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Author Topic: Dealing with Secular/Godless Courses... (in college)  (Read 2663 times) Average Rating: 0
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88Devin12
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« on: February 28, 2008, 02:02:41 AM »

I'm new to the forums, so I'm sorry if this isn't the correct area to put this in, but I was wondering...

I've been taking Sociology this semester in college, thinking it would go along great with Architecture and designing buildings. However, I've come to learn that the belief in Sociology is that everything, including God and Religion is man-made and are social creations. They also believe that churches/religions are simply religious institutions.
Another thing being taught is that things such as religions are seen as being God-given or divine because they have been around for so long that reification has occured, and people forget the socially constructed origin of their institution.

How does one deal with a subject such as this? I rarely ever question my own faith in God, but the only times I catch myself questioning it, is usually while i'm in this class. I feel so horrible in questioning it, and I don't want to question the existence of God. So what can I do to deal with this seed of doubt being placed into me? How can I go through this class without diminishing my own faith?

I would also like to say that my continued interest in Orthodoxy (and hopefully one day becoming Orthodox) is one of the main reasons I've been able to fight back these thoughts and doubts.
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« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2008, 02:14:09 AM »

Firstly, WELCOME TO THE FORUM! 

Just a quick note.  This topic has been covered before in a plethera of variations.   A search should be able to help you in that factor. 

I will attempt to address this later.  Right now i'm swamped
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« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2008, 03:03:27 AM »

I've been taking Sociology this semester in college, thinking it would go along great with Architecture and designing buildings. However, I've come to learn that the belief in Sociology is that everything, including God and Religion is man-made and are social creations.


Keep in mind what sociology actually is, it is the study of how masses act - not individuals.  Even if the majority of population or the population is Christian merely as a result of various social stimuli that doesn't mean that individuals within that population have to be insincere in their beliefs or that there is anything inauthentic about their religious experiences.  This idea of separating the Christian individual from Christendom the society is nothing new and is one of the most fundamental ideas of Kierkegaard. 

Quote
They also believe that churches/religions are simply religious institutions.

Aren't churches and religions simply religious institutions by definition?

Quote
Another thing being taught is that things such as religions are seen as being God-given or divine because they have been around for so long that reification has occured, and people forget the socially constructed origin of their institution.

Even in the patristic literature the idea that is a religious experience can be human generated isn't foreign.  In some ascetic literature there is the caveat that a vision can be either from God, demonic forces or simply from the imagination.  So considering the plethora of religious beliefs over the course of human history, would it not at least be plausible, even from a Christian's perspective, that many of them fit the above definition? 

Quote
How does one deal with a subject such as this? I rarely ever question my own faith in God, but the only times I catch myself questioning it, is usually while i'm in this class. I feel so horrible in questioning it, and I don't want to question the existence of God. So what can I do to deal with this seed of doubt being placed into me? How can I go through this class without diminishing my own faith?

Let me guess - this is a lecture hall class with hundreds of students who don't really want to be there at all and are just fulfilling a general education requirement?  I don't know what it is with professors of these classes but they almost always seem to have some radical ax to grind and relish having a captive audience.  That is unfortunately just the hoops you jump through.  For me at least, upper division classes and classes within my field have been entirely absent of the sort of ax-grinding non-sense that is typical of the X 101 lectures.  As to how to get through it - I'm a voracious reader and have always enjoyed reading as much Christian philosophy and other types of work like that.  So reading the works of authors like Kierkegaard, Bonhoeffer and the like is a poignant reminder that even if the mainstream of Christian society is much like a sociologist's model there are always individuals at the center who defy such.     
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« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2008, 10:41:54 AM »

Thank you very much for the reply, actually it's a class with roughly around 25 students.

I also acknowledge that other religions/faiths must indeed have come from humans and not God, but from what i've gathered, Sociology believes everything, including Orthodoxy is man-made, and not from God.
It's just that the way i've always seen this, is that the Church was founded by the Apostles (men), but God is involved.
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« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2008, 10:54:29 AM »

Thank you very much for the reply, actually it's a class with roughly around 25 students.

I also acknowledge that other religions/faiths must indeed have come from humans and not God, but from what i've gathered, Sociology believes everything, including Orthodoxy is man-made, and not from God.
It's just that the way i've always seen this, is that the Church was founded by the Apostles (men), but God is involved.

Well, if you give special treatment to a single religious group you're no longer studying the science of sociology, you're studying a different topic: theology.
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« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2008, 12:09:51 PM »

Hi Devin,

First off, welcome to the forum!  I think you'll (mostly Wink) enjoy your time here.  What specifically about the class is causing doubts?

In Christ,

Gabriel 
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« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2008, 12:21:17 PM »

Well, if you give special treatment to a single religious group you're no longer studying the science of sociology, you're studying a different topic: theology.
Not necessarily.  'Special treatment' can be a Case Study, and simply studying a single religious group doesn't necessarily entail an in-depth study of theology.  I just finished reading such a study of a Hutterite community in one of the Northern states.  It was obvious that their theology motivated their decisions, but their theology was barely mentioned.
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« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2008, 06:04:37 PM »

Welcome, Devin! It's always good to see St. Thomasites around here.

I also acknowledge that other religions/faiths must indeed have come from humans and not God, but from what i've gathered, Sociology believes everything, including Orthodoxy is man-made, and not from God.
It's just that the way i've always seen this, is that the Church was founded by the Apostles (men), but God is involved.
You're on to something here; God is definitely involved in His church. Sociology, though, is a science. Science by definition can only make theories about what is observable, and because God cannot be observed, science has no knowledge of God. It's not that scientists believe God does not exist, or that He has nothing to do with the world; it's just that God cannot be said to exist scientifically. That is to say that there is no experiment you can do that proves God exists or does not exist. Science is very limited; unfortunately, many people try to use it to explain things that are outside the realm of science.
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« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2008, 06:27:25 PM »

This is a problem that really interests me.  Academic studies seem, out of necessity in a way, only to study the observable world and what it does.  We can't really argue about whether God has interacted personally with us - it isn't provable - so there's no place for discussion in the academic sense.  This discourages bringing God into things at all, and unfortunately I think it goes too far in that direction: we become locked in to behaving as if there is no God, rather than acting in accordance with the fact that while there may or may not be a God (to give deference to those in doubt), we simply can't argue the point in a productive way.  Behaving as if there is no God is no more academically sound - we can't prove there isn't any better than we can prove there is - but it is a habit the academic world seems to have gotten itself into.  Some of the really brilliant scholars work their way out of it, but especially with young students, the scholarly attitude of agnosticism for the purpose of study often comes across more as atheism.  And many times, it is inadvertant (to give them the benefit of the doubt) atheism in practice.
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« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2008, 06:50:45 PM »

This is a problem that really interests me.  Academic studies seem, out of necessity in a way, only to study the observable world and what it does.  We can't really argue about whether God has interacted personally with us - it isn't provable - so there's no place for discussion in the academic sense.  This discourages bringing God into things at all....

Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Or is it? Shocked
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« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2008, 07:54:34 PM »

Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Or is it? Shocked

No, not necessarily, of course.  What I was trying to highlight (not very successfully - forgive me) was that the need to stick to talking about the measurable, visible world can really straightjacket our thinking if we start to believe that's the only world there is.  It seems possible that the alternate view (that a non-visible world exists but isn't empirically measurable, and so isn't the subject of academic discourse) simply isn't translated well - it isn't talked about and so students don't pick up on it, and are responsible for hearing an atheism that doesn't exist.  But I would be far from the only student to pick up on an underlying atheism in the university environment.  Even in religious universities.

Besides which, it gets very hairy to try to hold to the empirically measurable, objective world when it comes to literature (my field) or the arts.  People try, and I never quite buy it.  A great deal of what makes literature successful isn't tangible; it almost approaches a "zen" kind of quality which is very difficult to define, much more akin to the spiritual than the scientific.  Whuh oh, a problem for those who want to ignore the spiritual entirely in academia.  I think our ways of thinking about academic discourse need to expand.
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« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2008, 09:12:47 PM »

Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Or is it? Shocked
For Bapto-Buddhists?  Who can say.  For Orthodox Christians?  The Trinity is our Sun- at the center of all that we do...
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« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2008, 09:13:18 PM »

This is a problem that really interests me.  Academic studies seem, out of necessity in a way, only to study the observable world and what it does.  We can't really argue about whether God has interacted personally with us - it isn't provable - so there's no place for discussion in the academic sense.  This discourages bringing God into things at all, and unfortunately I think it goes too far in that direction: we become locked in to behaving as if there is no God, rather than acting in accordance with the fact that while there may or may not be a God (to give deference to those in doubt), we simply can't argue the point in a productive way.  Behaving as if there is no God is no more academically sound - we can't prove there isn't any better than we can prove there is - but it is a habit the academic world seems to have gotten itself into.  Some of the really brilliant scholars work their way out of it, but especially with young students, the scholarly attitude of agnosticism for the purpose of study often comes across more as atheism.  And many times, it is inadvertant (to give them the benefit of the doubt) atheism in practice.

Hi Cassiel,

As a science teacher, I believe it is completely justified to NOT bring God into science. The latter MUST have limitations, reason being simply, there is no stopping of subjectivism when it creeps into scientific discussion (and by subjectivism, I only mean statements not based on independently verifiable empiric, "sensual" evidence).

The history of science in the country I was born and raised in - the former USSR - teaches a great lesson here. Just like one would say, what's wrong with bringing God into scientific discussions, - people in the USSR of the 1920-s - 1950-s would say, hey, what's wrong with bringing the victorious teaching of Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin into scientific discussions. That threw our science back so badly that it never really recovered, even though my "teachers' teacher," Alexandra Alexeyevna Prokofieva-Bel'govskaya, used to be, in the 1920-s, the teacher of the future Nobel Prize (1948) winner Hermann Muller, and not the other way around.Smiley

Science must develop according to its own intrinsic laws. Of course, its implications can, and must, be judged from the moral/ethical/religious standpoint - but not its validity.

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« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2008, 09:23:37 PM »

I understand a secular professor in a pluralistic nation not being able to discuss things from a religious view.  Yet the Ecclessia does prescribe a verifiable way to confirm the existence of a God.  Fr. Maximos, in Dr. Markidies' book The Mountain of Silence explains that God loves to be studied and examined and, if a person participates in the fullness and teachings of the Ecclessia, you will find God and, if you don't, you have a right to say 'God doesn't exist.'  I don't quote this to turn the discussion into trying to prove the existence of God.  That's already been done.  I merely wish to show that 'science' isn't hostile towards religion; science is value-neutral.  The problems arise when we bring our bias into the discussion.   
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« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2008, 09:54:08 PM »

I'm new to the forums, so I'm sorry if this isn't the correct area to put this in, but I was wondering...

I've been taking Sociology this semester in college, thinking it would go along great with Architecture and designing buildings. However, I've come to learn that the belief in Sociology is that everything, including God and Religion is man-made and are social creations. They also believe that churches/religions are simply religious institutions.
Another thing being taught is that things such as religions are seen as being God-given or divine because they have been around for so long that reification has occured, and people forget the socially constructed origin of their institution.

How does one deal with a subject such as this? I rarely ever question my own faith in God, but the only times I catch myself questioning it, is usually while i'm in this class. I feel so horrible in questioning it, and I don't want to question the existence of God. So what can I do to deal with this seed of doubt being placed into me? How can I go through this class without diminishing my own faith?

I would also like to say that my continued interest in Orthodoxy (and hopefully one day becoming Orthodox) is one of the main reasons I've been able to fight back these thoughts and doubts.

Welcome to the forum, friend!

I know I have recommended his books several times on the forum (at least I think I have...), but may I recommend that you read The Mountain of Silence, by Kyriacos C. Markides, as well as the sequel, The Gifts of the Desert.  He is a sociology professor at the University of Maine whom I had the pleasure of hearing speak last year.  His early books were written during a time when he left Orthodoxy for the secular beliefs of sociology that are like what you described.  But he returned to Orthodoxy, and his books explain why quite well.  I think he has written other books about his return to Orthodoxy (prior to these two), but I am not sure.  Maybe someone could help out here.  

I was going to give this long, detailed explanation of what I think, based on my sociology classes from the University of Georgia.  But, truth be told, I can't seem to articulate it very well tonight.  I'll weigh in on it in the next day or so, after I have a chance to think about it and whatnot.

In the meantime, I'll just say May God bless and guide your footsteps in your search for Him!

In Christ,
Presbytera Mari
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« Reply #15 on: February 28, 2008, 09:55:30 PM »

I understand a secular professor in a pluralistic nation not being able to discuss things from a religious view.  Yet the Ecclessia does prescribe a verifiable way to confirm the existence of a God.  Fr. Maximos, in Dr. Markidies' book The Mountain of Silence explains that God loves to be studied and examined and, if a person participates in the fullness and teachings of the Ecclessia, you will find God and, if you don't, you have a right to say 'God doesn't exist.'  I don't quote this to turn the discussion into trying to prove the existence of God.  That's already been done.  I merely wish to show that 'science' isn't hostile towards religion; science is value-neutral.  The problems arise when we bring our bias into the discussion.   

HAHA!  See!  A popular book!
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« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2008, 10:28:58 PM »

HAHA!  See!  A popular book!
I absolutely love the Mountain of Silence!  I can't speak for the rest of y'all, but my parish can't keep this book on the bookstore shelves- it's gone as soon as we get it.
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« Reply #17 on: February 28, 2008, 10:39:22 PM »

I absolutely love the Mountain of Silence!  I can't speak for the rest of y'all, but my parish can't keep this book on the bookstore shelves- it's gone as soon as we get it.

Diddo!
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« Reply #18 on: February 29, 2008, 02:26:56 AM »

AH, thank you all very much for your replies, they have been very helpful.

I guess my concerns might come from my Protestant background, where generally I hated science and looked at it as something that was out to prove there wasn't a God and that existed soley to disprove the Bible.

My doubts were arising because I had imagined that they were trying to suggest that God is a created idea by man, and religions were simply invented by man w/o God and exist soley to provide social unity and control.

But I guess I have been misunderstanding Sociology and just decided to cut myself off and see it from a defensive point of view. (as though my beliefs were being attacked directly)

Anyway, thank everyone so much for helping me with this, it really has made me freel better and more positive about this.
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« Reply #19 on: February 29, 2008, 12:14:04 PM »

I guess my concerns might come from my Protestant background, where generally I hated science and looked at it as something that was out to prove there wasn't a God and that existed soley to disprove the Bible.

Don't worry, you'll find plenty of these reactionary types in certain Orthodox circles.  And while they try to posit that they are the Orthodox Church, I've found more and more that these views simply aren't reflected in the clergy, especially the higher you go up the ranks.  A prime example here is look at the posters who have gone through the the two leading seminaries in the US (SVS and HCHC) - Anastasios, Fr Chris, Cleveland, Serb1389, et al - and notice how they are consistently the best posters, always very thoughtful, not reactionary etc.  When you read the early Fathers of the Orthodox Church, it becomes very evident that a great many of them were highly educated for their time and nowhere can the spirit of anti-intellectualism that defines the American Evangelical scene be found. 

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But I guess I have been misunderstanding Sociology and just decided to cut myself off and see it from a defensive point of view. (as though my beliefs were being attacked directly)

My sister was in a similar situation; she's an architect now and hated having to take social science and humanities classes during undergrad.  But, she did agree that learning how to detach yourself and look objectively at something (like a sociology class will force you to do) is huge asset in architecture  - i.e how will other people see my work is often far more important that how do I see my work.  The skill set that intended for students to learn by being forced to take social sciences course is to be given a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data and to be able to draw conclusions from it. 
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« Reply #20 on: February 29, 2008, 11:47:50 PM »

Read lots of Max Weber (and his apostle, Marx), and you'll see where these types of attitudes come from.

I've met many natural or physical scientists who believed in God. But social scientists? Almost never...
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« Reply #21 on: March 01, 2008, 12:11:15 PM »

Read lots of Max Weber (and his apostle, Marx), and you'll see where these types of attitudes come from.

I've met many natural or physical scientists who believed in God. But social scientists? Almost never...

"Almost" being the key word here. God-believing social scientists include the likes of Peter Berger, Robert Wuthnow, and Robert Bellah.
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« Reply #22 on: March 01, 2008, 05:14:02 PM »

Having taken 2 classes on Marxism and its sociological principles and on Ethnographies of the Middle East, I can honestly say the way I kept my faith was by arguing against the professor's point of view using the material presented. A good example is using Marx. Marx came up with the theory that since religion is in the eye of the individual e.g. no two people have the exact 100% definition of religion, it is something which alienates us from one another. Therefore, Marx theorizes, if we were to eliminate religion, we would eliminate alienation (or at least one of the things that causes alienations among the masses). The argument to that is if you eliminate religion you also take out a huge part of the link that binds people of a religion together as a form of nationalism. Since Marx identifies with a nationalist theme (the working class uniting under the idea of eliminating the Burgeoise Proletariot) it disproves his anti-religious stance. Now we could go on and on forever in debate about this, but defending your religion is a good way to strengthen your resolve in it.

-Nick
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