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Our ability to both experience and examine religion is the cause of both inspiration and disillusionment. Entering college in the early seventies, I wavered between a major in English or a double major of religion and communication, with a minor in sociology. I had a vague notion that communication studies and sociology would fit together well, and it wouldn’t hurt to know how people acted in groups. I have a wariness of crowds and crowd behavior, and I thought knowing more about it might give me some insights into religion and help me as a writer.
I knew I wasn’t made in the pastor mold, but I couldn’t shake religion. It fascinated, irritated, and inspired me — and still does — and I wanted to know why it was there and how it worked. My tradition regarded religion as something handed down to us and recommended by God — acting as our loving Father — rather in the way that implicit suggestions from your father are actually veiled commands. Even then, I had a half-formed view that religion ran the other way — from the downside up — that it was a human construct that appeared in all times and in all places. I wondered why.
English - Department - Chair - Friend - English
The English department chair, a personal friend, talked me out of majoring in English. “If you love books,” he said, “the process of dissecting them might not be for you.” In the event, I stayed with religion and communication, and kept my interest in sociology strictly amateur.
A complete neophyte, I started with Max Weber and Emile Durkheim, and then jumped to C. Wright Mills and Erving Goffman, with an ongoing trek through Gustave Le Bon’s, The Crowd. But for the most part, my mentor in this has been Peter Berger, an Austrian-born American professor, one of...
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