parliament in 1644. The ideals of Miltonâ€™s free-speech advocacy obviously werenâ€™t accepted as completely then as they would later be in Americaâ€”but those words and ideas resonated and endured, and were put in place almost a century and a half later. The ideal of the truth having a virtue of its own that made it powerful had a long precedent in English and European intellectual history. What was good and true would endure; what was false would ultimately fail. The notion had come largely from the Scholastics, the church-educated philosophers of medieval times, and hearkened back at least to the words of Jesus Christ in the New Testament long before them: â€œYe shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.â€ (John 8:32.)
Consequently, if the truth could in fact make people free in any way, knowing the truth and allowing it to emerge was essential to liberty itself. In a truly free environment, in the Western context, one must be able to speak the truth and act upon it. The truth also had a power of its own to make itself known to those who were searching for itâ€”even in a crowded pluralistic marketplace filled with all sorts of other goods of varying quality ranging from superior to inferior, buyers and sellers, and various distractions.
Hence, at least in theory, the motivated consumers who were acting completely without compulsion would actively seek out the best products in the free marketplace; that which was inferior would draw little attention. Vendors in that pluralistic marketplace, also acting fully without compulsion, would theoretically in turn produce the best goods to meet the need for the best products. This ideal, which predated Adam Smithâ€™sÂ The Wealth of NationsÂ (including his well-known â€œinvisible handâ€ mechanism) and our modern capitalistic system, nonetheless furnished part of the inspiration for both. So the value of freedom in speech and thought long predated Miltonâ€™s eloquence, and it likewise awaited nearly a century and a half afterwards before being realized in legal form.
These ideals of freedom in speech, religion, and the press, long held in European society in some form despite their inconsistent-to-nonexistent application in various contexts, were not fully put into practice until they were written into the U.S. Constitutionâ€™s Bill of Rights in 1787. Nor is it in any way an accident that the freedom of ideas and speech were written into the same Amendment as the freedom of religion. Remember, many of the early settlers of colonial America sought freedom from religious persecution, and this was a natural fit for corresponding freedoms of speech and assembly. Religion was a key focus of the freedom of speech, as well as a core preoccupation of the Founding Fathers, and religion and speech had a great deal of common ground in early America. Indeed, a fair amount of the speech in colonial America involved religion and various religious concernsâ€”as well as political discourse. Moreover, religious (and political!) concerns were frequently discussed in groups, so it was likewise important to protect the freedom to gather to discuss these concerns. In particular, the nationâ€™s founders wanted to allow a wide variety of religious beliefs and freedoms, AND also avoid establishing a state-sanctioned religion.
So as we consider this metaphor of the Free Marketplace, not only is it a marketplace of ideas, but it is also one of religion. Rather than having a government tell the people what to believe, the founders preferred a pluralistic religious model in America from the outset. Under a state-sanctioned religion, particularly the Church of England or the Catholic Church from whence the Anglicans came, European history had endured centuries of religious oppression, with power centered in a particular church that was not only approved by the governing powers but played an active role in political processes. In many European countries, this was the Roman Catholic Church, but in others, rival institutions such as the Church of England (or Anglican) held power. For instance, the Scandinavian governments generally supported Lutheranism. The state church couldâ€”and more often than not did!â€”wield its power in highly authoritarian and inhumane ways, collude with political leaders to maintain that power (the â€œÂ divine right of kingsÂ ,â€ etc.) and justify oppression against the people; see alsoÂ this overview of several key historical issues in the separation of church and stateÂ .
Some of the abuses of state-sponsored religionâ€”most notablyÂ a series of InquisitionsÂ over several centuries, which required secular authorities to enact ecclesiastical judgmentsâ€”were very much in the Foundersâ€™ minds. The experience of Henry VIII breaking with the Catholic Church in the 1530s and seizing power to create and control the Church of England could not have been far from their minds, eitherâ€”not to mention the struggles with the Puritan sect during the British Reformation, wars with Catholic loyalists, and the woefully incomplete and inconsistent practice of the Toleration Act of 1689. (Â See here for a timeline of England’s religious struggles during the colonial years.Â ) One commentator also argues that the key function of the First Amendment was not necessarily to guarantee the peopleâ€™s freedom of religion, but most directly toÂ protect religion from government influenceÂ . In any case, while itâ€™s doubtful that the Founding Fathers fully envisioned a number of the accompanying problemsâ€”failures to grant the very rights the Constitution guaranteed, discrimination, persecution, and outright religion-related violence among themâ€”they still clearly preferred the pluralism-of-belief scenario to state-established religion. They had been down that road as well as learned from those whoâ€™d traveled it even more extensively.
So the Free Marketplace of Ideas was established by default as the preferred model for American religion. No single religion would be preferred. Various religions would be allowed to exist and compete for believers. People would be able to choose for themselves what they wanted to believe. The most successful and plausible of these religions would succeed, especially over time; those that didnâ€™t resonate or endure would fail. Remember also our question from earlier in the course about Rational Choice Theory and choosing religious belief. As many astute students have pointed out, Rational Choice doesnâ€™t at all determine religion of origin, or the system of belief that an individual inherits. But as mentioned in previous lessons, Rational Choice seems a reasonable explanation for the conscious aspects of religious conversion, or when an individual decides to change religious beliefs. Ordinarily, though, individuals are frequently socialized into their religions of origin.
Moreover, as time has gone on, the growing influence of consumer culture in our society has permeated the religious world. In the 18th and 19th centuries, and presumably even in the early part of the 20th, our economy was predicated on investments and savings. But in the wake of the Great Depressionâ€”during which many lost their investments and savingsâ€”and particularly after World War II, the economic basis of our society began to shift. As the quality of American life improved and as products became more readily available, the US economy gradually shifted away from savings and investments toward expenditures and consumption. In shortâ€”saving and wisely investing money didnâ€™t matter to American companies nearly as much as spending it! The growth of media and advertising played no small role in this process, of course.
So as Americans became more socialized in the post-war culture of consumerism, thanks in great measure to the rise of media and advertising, the consumer mentality also spread to the realm of religion. As consumerism took root in the larger American culture, one of its implications for religion gradually became clear:Â For many people, going to church became less about finding The Truth and worshiping God and more about finding whatever worked for the believer.Â Post-consumer religion was less about changing oneâ€™s mind and behavior according to what was True and more about findingâ€”and perhaps even no overstatement to say, also worshipingâ€”whatever the believer already believed. Accordingly, as the practice of consumerism set in, finding a church became much less a believerâ€™s quest for The Truth and much more of a shopping trip for what fit best. (Such calculated decisions become nearly if not fully literal in the field of religious economics, for those interested in exploring these issues further.) As post-war consumers became more socialized into consumerism, largely through a process of social construction and much of it through broadcast media, most notably advertising, religious choice also became more or less a rational economic decision.
Religion and Media
At this point, when considering socializationâ€”remember, the â€œsuperpowerâ€ of media (more on that in STS 494 () â€”we can further illustrate social construction of reality through the various forms of public communication over the centuries. Through the information and entertainment (often one and the same) ( provided over the airwaves and on the Internet, the media host our national discourse and (as previously mentioned) help socialize us as consumers. Likewise, media substantially influence politicsâ€”conservative talk radio, Fox News (and its deliberately liberal counterpart, MSNBC), alternative news outlets such as the Drudge Report and Huffington Post, innumerable politically oriented blogs, and other outlets adding to the overall political consciousness. (Hereâ€™sÂ a handy resource for checking media biasÂ , BTWâ€¦) Even beyond that, the emergence of highly skewed political propaganda (whether Occupy Democrats and the like on the left or Breitbart et. al. on the right) and outright â€œfake newsâ€ that played a role in the 2016 electionÂ and overall misinformation that still plagues us todayÂ is a troubling development for all of us who are concerned about misinformation. In any case, media of all kinds have recently helped reinforce a growing dynamic in our country todayâ€”the liberal v. conservative tension as a competitive zero-sum game (i.e., with winners and losers) rather than a cooperative social experiment that is only won when society as a whole benefits.
Media are not only key players in the social construction of our intersubjective political reality, and its corresponding place in terms of Bellahâ€™s â€œcivil religionâ€ (which appears to be splitting into sectarian divisions), ( but they play a key role in the social construction of our intersubjective religious reality as well. An interesting and ironic point deserves to be underscored here: Religion and media are sometimes viewed as opposed. However, aside from some producers of popular culture that seem skeptical about (if not hostile to) religious messages, religion and media are actually quite highly integrated. Religion actually uses mass media extensively and has done so for centuries. Weâ€™ll take a look into at least two ways in which this is true of religion and media, though other applications are also possible.
Consider, for the first instance, that our modern plurality of religion in America stems largely from a media eventâ€”the invention of Johannes Gutenbergâ€™s printing press about 1450, which allowed for the mass printing and distribution of the Bible throughout Europe and the world. Religion depends extensively on the printed word, which has been true for the past several centuries. The Bible, in fact, is Exhibit A on that point. We are talking about, hands down, the best-selling and most-published book of all time. Nothing else comes close. Then again, no other book has been both so long in print and so consistently in demand for what is approaching the past six centuries!Â The advent of the printing press and publication of Gutenbergâ€™s original Latin version of the Bible in 1455Â (sometimes the year varies slightly) struck a substantial blow to the ruling religious authorities, particularly in the Catholic Church, though the same applied to all state churches. They had established religious traditions, rituals, and a body of belief over several centuries. Publication of the Bible threatened all that, since individuals would be able to read what was widely considered â€œthe Word of Godâ€ for themselves and decide what it meant. This would in effect open up the free marketplace of ideas, at least in terms of religion! The priests would lose their near-exclusive position as interpreters and proclaimers of the Bible!
Remember our discussion of heretics from our first session? The hereticsâ€”those who disagreed with the state churchâ€™s established interpretation of the scriptures, though their alternate readings varied widelyâ€”taught others according to their beliefs. The advent of Protestantism in the early Renaissance era produced this mass wave of heresy, with dissidents such as Jan Hus, John Calvin, English Bible translator William Tyndale, scientist Galileo Galilei, and others) emerging over the next couple of centuries, perhaps most influentially resulting in two movements. First, a series of questions, objections, and published critical writings from disenchanted Catholic priest Martin Luther in 1517 eventually produced Lutherâ€™s excommunication in 1521 and subsequent foundation of the Lutheran branch of Protestantism. A little more than a decade later, in 1534, Englandâ€™s King Henry VIII also publicly split with the Catholic Church. Interestingly, the kingâ€”evidently highly controlling!â€”had earlier denounced Luther and defended Catholicism, and executed thousands of heretics. Still, he became bitter when the pope refused to grant him a divorce so that he could marry (as he believed, in line with the bio-medical thinking of the time) a woman capable of bearing him a son as an heir to the throne. This split produced the Anglican Church, with King Henry VIII at its head, of course.
So heresy in a sense was linked to the spread of religious pluralism, both in terms of promoting dissent and establishing alternative church organizations. Yet other dissenters arose as the Bible became more available to ordinary people. Religious and secular authorities alike, who had vested interests in preserving the churchâ€™s power, battled the spread of Bible publication to no avail. Printed media helped substantially diminish the churchâ€™s political influence and produced religious variety as people interpreted the Bible for themselves. So in a sense, Bible publication helped socialize people away from the church as much as it helped socialize existing believers. The free marketplace of ideas was a wonderful but at times a r
Get Professional Assignment Help Cheaply
Are you busy and do not have time to handle your assignment? Are you scared that your paper will not make the grade? Do you have responsibilities that may hinder you from turning in your assignment on time? Are you tired and can barely handle your assignment? Are your grades inconsistent?
Whichever your reason is, it is valid! You can get professional academic help from our service at affordable rates. We have a team of professional academic writers who can handle all your assignments.
Why Choose Our Academic Writing Service?
- Plagiarism free papers
- Timely delivery
- Any deadline
- Skilled, Experienced Native English Writers
- Subject-relevant academic writer
- Adherence to paper instructions
- Ability to tackle bulk assignments
- Reasonable prices
- 24/7 Customer Support
- Get superb grades consistently
Online Academic Help With Different Subjects
Students barely have time to read. We got you! Have your literature essay or book review written without having the hassle of reading the book. You can get your literature paper custom-written for you by our literature specialists.
Do you struggle with finance? No need to torture yourself if finance is not your cup of tea. You can order your finance paper from our academic writing service and get 100% original work from competent finance experts.
While psychology may be an interesting subject, you may lack sufficient time to handle your assignments. Don’t despair; by using our academic writing service, you can be assured of perfect grades. Moreover, your grades will be consistent.
Engineering is quite a demanding subject. Students face a lot of pressure and barely have enough time to do what they love to do. Our academic writing service got you covered! Our engineering specialists follow the paper instructions and ensure timely delivery of the paper.
In the nursing course, you may have difficulties with literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, critical essays, and other assignments. Our nursing assignment writers will offer you professional nursing paper help at low prices.
Truth be told, sociology papers can be quite exhausting. Our academic writing service relieves you of fatigue, pressure, and stress. You can relax and have peace of mind as our academic writers handle your sociology assignment.
We take pride in having some of the best business writers in the industry. Our business writers have a lot of experience in the field. They are reliable, and you can be assured of a high-grade paper. They are able to handle business papers of any subject, length, deadline, and difficulty!
We boast of having some of the most experienced statistics experts in the industry. Our statistics experts have diverse skills, expertise, and knowledge to handle any kind of assignment. They have access to all kinds of software to get your assignment done.
Writing a law essay may prove to be an insurmountable obstacle, especially when you need to know the peculiarities of the legislative framework. Take advantage of our top-notch law specialists and get superb grades and 100% satisfaction.
What discipline/subjects do you deal in?
We have highlighted some of the most popular subjects we handle above. Those are just a tip of the iceberg. We deal in all academic disciplines since our writers are as diverse. They have been drawn from across all disciplines, and orders are assigned to those writers believed to be the best in the field. In a nutshell, there is no task we cannot handle; all you need to do is place your order with us. As long as your instructions are clear, just trust we shall deliver irrespective of the discipline.
Are your writers competent enough to handle my paper?
Our essay writers are graduates with bachelor's, masters, Ph.D., and doctorate degrees in various subjects. The minimum requirement to be an essay writer with our essay writing service is to have a college degree. All our academic writers have a minimum of two years of academic writing. We have a stringent recruitment process to ensure that we get only the most competent essay writers in the industry. We also ensure that the writers are handsomely compensated for their value. The majority of our writers are native English speakers. As such, the fluency of language and grammar is impeccable.
What if I don’t like the paper?
There is a very low likelihood that you won’t like the paper.
- When assigning your order, we match the paper’s discipline with the writer’s field/specialization. Since all our writers are graduates, we match the paper’s subject with the field the writer studied. For instance, if it’s a nursing paper, only a nursing graduate and writer will handle it. Furthermore, all our writers have academic writing experience and top-notch research skills.
- We have a quality assurance that reviews the paper before it gets to you. As such, we ensure that you get a paper that meets the required standard and will most definitely make the grade.
In the event that you don’t like your paper:
- The writer will revise the paper up to your pleasing. You have unlimited revisions. You simply need to highlight what specifically you don’t like about the paper, and the writer will make the amendments. The paper will be revised until you are satisfied. Revisions are free of charge
- We will have a different writer write the paper from scratch.
- Last resort, if the above does not work, we will refund your money.
Will the professor find out I didn’t write the paper myself?
Not at all. All papers are written from scratch. There is no way your tutor or instructor will realize that you did not write the paper yourself. In fact, we recommend using our assignment help services for consistent results.
What if the paper is plagiarized?
We check all papers for plagiarism before we submit them. We use powerful plagiarism checking software such as SafeAssign, LopesWrite, and Turnitin. We also upload the plagiarism report so that you can review it. We understand that plagiarism is academic suicide. We would not take the risk of submitting plagiarized work and jeopardize your academic journey. Furthermore, we do not sell or use prewritten papers, and each paper is written from scratch.
When will I get my paper?
You determine when you get the paper by setting the deadline when placing the order. All papers are delivered within the deadline. We are well aware that we operate in a time-sensitive industry. As such, we have laid out strategies to ensure that the client receives the paper on time and they never miss the deadline. We understand that papers that are submitted late have some points deducted. We do not want you to miss any points due to late submission. We work on beating deadlines by huge margins in order to ensure that you have ample time to review the paper before you submit it.
Will anyone find out that I used your services?
We have a privacy and confidentiality policy that guides our work. We NEVER share any customer information with third parties. Noone will ever know that you used our assignment help services. It’s only between you and us. We are bound by our policies to protect the customer’s identity and information. All your information, such as your names, phone number, email, order information, and so on, are protected. We have robust security systems that ensure that your data is protected. Hacking our systems is close to impossible, and it has never happened.
How our Assignment Help Service Works
1. Place an order
You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.
2. Pay for the order
Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.
3. Track the progress
You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.
4. Download the paper
The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.
PLACE THIS ORDER OR A SIMILAR ORDER WITH US TODAY AND GET A PERFECT SCORE!!!