Finbarr Curtis’s recent book, The Production of American Religious Freedom (2016), defies easy categorization. Melding social theory, interpretive biography, revisionist intellectual history, literary analysis, film analysis, and the study of discourse and rhetoric, the book issues a much needed social constructionist inquiry into the largely taken-for-granted concept of “freedom” that
The things that make us uncomfortable about the interaction is what is sometimes referred to as “the uncanny valley.” Most often this applies to robots who are supposed to look human, but can’t quite pull it off. But it seems appropriate to this interaction as well. You reach the uncanny valley when you get close to “almost human” in looks or interactions.
Analysing religious affiliation, phenomenon, and experience from a social science approach can reveal far more than a narrow theological or thealogical analysis. Theologians and thealogians appear uninterested in examining religion as an ‘object of interest’ perhaps believing that this perspective denigrates the underlying theological beliefs of the phenomenon being investigated. When, in truth, social science and theology can offer much more when combined into a multidisciplinary approach.
Fitting neatly within a complexity thesis tradition, Hameed employs what might be called normativizing nuance. By this I mean that by demonstrating the complexity/messiness of things “on the ground,” one version of a tradition can be delegitimized and/or another version of the tradition can be legitimized. In this sense, “Islam and science/evolution” has a great deal of resemblance to work on “Islam and violence.”
While those that reject the concept of God can never associate the “higher power” with the divine, it is obviously still appropriate to explore whether a metaphysical force might lay behind it power and, if so, what it might be. After all the origins of Alcoholics Anonymous, founded in the late 1930s, are undeniably Christian.
As it happens, just two and a half weeks ago, I was in the audience of a panel called ‘Rethinking Theory, Methods, and Data: A Conversation between Religious Studies and Sociology of Religion’ presented at the annual conference of the American Academy of Religion. The panel was advertised as a
Once we acknowledge that the invention of religion as a universal category and its subsequent critique by the forces of secularism took place under a certain Western provenance, why would we continue expanding the scope and reach of the world religion paradigm?
The observation that ideas are not inherently radical, but that the term is a relative one that involves comparisons to social norms, is of critical importance. The value judgments that we ascribe to ideas are not innate to them but are instead reflections of our own beliefs. These beliefs and norms vary between societies and over time within society.
Drone music is often described with terms such as violence, aggression, pain and suffering, but it is these markers of extremity which allow a sense of catharsis, dark spirituality and even healing according to listeners. Drone metal, then, addresses deep issues of importance in rather different musical and conceptual registers to Hoondert’s requiem composers and audiences. But in exploring the sacred in music, each are equally concerned with profound themes whose impact for many will elude language.
Does the President elect of the United States suffer from such debilitating ideology which Obama, and Alinsky, argued against, or is he, in line with Francis’s argument, someone who has not become radicalised but rather has joined with radicals pragmatically? As much of the ‘main-stream media’ comes to terms with the election of Trump, it appears to be the second option which they are trumping for.
Challenging this simplistic conception of religion and its consequences lies at the core of the Critical Religion movement. Schaefer’s interview is an invitation to explore how we can do that most effectively. How do we translate critical insights that have significant real world implications into ideas that can easily be transmitted to students and the wider public?
Francis rightly notes, radicalisation and violence are not necessarily linked: people can be what we call radicalised without becoming violent, while many people are violent without being seen as being radicalised. In the general discourse, particularly in the media, all these terms are often seen as somewhat synonymous, which raises the ever important question about the baggage these terms hold, and what is hidden rather than revealed in using them. Are the terms analytically useful? Or do they have some other utility, perhaps in terms of communicating ideas?
Although Thompson notes that the secularization of the society is another reason for young people’s departure from churches, as a sociologist, I think we could add a few more points to the ones mentioned by Thompson.
“What is my duty as somebody that studies human rights and religion? It is to bring these conversations to light, and lend my expertise to my elected officials. However, we cannot wait to have a seat at this table, but we must create it.”
On the one hand, many scholars in religious studies rightfully state that much work has been done on religion and space, and, on the other hand, many anthropologists (including myself) still feel confident claiming that there is a dearth of work on this topic.