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 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 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…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.”
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.
Religion, Lately: Biblical Immigration, Heavy Metal Church, Cat Stevens v. Yusuf Islam, and the Religious Complexities of the Culture Wars
By Kenny Smith…Evangelicals are, apparently, quite divided on the issue of immigration reform, and read their Bibles accordingly. Some conclude that because Jesus and the Hebrew Prophets consistently speak of our obligation to care for strangers and the poor, a way to citizenship should be opened up for undocumented workers and their families in contemporary America. Others insist that because in within the Hebrew Bible God warns the ancient Israelites about the dangers of importing foreign ways (e.g., the danger of intermarriage), we need “Biblical Immigration”: walls, not ways.