Our primary focus is to inform readers about current religious issues and the religious diversity that we encounter in our daily lives. Remember one person’s absurdity is another’s religion! It is not our intention to promote any one religion or belief system nor to be disrespectful of any religious tradition. My name is Heather Abraham Sagisman and I am a religion addict or as my husband Teo calls me, the Religion Nerd. I am obsessed with religion and everything about religion. It doesn’t matter which religion, I find them all fascinating and have spent most of my life reading about religion, observing various religions in practice, and eventually attended Georgia State University for formal training in religious studies. After earning both a BA and MA in Religious Studies (comparative religion), I find that I am still hungry for more—this blog is an extension of my magnificent obsession. Professional Memberships: American Academy of Religion, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Religion News Writers Association.
By Kate Daley-Bailey…..
While the term ‘hagiography’ may not appear in the average American’s day to day lexicon, this genre of religious literature, a type of spiritual biography of a Christian saint, proves to be an enduringly fascinating corpus. One such hagiography, the life of St. Mary/St. Marinos, stands out for numerous reasons. This saint’s dual names, one feminine and one masculine, might peek one’s interest. St. Mary/ Marinos’ story places her in the company of extraordinary women, a group known as the ‘transvestite nuns,’ holy women who disguised themselves as men in order to enter monasteries. Here is a very brief synopsis of her story:
By Kate Daley-Bailey……I recently found a few remarkable images of memorable Star Wars scenes crafted by Thai artist Chawakarn Khongprasert entitled Star Wars in Medieval Manuscript. These images stood out to me not because of the quality of the art itself, albeit the images are exceptional, nor even due to the ironic blending of pop culture subjects with traditional Christian artistic forms which I so often enjoy. These particular images reminded me of not just any presentations of Medieval Christian art but rather of a very specific style of Medieval Christian art form, Eastern Christian iconography.
By Meredith Doster, Emory University…..In a 2011 presentation at the Personal Democracy Forum, activist Jim Gilliam presented his conversion story from fundamentalist Christianity to a new found religion: the Internet. Expertly wielding evangelical epistemology, Gilliam described a series of personal and family medical tragedies that resulted in a crisis of faith: “God had forsaken me, but the doctors hadn’t … I watched as a small bag of marrow emptied into my arm. I walked out of the hospital two weeks later, replenished with the blood of a stranger. I was determined to move on with my life, so I gave my heart to the Internet.”
By Kenny Smith
With the Autumn equinox behind us, Wiccan and Pagan communities look to Pagan Pride.In Pennsylvania, a distinctive approach features crystals, pre-Christian deities, and “a cauldron in which to boil children,” poking fun at popular misconceptions. Similar efforts, sans cauldrons, are ongoing in communities across the U.S.“Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” newest cast-member, Carlton Gebbia, comes out of the broom closet, discussing publicly her practice of Wicca.
By Heather Abraham…..I have always been fascinated with gefilte fish, though I haven’t yet worked up the nerve to try the strange looking fish balls. I don’t make a point of looking for them, but periodically they appear in special displays at the grocery store. I can’t pass them by without first spending time holding the jar up to the light, trying to discern exactly what they are and what the gelatinous liquid is that holds them suspended. I’ve read the ingredients and yet I can’t help but think there is some secret element that magically holds me in suspension between fascination and fear.
Kate Daley-Bailey…..“I’m not really a reader.” I have heard this student claim before and again I let out a sigh of frustration. Telling your college professor you are ‘not a reader’ is like telling your boss you are not ‘really a worker.’ Nope… sorry boss, I’m just not the ‘working’ type. Now before I dump this excuse into the dung heap with the rest of the excrement which gets pedaled to teachers on a daily basis, I would like to briefly reflect on this statement and its implications.
By Joel McDanal, Georgia State University…..So, when my mother suggested going to the Flora-Bama lounge, at first I thought she was joking. To call the Flora-Bama a beach bar is really underselling it. It is a Redneck Riviera institution. Heck, Jimmy Buffett has even sung about it. Come to find out, my mother wanted to go to church. Worship @ The Water it’s called. For two years now, every Sunday morning the Flora-Bama has provided the space, and, Perdido Bay United Methodist Church has provided the service. A large tent lined with beer flags and a small stage that probably featured live music and late night revelry just a few hours earlier has been transformed into a sanctuary. Rows and rows of chairs have been set up and supplied with copies of The Honky Tonk Hymnal.
Religion, Lately: Hell House Outreach, Tough Times for Russian Anti-Gay Pastafarians, Autumnal Equinox
By Kenny Smith…..As the 2013 Halloween season approaches, churches all across the U.S. are preparing “Hell Houses,” “Judgment Houses,” and Rapture Walks.” In need of a Hell House starter kit? There likewise seems to be a forthcoming film taking up basic Hell House theme: all the stuff young people like to do is demonic. While it’s hardly surprising that 77% of evangelicals are said to believe that “we are currently living in the end-times,” some 41% of American adults are also said to express this opinion.
By Summar Shoaib…..In a blog entry re-posted here (insert link here) on Religion Nerd, Amina Wadud discusses issues of accessibility to sacred spaces in India, expressing her surprise and disappointment at the apparent lack of encouragement or interest from members of different religious groups in visiting the sacred spaces of others. Wadud emphasizes that they are often even prohibited from doing so. However, as a student specifically focused on, to borrow from Joyce Flueckiger’sIn Amma’s Healing Room, South Asian “vernacular Islam,” Wadud’s posting recalls to mindsacred spaces in India such as saints’ shrines which encourage visitation and use from varying religious groups.
Religion Lately: Rain-god license plate disputes, Happy Yom Kippur and Ganesh Chaturthi, & the Flying Spaghetti Monster Comes the NFL
By Kenny Smith…..An Methodist minister is suing the state of Oklahoma on the grounds that “Native American imagery on license plates forces him to become a ‘mobile billboard’ for pagan religion.” OK plates apparently depict a Native American ritual in which a deity associated with rain is invoked, which apparently OK could really use right now. Growing number of Africa American spiritual seekers, despite being raised as Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, or Jehovah’s Witness, are said to be turning to indigenous African religious cultures such as Yoruba for religious and spiritual resources.
By Kenny Smith…..With the possibility of an American military assault upon Syria, a number of conservative Syrian apocalypse Christian voices have begun to read such events not simply through a biblical lens (which was likely the case already), but through passages that seem especially relevant. Isaiah 17, for example, speaks of a Syria laid in ruins, the wrath of an angry deity, and human beings looking with awe and respect upon the divine. Some, then, see the looming military strike as presaging not only the ruin of Syria, but the Second Coming of Jesus and the biblically ordained end-times.
By Lauren Cooper…..For most clergy members, guiding the non-believers and doubters back into the fold is part of the job description. But where do the clergy turn when they have lost their own faith? In the age of the internet, one can find an on-line forum for any conceivable topic, where individuals who share similar views can come together to discuss, debate, and offer support to one another. Such is the case with The Clergy Project, an on-line organization where clergy members, both current and former, can discuss their transition from believers to non-believers.
Religion, Lately: Hug an Atheist trailer, evangelical sea-change in the making, and a spell for keeping Syria safe from American bombs
By Kenny Smith…..While the great state of Massachusetts considers atheist challenges to the 1954 Hug an atheist dayinclusion of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, a forthcoming documentary tells sympathetically of the daily lives (some might say, “lived religion”) of American atheists. Check out the trailer forHug an Atheist as well as an interview with the film maker. In the millionth round of religion v. atheism, famed sociologist of religion, Rodney Stark, weighs in on the side of religion, though of course the reality is more complex.
By Amina Wadud…..For example, members of one religion are not encouraged to or interested in visiting the sacred spaces of other religions. In fact, in most cases, they are prohibited. To be sensitive to these constraints I do not visit any sacred place, no matter how much I have wanted, unless I am given permission as a Muslim. (Coincidentally, I am also prohibited as a woman from entering some of the sacred Muslim spaces!)