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0966 Converting to Another Religion

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 966 – Converting to Another Religion.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 966. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is ESLPod.com. Go there. Become a member of ESL Podcast and download the Learning Guide for this episode. You can also like us on Facebook at facebook.com/eslpod.

On this episode, we’re going to listen to a dialogue that includes a lot of vocabulary about religion. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Debbie: Okay, I’m off. I’ll be back around eight o’clock.

Marcelo: Hey, where are you going in such a hurry?

Debbie: I’m going to my religious education class.

Marcelo: Religious education class? What’s that about?

Debbie: Well, I’ve decided to convert to McQuillanism.

Marcelo: I’m not familiar with that denomination. It is Christian, isn’t it?

Debbie: No, it isn’t, but there are some similarities in the spiritual teachings between McQuillanism and Christianity, but we have different ways of worshiping – different prayers, hymns, and rituals.

Marcelo: It doesn’t sound legit. Are you sure McQuillanism isn’t really a cult?

Debbie: Of course not. My spiritual leader has been tutoring me on the tenets of the faith so I understand it, but I can see why you’d question it, since you don’t know anything about it.

Marcelo: Well, as long as you’re satisfied.

Debbie: I am and I can’t wait to become a full-fledged McQuillanite. McQuillanism is a little unconventional, but we take our faith very seriously.

Marcelo: Have it your way. What’s that you’re carrying?

Debbie: It’s a cat costume. As I said, we do things a little differently.

Marcelo: I’m sorry I asked.

[end of dialogue]

Debbie begins our dialogue by saying to Marcelo, “Okay, I’m off.” The expression “I’m off” means I am leaving; I am leaving right now. She says, “I’ll be back around eight o’clock,” meaning I will return home or return back here at approximately eight o’clock. Marcelo says, “Hey, where are you going in such a hurry?” Debbie says, “I’m going to my religious education class.” “Religious” is the adjective that comes from the noun “religion.” “Education” is, of course, getting more knowledge about something. So, a “religious education class” would be a class that teaches you more about a certain religion – what their beliefs are, their practices, and so forth.

Religious education classes are quite popular in the United States, especially for children when the children don’t study in a religious school. If your children go to a public school or a school that doesn’t have religion classes, you may send your child – if you are a member of a certain religion, of course – to a religious education class. These classes sometimes meet on a weeknight – that is, Monday through Friday, and sometimes they meet on Sunday mornings. There are all sorts of religious education classes for children, but adults can also go to religious education classes, and that’s what Debbie is doing in our dialogue.

Marcelo is confused. He says, “Religious education class? What’s that about?” – what is the topic of this class? Debbie says, “Well, I’ve decided to convert to McQuillanism.” “To convert” (convert) means in this case to change your religion – to leave one religion in order to join another religion. Our dialogue here is not, of course, about any real religion. It’s about a made-up religion called “McQuillanism.”

Marcelo says, “I’m not familiar with that denomination.” A “denomination” (denomination) is one group – or a “subgroup,” I guess we could call it – of a certain religion. Christianity, for example, is a religion, but there are a lot of different groups within Christianity, a lot of different denominations, such as Baptists and Presbyterians and Lutherans. There are literally hundreds of denominations in the Christian religion – different groups, each of which typically believes in something a little bit different or practices their religion a little bit differently, even though all of them could be called “Christian.”

Marcelo wants to know if this denomination that Debbie is converting to is Christian. “Christian,” you probably know, relates to one’s belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. The Christian religion was started by Jesus Christ more than two thousand years ago. Debbie says, “No, it isn’t,” – meaning it is not a Christian denomination – “but there are some similarities in the spiritual teachings between McQuillanism and Christianity, but we have different ways of worshiping – different prayers, hymns, and rituals.” The term “spiritual teachings” would refer to the philosophies or belief systems that a certain religion or group has.

McQuillanism is not the same as Christianity, according to Debbie. They have different ways of worshiping. “To worship” (worship) in this sentence means the practices that a certain religious group carries out, or does, in praising their God or in honoring their God. Normally, when we talk about worship, we talk about the way that someone prays or the way that someone acts in a religious service or a religious celebration. That’s not a theological definition of worship; it’s not a technical definition, but it’s a general definition that fits the circumstances of this particular dialogue.

In a religious service or celebration, there might be different elements that you use as part of the service. There could be prayers. There could be hymns. There could be other rituals. “Prayers” are basically conversations that one has with God or with some spiritual being that are meant to help you, or to perhaps thank God for things that have been done for you. “Hymns” (hymns) are basically religious songs. Rituals (rituals) are the words and actions used in certain religious ceremonies.

Marcelo says, “It doesn’t sound legit.” “Legit” (legit) is short for “legitimate,” meaning this religion doesn’t sound real. It doesn’t sound like as if it actually exists. Marcelo says, “Are you sure McQuillanism isn’t really a cult?” A “cult” (cult) is a negative word used to describe a religious group that has what people consider extreme or unusual beliefs and behaviors. A “cult” is often led by someone with a very strong personality. The United States has all sorts of cults, especially in its recent history. We have seen lots of different cults in the United States, religious groups that are started by one person who often has a very strong personality and convinces other people to do what he wants.

Debbie says, however, that McQuillanism is not a cult. She says, “My spiritual leader has been tutoring me on the tenets of the faith so I understand it.” A “spiritual leader” would be a leader of a religious group or someone who has a lot of knowledge about a certain religion and helps others with their religious practice. “Tenets” (tenets) here means laws or principles or fundamental beliefs. “Faith” (faith) in this context means a set of religious beliefs – the things that you believe in a certain religion.

Debbie says, “I can see why you’d question it,” meaning “I can understand, Marcelo, why you don’t think this is legit.” “You don’t know anything about it,” Debbie says. Marcelo says, “Well, as long as you’re satisfied,” meaning as long as you think it’s a real religion. Debbie says, “I am,” meaning I am satisfied. She says, “I can’t wait to become a full-fledged McQuillanite.” “Full (full) – fledged (fledged)” means complete or whole. In this case, it means someone who is fully a member of this particular religion. Many religions have certain phases or steps that you have to go through before you can become a member of that religion, and perhaps that’s what Debbie is referring to here.

She says, “McQuillanism is a little unconventional, but we take our faith very seriously.” Something that is “conventional” is usual, normal, traditional. “Unconventional” is the opposite – something that is not usual, something that is not normal, not expected. Marcelo says, “Have it your way.” “Have it your way” is an expression that means that you aren’t going to interfere with another person, that he can do whatever he wants.

Marcelo asks Debbie, at the end of the dialogue, “What’s that you’re carrying?” meaning what are you carrying in your arms or in your hands? Debbie says, “It’s a cat costume.” A “costume” (costume) is a special set of clothing that you wear sometimes to make yourself look like someone else or something else. Debbie has a cat costume. She says, “We do things a little differently,” meaning McQuillanism is a very different kind of religion that apparently involves wearing cat costumes. This is a good indication that this dialogue is all a joke, because if there were something called McQuillanism, it certainly would not have any cats in it.

Marcelo ends our dialogue by saying, “I’m sorry I asked.” That expression is actually meant to be funny. When somebody tells you something that is strange or unusual or perhaps something you don’t really want to know, you can say, “I’m sorry I asked,” meaning I wish I had not asked you and found out what it is that you just told me.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Debbie: Okay, I’m off. I’ll be back around eight o’clock.

Marcelo: Hey, where are you going in such a hurry?

Debbie: I’m going to my religious education class.

Marcelo: Religious education class? What’s that about?

Debbie: Well, I’ve decided to convert to McQuillanism.

Marcelo: I’m not familiar with that denomination. It is Christian, isn’t it?

Debbie: No, it isn’t, but there are some similarities in the spiritual teachings between McQuillanism and Christianity, but we have different ways of worshiping – different prayers, hymns, and rituals.

Marcelo: It doesn’t sound legit. Are you sure McQuillanism isn’t really a cult?

Debbie: Of course not. My spiritual leader has been tutoring me on the tenets of the faith so I understand it, but I can see why you’d question it, since you don’t know anything about it.

Marcelo: Well, as long as you’re satisfied.

Debbie: I am and I can’t wait to become a full-fledged McQuillanite. McQuillanism is a little unconventional, but we take our faith very seriously.

Marcelo: Have it your way. What’s that you’re carrying?

Debbie: It’s a cat costume. As I said, we do things a little differently.

Marcelo: I’m sorry I asked.

[end of dialogue]

She is a full-fledged member of ESL Podcast. I refer to our wonderful scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2014 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
religious education class – a class designed to teach people about a religion and its beliefs and practices, usually so that the individual can adopt that religion

* The church requires that we participate in at least six religious education classes before we can get married there.

to convert – to change one’s religion; for one to leave one religion and adopt another

* Would you consider converting to Judaism if you fell in love with a Jewish woman?

denomination – one of many religious groups that belong to a particular type of religion

* Some of the biggest Christian denominations include Catholicism, Methodism, Lutheranism, Presbyterianism, and Pentecostalism.

Christian – relating to a person who believes that Jesus Christ was the son of God, died on the cross and was resurrected (brought back to life) to give eternal life to all who believe in him, or the religion of people with such beliefs

* They’re Christian, so in their home, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and they try not to focus on gifts and Santa Claus.

spiritual teachings – philosophies or belief systems that explain the purpose of human life and what is sacred (holy)

* Have you studied spiritual teachings outside of your own religion?

to worship – to praise God or a higher power, showing admiration, commitment, and gratitude

* Every Sunday, the first hour of the church service is spent worshipping through song, and the second hour is spent studying the Bible.

prayer – a conversation between God and one or more individuals, usually with expressions of belief and gratitude, and requests for assistance

* Did you remember to say a prayer for Grandma Jenkins?

hymn – a religious song; a song used to thank God and state one’s religious beliefs

* Some of the most beautiful hymns are based on verses in the Book of Psalms.

ritual – ceremony; a way of doing something that is repeated periodically, used to help people connect with one another

* They have a family ritual of dining together with a fancy tablecloth and candles every Wednesday evening.

legit – legitimate; logical, rational, justifiable, and in compliance with the law; with a reasonable explanation

* If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t legit.

cult – a negative word used to describe a religious group with extreme behaviors and/or beliefs, usually led by an individual with a very strong personality

* Help! I think my daughter has become involved in a cult, and now she spends all her time with the other members.

spiritual leader – a person with strong faith, extensive knowledge of religious beliefs, and passion for sharing that faith and knowledge with other people

* When the pastor died unexpectedly, the church was left without a strong spiritual leader.

tenet – law; a fundamental principle or rule

* Free speech and freedom of the press are two of the basic tenents of a democratic society.

faith – a set of religious beliefs

* Their faith teaches that we must love all people, no matter how they treat us.

full-fledged – complete; whole; entire; not partial

* Congratulations! Now that you’ve completed your first project, you’re a full-fledged member of the basket-weaving club!

unconventional – unusual and unexpected; not traditional; not common or expected

* Min has always liked having unconventional hairstyles, like short pink hair.

to have it (one’s) way – to get what one wants; to have things be the way one wants them to be, without interference from other people

* I think it’s a bad idea, but have it your way. Just don’t ask me for help when it doesn’t work.

costume – an outfit that provides disguise or entertainment by making one look like someone or something else

* Do you make Halloween costumes for your children, or do you buy them?

Comprehension Questions
1. Which of these types of worship involve singing?
a) Prayers
b) Hymns
c) Costume

2. What is Debbie carrying?
a) Equipment to make a cat sacrifice.
b) Clothing to make her seem like a cat.
c) A pet cat that will go to church with her.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to convert

The verb “to convert,” in this podcast, means to change one’s religions, or for one to leave one religion and adopt another: “How old were you when you converted to Islam?” The verb can also be used to talk about changing someone’s opinion in general, not necessarily about religion: “It was difficult, but we finally managed to convert Maryl from a PC-user to a Mac-user.” “The verb “to convert” can mean to change something from one code or type to another, especially when talking about computer files: “Can you convert this Word document into a PDF?” Finally, “to convert” sometimes means to change into a different shape or use: “Wow, I didn’t realize that this couch could convert into a bed so easily!” Or, “When Jamie left for college, her parents converted her bedroom into a guest room.”

faith

In this podcast, the word “faith” means a set of religious beliefs: “Which faith were you raised in?” Or, “What percentage of the world’s faiths teach that there is life after death?” The word “faith” can also refer to a belief in something that cannot be proven: “No one can prove whether or not God exists. You simply have to have faith.” The phrase “to act in good/bad faith” means to have honest/dishonest intentions: “We co-signed your loan in good faith, but we never imagined you’d stop making payments and expect us to do it for you.” Or, “If your business partner agreed to these arrangements in bad faith, then you might be able to sue her for the money you lost.”

Culture Note
New Religious Movements

The term “new religious “movements” (groups of people with similar beliefs and similar goals)” describes groups of people who have recently begun to “differ” (be different from) other religions and “break away from” (are no longer affiliated or connected with) more traditional religions. The definition of “new religious movements” is “vague” (unclear), and many governments, churches, and individuals struggle to decide how to react to new religious movements.

Many people and institutions react to new religious movements out of fear. They “fear” (are afraid that) the groups represent dangerous cults that will “warp” (change in a bad way) young people’s minds and separate people from their friends and loved ones. Sometimes this fear is “justified” (rational; having a logical basis), but sometimes it is not.

Other people react to new religious movements with “curiosity” (wanting to know more). They consider the possibility that the new religious movement may have something new to teach about truth or life’s purpose, so they learn as much as they can about it.

“Established” (with a long history and many members) churches often “perceive” (consider) new religious movements to be a threat to their existence. If the new religious movement is attractive to many of a church’s “adherents” (people who follow a set of beliefs), the church “risks” (faces the danger of) losing members. The new religious movement may disagree with a “major” (very important) tenent of the church, in which case the church may have to defend its beliefs and teachings.

Some new religious movements “fade away” (become less important and disappear) over time, but others “gain traction” (become popular and increase in power) and eventually become established denominations.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - b