Lauren Cooper is a contributing editor and GSU intern at Religion Nerd as well as a senior at Georgia State University working toward B.A.s in English and Religious Studies. She plans to attend graduate school in the Fall of 2014 for Religious Studies where she will focus on new religious movements in America. Her primary area of interest is religious movements that arise from elements of popular culture. On the side, Lauren writes short stories. Her first short story “Zealotry” was published in the Underground Literary Journal at GSU in Spring 2013.
Marvel Comics has announced that it’s newest heroine will be a young Pakistani-American Muslim girl named Kamala Khan. There is both excitement and worry over the fact that Khan is Muslim- while the debut of the superheroine is a step in the right direction to fight Islamaphobia, many fear that Khan’s story may perpetuate certain harmful stereotypes, as discussed in this article from The Huffington Post. Religion has always played a role in many popular comics, but lately there has been a rise in comics that are coming out of religious publishing groups, including HarperCollins Christian Publishing and Zondervan.
By Summar Shoaib…Addressing whether Christians should read the Qur’an or not, Christianity Today published a piece with the views of three different authors. Only one of these authors, Nabeel Qureshi, rigorously advises Christians to avoid reading the Qur’an for two reasons: first, “the Qur’an was not designed to be read like a book”, which he contrasts with the way the Bible is meant to be read. Instead, Qureshi advocates that Christians learn about Islam by being around Muslims, which comes to his second point: the idea that “the Qur’an only comprises a small part of the Muslim’s worldview.”
By Tim Morgan…Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia surprised some during his recent interview with New York magazine, including the interviewer herself, in averring that his adherence to “standard Catholic doctrine” includes belief in the devil. During this segment, he attributes the existence of atheism, especially contemporary atheism, to this apparently invisible being’s involvement in current affairs. This assertion has arrested the bemused attention of other media outlets, including CNN, where the title of its selective overview reads, “Scalia says atheism ‘favors the devil’s desires.’”
By Kate Daley-Bailey…A student recently brought me a pamphlet given to her on campus. Unlike most handouts passed out by predominately Christian enthusiasts on the University of Georgia’s campus, the message of this handout was different. Invoking age-old Christian imagery and theological terminology (free will, the 2nd Adam, emphasis on being ‘born again,’ etc.) and mixing these with appeals to objectivity, science (DNA), and language meant to appeal to younger audiences, ‘dude’ is used a lot, the message appears to target a particular college age demographic. Standard mega church rhetoric here…
Religion, Lately: The Downside of Marketing Hindu Deities, Love Jesus and Hate Religion, Hate Religion and Love Church
By Kenny Smith…An Australian brewery’s new logo, featuring the head of the god Ganesh and the body of the goddess Lakshmi, turns out to be both “less pleasing” and “more irritating” to a number of Hindu communities in India and elsewhere. While the level of annoyance has not yet reached that of 2011, when the goddess Lakshmi appeared in the ass-crack of swimsuits, there’s still time. Speaking of Asian religious cultures, Sikhs worldwide are celebrating the 544th anniversary of the birthday of the tradition’s founder, Shri Guru Nanak, and one writer argues that being a Sikh is compatible with being a Gay Sikh.
By Jaweed Kaleem, Huff Post Religion…Nearly half of houses of worship in the United States now allow gay and lesbian members who are in long-term relationships to be members, while close to one in three now let gay and lesbian members hold voluntary leadership posts, according to a new study of more than a thousand American congregations. The statistics, which represent a sharp uptick in acceptance of gay and lesbians in religious communities, are part of Duke University’s latest National Congregations Study, which was previewed this week and will be released in full early next year.
By Brandon Logan…As this is the internet, all discussions must inevitably touch on Breaking Bad—even those on religion. For a show that so effectively dealt with a diverse range of aspects within the human condition, religion, surprisingly, was never really something the show dwelled upon. Questions of ethics and morality were obviously a central component to the show but rarely anything explicitly religious.
By Kate Daley-Bailey…While few readers may be surprised that Walt Disney Studios created propaganda materials for the Allies during World War II, you might be awed at the following example of said Disney Propaganda cartoons, Education for Death: The Making of the Nazi. Made in 1943, this cartoon, is but one of many made by Walter Disney Studios on contract with the U.S. Government. Disney and WWII. Readers may also be unaware that Disney Studios and Disney, himself, shared a mutually beneficial relationship with the United States Government beginning with WWII.
By Kenny Smith…While notions of “religion” are deployed in a rather simplistic manner, Fox News offers an otherwise thoughtful interview with a Jedi teacher and a journalist who “spent a weekend” with them. Is it a religion, a philosophy, a way of life? You decide.
In a more typical manner, Fox hosted an angry debate concerning recent atheist billboards and whether religion or non-religion are “irrational.” Elsewhere in atheisdom, free Bible apps (such as YouVersion) are used to disprove the Bible’s legitimacy: “Reading the full story with all its contradictions and violence and sexism, it should make you think, ‘Is this really what I believe in?’”
By Kenny Smith…In his recent piece in the Atlantic, “Taking a Hellish Tour of America’s Most Satanic Landmarks,” John Metcalf notes the many places across the U.S. “whose names draw on demonic, hellish, and Satan-flavored elements… Devil’s Swamp, Mount Evil, Satan Hill, Lucifer Falls, Lake Chaos… and in one case, a highway so damned the authorities had to change its name.” Thousands of such sites have, apparently, been brought together in the United States Devil Map which, Metcalf suggests, creates the impression that “the country’s pioneers picked geographic names by sacrificing goats and studying the entrails for messages from Dark Lord Lucifer.”
By Lauren Cooper, Georgia State University…I love books. Specifically, I love works of speculative fiction that are concerned with a dystopian near-future and the creation of new religious traditions in the face of a deteriorating human culture. But hey, who doesn’t love that kind of stuff, right? This is why I suggest that everyone read Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy. In these three novels- Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAddam- Atwood creates several new Christian traditions that are so realistic to the point of being a little creepy. I think this is because they seem recognizable, almost as if you have heard of them before, on the news or in school or something.
By Karli Robinson-Myers, Georgia State University
For those of us that support community activism, helping those less fortunate, and especially interfaith dialog, news reports of an atheist group turned away while trying to volunteer at a Christian run soup kitchen in South Carolina last month was gut wrenching. According to the Christian Post, the Upstate Atheists group approached the Spartanburg Soup Kitchen in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to assist with giving out food to the needy. They were upfront about being an atheist group, but they assured the church they would not wear shirts with labels to promote their organization. The church’s kitchen director, Lou Landrum, told them they were not allowed to participate because they had “ulterior motives,” says Eve Brannon, president of the Upstate Atheists.
Yasmine Hafiz, Huff Post Religion
The American Humanist Association has formally sent a complaint to Birdville Independent School District in Texas, citing that Isaiah Smith’s First Amendment rights have been violated after the teen was suspended for ripping out pages of his Bible as a protest against anti-gay bullying. Smith, who is gay and Christian, said that he was repeatedly told that “being gay is a sin,” and that “gays go to hell,” by students at his school.He brought his personal Bible to his first period class on Monday, October 28, and tore out pages from Leviticus, a portion of the Bible which contains prohibitions against homosexuality, as a way of protesting their statements, and because he doesn’t believe the Bible condemns gay people.
By Kenny Smith…This year’s Halloween’s top-ten Biblically themed costumes? Pharaoh, Naughty Nun, Priest with Enormous Erection (cleverly packaged as “Keeping Up The Faith”), and of course Zombie Nuns (said to be marked down 20%!). What do practicing witches actually think about Halloween? Some hate it. Some love it. In Mumbai, Wiccans used the holiday Samhain (also on October 31) as an occasion for casting protective spells for the benefit of women in India. And while many continue to lump Wiccans. Pagans, and Satanists together, Real Housewives of Beverley Hills’ Carlton Gebbia stakes out a religious identity not reducible to any of these exactly: “I’m Celtic, which is my ancestry. And I practice witchcraft. My grandmother was a Pagan… There’s no one defined answer.”