This Religion internet exercise is designed to introduce you to relevant resources on the internet and to use this tool to supplement and extend what you have learned in class. Although the websites have been carefully selected, please keep in mind that it is always important to evaluate critically all web resources [ http://www.mlb.ilstu.edu/ressubj/subject/intrnt/evaluate.htm ]. You are encouraged to bookmark and explore the sites used for this exercise further on your own.
This exercise is constructed so that each time you click on one of its links, a new window will open. This way you can use your toolbar to switch back and forth between the exercise instructions and the website you are exploring. Unless instructed otherwise, you may enter your responses online and may e-mail your responses to your instructor and to yourself. Be careful not to close the Exercise window — that will result in your responses being lost!! You will want to print out these instructions and copy the answers by hand as you go along, so that you don’t run the risk of losing your work part-way through if you accidentally close the wrong window or if your computer freezes up. Just friendly advice .
Religion unites and divides the globe. In this Virtual Exploration we will explore religious diversity around the world, religion’s social basis, and attempts to create online environments facilitating religious practice and experience.
Adherents.Com [http://www.adherents.com/] is a useful starting point for using the web to survey religion around the world. There is a tremendous amount of information at this easy-to-use website. Scroll down and click on List of World’s Major Religions to access a page with both a list of the number of adherents of the major religions and a pie chart showing their relative proportions.
1-2. According to this webpage, there are roughly____________________ Christians around the world who collectively make up about_________________
percent of the world’s population.
3-4. There are roughly____________________Muslims, who collectively make
up about____________________percent of the world’s population.
Go back to the main Adherents.Com page and click on Major Branches of Major World Religions. Scroll down to find the following information.
5. What are the two major branches of Buddhism?
6. Roughly what percentage (note — you will need to do a bit of math for this answer!!) of Christians are Catholic?___________________
Go back to the main Adherents.Com page and click on Largest Religious Groups in the U.S. Scroll down to find the following information.
7. What religious body has the largest number of churches in the U.S.?
Close the Largest Religious Groups window and return to the Religion Virtual Exploration.
Another, somewhat more academic, site on world religions that is easy to navigate is maintained by Prof. Mahlon Smith at Rutgers University: Virtual Religion Index [http://virtualreligion.net/vri/]. Under the “Buddhist Studies” heading, click on Siddartha Gautama, then The Historical Siddartha to the following questions.
8. What was the name of the historical person who is known to us today as the Buddha and when was he born? Discuss briefly in the space below.
Close the Siddhartha window and return to the Religion Virtual Exploration.
Let’s go now to back to the Adherents website [http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html].
9. What is the estimated population of the Jewish communities around the world?
10. How many of these live in Israel and the United States? To get this figure, click on “Judaism” and then on the “more” link — or click on this site — Jewish Virtual Library
Close the Virtual Jerusalem window and return to the Religion Internet exercise.
Let’s now turn to National Humanities Center: Divining America: Religion and the national culture page [http://www.nhc.rtp.nc.us/tserve/divam.htm], which offers a broad range of nicely-annotated links. Look over the topics covered in the 20th Century column, which are aimed at assisting teachers. Scroll down and click on Islam in America.
11. Who were the first Muslims to come to the U.S. and when did they come? Discuss briefly in the space below.
Close the Islam in America window and return to the Religion Internet exercise.
Norton’s “Everyday Sociology Blog” discusses current events from a sociological perspective. Fun, yes??!!
Read Lowney’s blog “What is a Cult?” [http://nortonbooks.typepad.com/everydaysociology/2008/03/what-is-a-cult.html] and answer the following questions.
13. Lowney quotes her Sociology of Religion textbook definition of “cult” — and suggests that this is not typically how the average person understands the term. Do you agree with Lowney?? What comes to mind when you think of the word “cult”??
Now go to the Religious Movements Jehovah’s Witness site [http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_prac2.htm] for the next two questions.
15. In how many countries are there members of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
16. It is often said that 11:00 Sunday is the week’s most segregated hour in the United States. Does the Jehovah’s Witnesses reflect the tendency of many religious congregations to be racially exclusive? In other words, does this group appear to have a diverse membership? Discuss briefly in the space below.
Close the Religious Movements window and return to the Religion Internet exercise
It has been suggestion that America may be losing its Protestant majority. Go to the Religious Tolerance site [http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_prac2.htm] to read more about this (note — you will need to scroll down the page for this information).
17. Is America becoming less Protestant?? Why or why not?? Discuss this trend in the space below.
Close the Religious Tolerance window and return to the Religion Internet exercise.
Finally, visit a Religious Studies website [http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/rel/] at the University of Florida. Click on Virtual Rituals for a list of links to sites designed to facilitate online religious practice. Choose one each from two different categories and explore them.
19. What kind of online religious experience or practice did these two sites facilitate? Were they similar or different? How effective did you find these virtual environments? Discuss briefly in the space below.
Close the window and return to the Religion Internet exercise.
The relationship between religion and politics is a contentious issue around the world. The United States has a long tradition of the separation of church and state, but the issue of what that separation entails remains a source of controversy. Take the
Freedom of Religion Quiz [http://www.pbs.org/now/quiz/quiz2.html] at the NOW With Bill Moyers website [http://www.pbs.org/now/quiz/quiz2.html] and then read and reflect on the answers after you submit your answers.
20. How do you feel about the current official interpretation of the separation of church and state, as described in the quiz answers? Do you basically agree or do you have an alternative view? Discuss briefly in the textbox below.
Another interesting website that addresses the relationship between religion and politics is the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life [http://pewforum.org/]. Choose one of the “highlights” on the homepage or one of the links from the Top Religion Headlines or Issues headings.
21. Summarize and discuss its significance for understanding religion and politics in the space below.
Close the window and return to the Religion Internet exercise.
We have explored several websites where a variety of types of information about religious around the globe can be located. We have looked at the complex border between established religions and sects and cults, and why the study of new religious movements is particularly interesting from a sociological point of view. Finally, we have looked at attempts to translate religious practice and experience into the online environment.
You have completed the Religion internet exercise! In the space below, please comment on what you learned that was either new information or was particularly interesting. DON’T LEAVE THIS BLANK!!