In what sense can a country be “Christian”? Today on the Religious Studies Project, we welcome back Professor Linda Woodhead to discuss and interrogate the question “Is Britain Still a Christian Country?”, the topic of her recent Croall Lectures at the University of Edinburgh.
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With the strength of a research method, there is a corresponding weakness. And these weaknesses turn out to be overcome by the strengths of other, “opposite” kinds of methods.
The RSP collaborated with Society for the Scientific Study of Religion at their 2014 Annual Meeting in Indianapolis to offer and video record an interdisciplinary panel on the study of religion. Each of the papers presented are not only from different fields in the study of religion but also methodologically or theoretically apply an interdisciplinary approach. The authors represent the best in their fields. Some are established scholars with a body of work while others are up-and-coming talent.
Many of my participants felt that familiarity with Christianity permitted them to be critical in a way that they could not with other religious traditions.
Recent scholarship on Mesoamerican religions has been influenced by Mircea Eliade in a persistent fashion that has yet to be critically addressed.
In this interview, Molly Bassett begins by introducing us to the world of Middle America, the sources scholars use today to study this period and its cultures, and then describes the benefits and challenges of teaching with Meso-American materials. Her students learn not only to challenge the categories scholars use to describe religious ideas like “god,” but also the relationship between various methodological approaches and the limits of scholarship.
Comic books frequently include alternative or heterodox religious ideas, something underscored by the fact that two of the most acclaimed writers working today (Alan Moore and Grant Morrison) are practising magicians, and their work frequently contains references to their practises.
In this wide-ranging interview with A. David Lewis, comic books are presented as an irreplaceable cultural medium for engaging with issues of mortality, identity, subjectivity, and cosmology. With an overwhelming slate of comic book driven television series (Walking Dead, Gotham, Flash, Green Arrow) and a rising tide of superhero films and franchises (X-Men, Fantastic Four, and the Avengers), there has never been a more essential time to recognize the cultural merits of comic books and seek out their academic rewards.
While there is little disagreement as to the basic content of Gurdjieff’s spiritual teaching, there is currently no concrete proposal about the place of Gurdjieff within the broadly scientific study of religions.
David Robertson speaks to two remarkable scholars, Carole Cusack and Steven Sutcliffe, on the significance of G. I. Gurdjieff to the study of religion. How do we approach figures like Gurdjieff whose legacies (and archives) are tightly controlled by their followers, and who often aren’t seen as worthy of study by the academy and publishers?
Since the 1980s, social and economic pressures to stay within mainstream society have become more prominent, and spiritually minded individuals often seek more limited, loosely bonded participation in New Age-style modes of thought.
Given its contextual and perspectival malleability, the notion of ‘authority’, and even more so of ‘religious authority’, is challenging to define and to study. In today’s interview with Paulina Kolata, Dr Erica Baffelli discusses the notion of authority and charismatic leadership in the context of her research on New and ‘New’ New religions in contemporary Japan.
I hope I can place Webster’s research [on the Scottish Brethren] in the wider social and historical context, the ‘national level’ alongside the ‘local’ and ‘global’ ones.
Gardenstoun is a fishing village in the North-East of Scotland with a population of only 700 and six churches, four of which are branches of the Plymouth Brethren. Anthropology “at home” – within our own culture, rather than that of some exotic Other – undermines many of the assumptions that the study of religion is based upon, and has the power to make “the strange familiar, and the familiar strange”.
The reasons people might go on what they call ‘a pilgrimage’ are complex. Amusement may be as important as communion, escape from everyday life as important as prayer. But, and this is an important point that does not come up in the interview, they may not be the reasons a person may give when asked by fieldworking scholars.