By Claude Fischer, Made in America…..
In their best-selling 1980s book on the tensions between community and individualism in America, Habits of the Heart, my Berkeley colleagues Robert Bellah and Ann Swidler, along with three other coauthors, described the version of religion that a woman whom they called Sheila had described to them. She believed in a faith of loving and being gentle with oneself; she labeled this theology “Sheilism” – “just my own little voice.” The authors of Habits saw her declaration as an expression of a growing tendency in America toward isolation and self-absorption raised here to an ethical principle. (The term “Sheilaism” is now so well-known it has its own Wikipedia entry.)
By Greg Carey, Huff Post Religion….
This is the first installment of a three-part series. We’ve survived Harold Camping. We survived Y2K, albeit with less distress than our ancestors survived Y1K. The world has survived end-time predictors as diverse as Billy Graham, William Miller and Jonathan Edwards. Now we face the purported final year of the Mayan Calendar. Nevertheless, most Christian bookstores devote entire sections to the sort of “Bible Prophecy” literature that uses the Book of Revelation, among other biblical literature, to tell us that we are currently living in the last days.
By Nathan Schneider, Religion Dispatches….
The first time I went to the American Academy of Religion conference it really got my hopes up. This was the fall of 2006 and, with only a summer in between, I’d just finished college and begun my first year of a PhD program in religious studies. The AAR was at the enormous new Washington, DC convention center. Fittingly, one of the plenary speakers was Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state who had just written a book about why religion is so important. What I remember her saying, which stuck with me and probably a lot of the other graduate students in the hall, were things like this: “Our diplomats need to be trained to know the religions of the countries where they’re going.” And: “I think the Secretary of State needs to have religion advisors.”
By Kenny Smith, Religion Bulletin….
In a recent piece for CNN’s religion blog, “Actually, that’s not in the Bible,” John Blake examines the ubiquity of “phantom scripture” in American Christian communities. By “phantom scripture” he means ideas, teachings, and passages that sound like they belong in the Bible–e.g., “This too shall pass,” “God helps those who help themselves,” “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” or the notion that it was Satan (rather than a serpent) who tempted Eve in the Garden–but which, upon “close” (i.e., scholarly) examination, are in fact not there at all. A mild deconstruction of Blake’s discussion, I hope to suggest, opens up important pedagogical insights. By way of getting at such insights, consider a somewhat parallel example. In my undergraduate “introduction to religion” course, students watched a documentary about the “Purity Balls” movement popular among some contemporary American evangelicals….
By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY…..
If World War II-era warbler Kate Smith sang today, her anthem could be GodsBless America. That’s one of the key findings in newly released research that reveals America’s drift from clearly defined religious denominations to faiths cut to fit personal preferences. The folks who make up God as they go are side-by-side with self-proclaimed believers who claim the Christian label but shed their ties to traditional beliefs and practices. Religion statistics expert George Barna says, with a wry hint of exaggeration, America is headed for “310 million people with 310 million religions.”
By Tito Ferguson, Georgia State University ….
When considering the theorists Mircea Eliade and Joseph Campbell, it is not difficult to recognize similarities in their theories of religious thought. Comparisons can be made between them in regards to their methods of analyzing separate traditions as well as their attempts to draw universal conclusions from them. Not only do these two theorists demonstrate the ability to take unrelated traditions and create a new way of viewing them as part of a larger picture, but they also resemble each other in how later theorists consider their work. Both men inspired a change in the way religion was thought about by the public, and both have earned the criticism of modern and feminist scholars.
By Kate Daley Bailey….
Every religious studies major has been caught in the precarious situation of having to answer the “are you going to a preacher” questions from well-meaning peripheral family members and other semi-invested adults. Upon telling someone that you are majoring in, studying, teaching, researching, etc. religious studies, you are usually met with a plethora of confused facial expressions. When you try to explain that the academic study of religion requires a historical and critical approach to world religions as social forces in the world and does not require belief (or disbelief) in any religious system, the previous expressions of confusion turn to judgmental looks and usually include an awkward silence.