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Assignment: Analyzing a Non-Religious Film Using Theories of Beliefs, Rituals, and Texts

Religion: The Basics


Your task is to use theories of beliefs, rituals, and texts to analyze the same non-religiousfilm as you did for the Film Paragraph assignment. You will also write a short learning reflection.

The theories you use must be drawn from chapters 5 (Belief), 6 (Ritual), and 7 (Texts) in Nyes book


The Basics. The specific theories you may use are listed below (under Theories).

Your Film Analysis must consist of exactly four paragraphs. The first paragraph will be a revised version of the Film Paragraph you submitted using a theory of belief, which you will improve based on feedback from your TA. The next two paragraphs will involve the application of two additional theories. The final paragraph will consist of your reflection on what you have learned by doing this assignment. Your assignment in the end will be structured like this:

Paragraph 1: film analysis using a theory of belief from chapter 5 in Nyes book (revised)

Paragraph 2: film analysis using a theory of ritual from chapter 6 in Nyes book

Paragraph 3: film analysis using a theory of text from chapter 7 in Nyes book

Paragraph 4: reflection on this assignment

Note: Your first three paragraphs can be in a different order if you prefer. For example you might want to write about ritual first, then text, then belief. Do what you think works best! Also: the paragraphs dont have to fit together in any way. If they do fit together, thats fine. But they can

be three entirely different interpretations. Some of them may even contradict one another!


The goal of the first three paragraphs is to use theories of religion to interpret the film. Your analyses in paragraphs 1, 2, and 3 must show that, when the film is looked at using each theory, three meanings are revealed (these can be the same meaning, or three different meanings). One possible way to think of a films meaningis to consider what sort of message it appears to be promoting when looked at through the lens of the theory youve chosen. This message would be applicable to the real world (i.e., the world outside of the film). Is it offering a commentary on the nature of people, or the universe? Is it giving us advice on how we should live? You can also focus on the film itself: for example, does the theory help you understand something about a character in the film, or an event thats depicted? Please note that we are not asking you to impose any meanings onto the film. Use the theories as lenses to help reveal aspects of the film you would otherwise not notice. The point is to tell us what you actually see when you do these three different analyses using three different theories.


You must choose ONE theory from chapter 5 (Belief) in Nyes text, ONE theory from chapter 6 (Ritual), and ONE theory from chapter 7 (Texts). The specific theories you may choose from are listed below. Once again it is crucial that you choose a theory from this list. If you use a different

theory for this assignment, you may be penalized up to 50 marks (out of 100).



cognitive vs. affective beliefs



ritual and society

ritual and neurosis

ritual and memory

ritual and power





language and interpretation (p. 15859)


In the final (fourth) paragraph of your assignment, please reflect on something you have learned

about religion from using one of the theories in this analysis. Your reflective paragraph should

be comprised of three main parts:

1. Past: What did you used to think about religion before doing this assignment?

2. Present: Which theory that you used in this assignment had the greatest impact on your

understanding of religion? How did it change your understanding of religion? Be as

specific as possible: explain what you now think (about religion), and how the theory is

connected to this change.

3. Meaning: Why does what you learned matter to you? How have you been affected by

learning this particular theory? Think of this as the So what?question.

Here are some questions that might help you start your reflection:

What were the sources of your views of religion before doing this assignment?

What does your experience with the theory you have selected tell you about the

assumptions you had beforehand about religion?

Did using this theory to analyze a film help you understand the theory better? If so, why?

Did using this theory help you understand the film better and/or in new ways? If so, why?

Did anything about using this theory surprise you?

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