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.
By Kenny Smith…As the noted scholar of American religious history, R. Laurence Moore, once wrote, “if you do not commodify your own religion” – that is, if you do not transform its teachings, practices, and material culture, into products to be bought and sold in the marketplace of culture – “don’t worry, someone will do it for you.” Examples abound, most especially when it comes to the religious goods of indigenous peoples, such as dream-catchers or the mystical self-help teachings of shaman. Such religious wares are commonly re-packaged and re-imagined in a strikingly generic form, nicely compatible with the varied preferences of shoppers in the spiritual marketplace.
By Kate Daley-Bailey…I have recently had the good fortune of having various scholars come in and speak with my Religion and Media course. Dr. Russell McCutcheon, noted scholar and head of the Religious Studies Department at the University of Alabama, has recently created a collaborative website dedicated to investigating cultural constructions and identity formation (Culture on the Edge: Studies in Identity Formation). The website welcomes professors currently teaching classes to request a virtual class visit from one of the scholars writing for the site. Given my course title and topic, I knew this website would be a vital resource. Taking Dr. McCutcheon up on his gracious offer to Skype with my class, I took the first step towards integrating Skype into my courses.
By Lauren Cooper, Georgia State University…..The world of high fashion is simultaneously interesting and frightening to me. Designers often send outlandish creations down the runway that elicit oohs and aahs from those select few that “get it.” I have to confess, I usually don’t get it. I have difficulty seeing clothing as art. I tend to see clothing as functional, above all, and I think many people tend to agree with me. However, when I came across images from Alexander McQueen’s pre-fall line, I had to stop and think about it.
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 Teo Sagisman…..
This week the Turks are celebrating an age-old tradition, known as Eid al Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) in Arabic. Called Kurban Bayrami in Turkish, this tradition is both religiously and culturally important to many Turks. Kurban Bayrami is a long extended holiday, equivalent to the importance and length of the Christmas celebrations in the western world. The 4,0000 year-old story behind the Feast of the Sacrifice is common to all Abrahamic religions – Jews, Christians, and Muslims, but in the modern world, only adherents to Islam commemorate it in a literal way. As the story is told in the Hebrew Bible, Christian Bible, and the Quran, God tested Abraham’s faith by telling him to sacrifice his beloved son.
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 Lauren Cooper, Georgia State University….Last week a friend posted a link to a rather interesting article on my Facebook wall—it was an article about a restaurant in Chicago called Kuma’s Corner that is serving a burger called The Ghost. Generally speaking, I’m not usually interested in what eateries in Chicago are serving their patrons, but this particular burger caught my attention immediately.
Religion, Lately: Paganism by 2063, Living Happily Without Religion, and bin Laden Halloween Anxieties
By Kenny Smith…..What will Pagan religious traditions (such as Wicca, Druidism, and Asatru, among others) look like in fifty years, in 2063? Full-time Pagan clergy, Pagan celebrities coming out of the broom-closet, and a vast array of Pagan-centric media outlets, one writer predicts. Back here in 2013, new Pagan-themed books for children such as “What is Magic,” and “Who is a Witch?,” hit the shelves, Pagan Pride days continue to be celebrated in various cities nationwide, and Pagan communities prepare for Samhain.
By Kenny Smith…My grandparents enforced very few rules at their dinner table, but one they absolutely insisted upon was, “Never talk about religion or politics at the table.” For in their view, “the table” represented a quasi-sacred familial site reserved for eating good food, enjoying good company, and perhaps a late afternoon tea or friendly game of cards, any of which would be readily frustrated by such fractious topics. Not only was this policy a resounding success (their dinner table was almost always peaceable), but those unable or unwilling to comply were clearly marked as “too extreme” in their views.
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.