Assignment 1: Ethnography of Religion



Question description

NOTE: This activity requires your utmost respect and your use of cultural relativism. You are not asked to agree with or support the views of others, but you are required to act and speak with respect regarding any group you are studying.

Step 1: Review the material in this week’s lecture about Religion.

Select one religion in the US and examine information about that religion: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

You are strongly encouraged to select a religion with which you are NOT familiar or in which you do not participate.

Step 2: Answer the following questions based on the information available on the above website. (This can be included in the introduction to your overall paper or as a separate paragraph with numbered responses but you must include this information.)

1. What are the basic tenets of this religion?

2. How widespread is this religion in the United States?

3. What are some key demographic trends of this religion in the United States?

4. In general, how are social and political views correlated with this religious affiliation?

Step 3: (note- please select either option 1 or 2 based on your availability and interest)

OPTION 1: Look up and attend a religious service related to this religious group. Feel free to attend a service with a family or friend.

Be sure that this is a public service (feel free to contact the organization you would like to observe).

If there is a leader to this group, please introduce yourself and ask for permission to observe the service.

Take notes (if it is appropriate- if not, just try to be as mindful of observations as you can be)

OPTION 2: Interview a person about their religious beliefs. Select someone who participates in a religious community and develop questions about their experience with this religion and how these beliefs influence their life and perspectives of the world. Select someone who is of a different religion than yourself. Be sure to obtain informed consent (have them sign the informed consent form) and use a pseudonym to remain anonymous. Take notes on your discussion. Your write up is not to be a transcript of your interview.

For both Options 1 and 2 please maintain the highest level of respect for the religious group and people with whom you interact. Remember to use cultural relativism and set aside your own biases. Religion is an area where our own ethnocentrisms can become very visible. Please note when you have ethnocentric responses and please set these biases aside for the purpose of this activity. You do not have to agree with or participate in this religion or its beliefs, but you MUST be respectful. Lack of respect for any religious group will result in failure of the activity.


The purpose of this assignment is not just to describe the events or opinions you observed. You are to reflect upon and analyze meaning. Write 2-3 robust paragraphs that analyzes the social messages you observed during this service or the social messages convey in the interview process. Think about if there are stated or unstated messages about the purpose of life, the nature of the universe, politics, race, gender, age, or class. Reflect on what this service taught to participants both overtly and more subtly or what the person you interviewed shared related to how their religion impacts their daily life and cultural views. You should include an overall conclusion regarding how this relates to course material and American culture.

Your total assignment should be 750-1000 words (3-4 double spaced pages). Include your bolded word count at the bottom of the page.