Evolving Religion

This week we read Chapter 5 of McGuires book, “The Dynamics of Religious Collectives”. This chapter was a lot to digest as it covered a significant amount of material, despite this I found it to be a very interesting introduction to how religion is categorized and influenced by/influential of society. I think the explanation of how religious categories can change and how groups shift and change in focus over time to be very interesting. Previously I had never considered something that could change radically, I thought it was the sort of thing that evolved very slowly over a long period and even then, the changes would be minor. Clearly this is not the case. Another part that caught my interest in the chapter was the discussion of how cults can be incorporated into formal religion. Particularly I was interested in the social component of this, this quote spells it out, “By absorbing local popular cults as optional devotions, these churches were able to build organizations that transcended familistic, localistic, or tribal barriers (153)”. I found that fascinating how organized religion, in this case Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, could integrate cults as a way of strengthening legitimacy and reaching a wider audience. This makes me think of the worship of Santa Muerte and Santeria, and how they are perfect examples of this phenomenon, as cultic faiths that are incorporated into more formal religion as a way of expanding church influence. In this thread I think it would be interesting to examine the impact of colonial rule and religion on indigenous faith in countries undergoing decolonization, especially by using the ideas presented by McGuire in this chapter.