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This module discusses how the academic study of religion can help deepen understanding of the pandemic and social responses to it. 

Lecture: Welcome Video

In this Module, you will be introduced to the the academic study of religion (Session 1). We will look at how risk, contagion, and impurity (session 2), challenges to communal gathering in a time of social distancing (session 3), and protests for major structural change during a pandemic (session 4) can all can be better understood through attention to religion.

By the end of this module, you should be able to:

  • Identify ways in which religion is key for understanding our current experience with Covid-19, even for individuals who are not religiously affiliated



  1. Podcast: Megan Goodwin and Ilyse Morgenstein Fuerst, “What the Heck is Religion,” Keeping It 101: The Podcast
  2. Questions to Consider:
  • Why is it important to not just pay attention to texts and beliefs when studying religion?
  • How do the podcast hosts define religion?
  • How does the podcast help you see the role of religion in the community you grew up in?
  • What presumptions about religion do you think you have that might get in the way of your study of religion?
  • Can you come up with a working definition of religion?
  • What sorts of ways might religion be relevant to understanding our current experience with the Covid-19 pandemic?


  1. Reading: Donna Freitas, “Welcome to College,” Sex and the Soul, 3-9
  2. Reading: Rebecca Epstein-Levi, “How Ancient Rabbis Can Help Combat STI Stigma,” Religion Dispatches
  3. Reading: Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo
  4. Video: “Hannah Sends Luke P Home After Fantasy Suite Warning,”
  5. Questions to Consider?
  • How does Luke P connect purity and risk to pre-martial sex?
  • Both Hannah B and Luke P are Christian. What is their disagreement about in terms of the role of purity in Christian ethics?
  • What are the similarities and differences of the risk of premarital sex and the risk of Covid 19
  • How do the Rabbis think about purity differently than Evangelicals?
  • Does Covid infection come with stigma? How is it similar to STI stigma? How is it different?
  • How would you apply the idea of purity to Covid infection? Who is the most pure? Never infected? Infected but recovered with anti-bodies? Who is the least pure?


  1. Reading: Liz Kineke, “Together Alone: Online Sanghas in the Time of Social Distancing,” Tricycle: A Buddhist Review
  2. Reading: Scott Neuman, “Muslims Around The World Face a Different Kind of Ramadan,” NPR
  3. Reading: Simran Jeet Singh, “The False Choice Presented to Sikh Doctors Serving COVID Patients,” Religion News Service
  4. Reading: Nelson Tebbe, Micah Schwartzman, and Richard Schragger, “Churches have been Hypocritical During the Pandemic,” Washington Post
  5. Podcast: Tom Gjelten, “DC Revises Guidance For Churches, No Longer Limiting Choirs,” NPR’s Weekend Edition
  6. Questions to Consider:
  • Before this session, what stories had you heard about the effect of Covid on religious practice? Which religious communities are covered by the media frequently and which are not?
  • What sorts of challenges do religious practitioners face during a pandemic?
  • What sorts of creativity do you observe in the responses of religious communities to Covid?
  • Have you had to become creative about the way you interact with and form community during a period of social distancing?
  • What sorts of exemptions are some religious communities asking for? What does this tell you about how religious freedom is legally conceptualized in the US?
  • What role has religion had in shapely CDC policy recommendations?


  1. Reading: Anthony Michael Petro, “After the Wrath of God: AIDS, Sexuality, and American Religion,” Oxford University Press, [Chapter one or two]
  2. Video: “United in Anger: A History of ACT UP”



Live-tweeting is engaging on Twitter during an event by sending a series of tweets on various aspects of the event as it unfolds. This is likely to include tweets about the event, replying to tweets from attendees, and retweeting relevant tweets. It is a useful digital skill to have.

For this assignment you should tweet a minimum of 8 times while watching United in Anger. Your tweets will include comments on the beginning, middle, and end of the film; an application of ideas we have learned about in class; and replies to classmate tweets. You may also tweet facts about the film, links to articles, or other commentary beyond the requirements.

Tweet Guidelines: You should have 8 tweets total

  • 1 tweet commenting on the beginning of the film
  • 1 tweet commenting on the middle of the film
  • 1 tweet commenting on the end of the film
  • 1 tweet that poses a question to the class
  • 2 tweets that apply a concept or theory from class to the film
  • 2 tweets that comment on your classmates’ tweets
  • Use hashtag #UnitedInAnger
  • Thread your tweets (except comments on your classmates’ tweets). This is a good practice when LTing because it allows others to quickly access your full commentary.
  • Mix it up. Different types of content better engages and entertains your followers. Here are some good examples of the types of tweets you can make:
  • React to surprising or emotional moments in the film
  • Quote speakers
  • Answer a question people might have if watching this film
  • Post questions or polls about a topic relevant to the film
  • Screenshots/photos from the film with commentary
  • Retweets of humorous or insightful comments about the event from other Twitter users
  • Link to bio page or website of someone featured in the film
  • Make every tweet count. Making sure every tweet you post is useful, entertaining, educational, or valuable. Here is a useful checklist for live-tweeting:
  • Does the Tweet say something that doesn’t feel obvious?
  • Will it deepen people’s understanding of the subject under discussion?
  • What will your followers – and other people following the hashtag – find useful in it?

Adapted from: