Reading Reflection

In chapter 2 McGuire explores the idea of legitimation and systems of meaning. This chapter resonated with me because, I have always believed religion was the greatest and oldest way of structuring a society, community, etc. but I never had the language to articulate those ideas. It was clear, after reading this chapter, that the idea of intentionally created “order” was not a new concept. In fact, I was surprised by the idea that marriage in the Christian Church didn’t come about until the sixteenth century. Growing up Catholic, and having received a Catholic School education, I was taught about the importance of marrying Catholic, so that you can receive the sacrament. In fact, the sacraments were strung on a banner across the classroom, right underneath the ten commandments. In my head, I didn’t differentiate between the two. I assumed both the ten commandments and the holy sacraments were cannon and somehow handed down my God. It was a shock, as a religious Studies Major and as a senior to be just now finding out that the holy sacraments that I had always known, were actually written by humans who are inherently flawed. But in a sense, that is precisely what McGuire is saying to us. If people knew that humans were playing a role in creating social groups and hierarchy, it wouldn’t be as effective as it is when a higher power prescribes it.

A family friend comes to mind as I read the section titled “The Individual’s Meaning System”. My grandmother grew up with a woman who is enthralled in strange ideas at times that she claims come from Catholicism. For instance, her children cannot play with action figures or dolls, because she believes they are the devil. My family and I shake it off and roll our eyes, but to her it is real. It is real because of her individual meaning system, she has rationalized her views. In turn, her identity becomes that of the pious and enlightened mother through these beliefs.