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Measuring Secularity

At the home of the first secular studies undergraduate program, amid dozens of secularity scholars from around globe, Tommy Coleman’s interview with sociologist Phil Zuckerman and philosopher John Shook tackles big questions about the measurement of secularity and secularism, the positionality of secularity scholars, and the state of secular studies as a field. The 3rd annual conference of the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network (NSRN) at Pitzer College, which I too attended, was indeed the perfect place for this conversation. Secularity scholars from all over, both geographically and epistemologically, came together to debate and discuss these very questions. In the interview, Zuckerman and Shook describe a burgeoning “field of secular studies,” and, for me, this conference was evidence of just that. Here, I will build on their points about measurement and positionality, arguing that the heterogeneity among those who claim no religion requires more attention than it has been given and that the emerging field of secular studies shows definite signs of rising to that challenge.

To start, Zuckerman and Shook emphasize that “secularity” is a much broader phenomenon than most scholarly research acknowledges and they have given themselves the task of putting together the Oxford Handbook of Secularism to begin addressing the gaps in secular studies that have historically focused solely on atheists and atheism. Many others at the NSRN conference made similar points, and presentations detailing the variety of labels, beliefs, and behaviors found among the secular dominated the panels. This is encouraging and, I would argue, a long time coming. The rise of the “nones” as a category in social science research, while a step in the right direction, is far from sufficient to address the increasing presence and diversity of the religiously disaffiliated.

Referring to a research project in which he attempted to measure the amount of atheists globally (Zuckerman 2007), Zuckerman admits that measuring secularity is no easy task. He questions the validity of global statistics on irreligion and both he and Shook discuss the importance of being sensitive to regionality and culture when measuring secularity outside of a Western, Christian context. I agree, but want to emphasize that we are still far from sufficiently measuring secularity and its effects within Western contexts. Most quantitative research claiming to say something about what the “nones” do and do not do, in contrast to the religious, typically collapses all of those who claim no religious belief or affiliation into one category. These studies often make claims about the benefits of religion based on comparisons with the “nones”, and the religiously affiliated have been found to be happier, healthier, and more engaged with their communities. However, while often rigorously testing for variance among the religious, these studies treat the irreligious as if they have a static identity, resulting in an elision of the range of beliefs and behaviors that have been found within this growing group.

Zuckerman calls on the three Bs – belief, belonging, and behavior – to define what it means to “be secular.” Social scientists often use these categories to measure religiosity, as these three ways of being religious have been found to have distinct, and often contradictory, influences on social attitudes and behaviors. The utility of parsing out these categories among the “nones” is becoming increasingly apparent. For example, Zuckerman details how an individual can be secular in one way and not in another. Someone can go to church while not believing in god(s), or, indeed, can believe in god(s) without affiliating with any religious institution. Lim, MacGregor, and Putnam (2010) found that Americans who claim no religious affiliation one year often join a religious institution the next, highlighting the fluidity and “liminality” of religious and secular belief, belonging, and behavior (see also Keysar 2014). However, Zuckerman asserts that one cannot be truly secular if they believe in god(s). While you can agree or disagree with his definition, the important point is that when these distinct ways of being secular are conflated, the result is often invalid categories and incomplete conclusions (see Joseph Blankholm’s insightful post on the same topic).

At the American Mosaic Project, a survey project I’m a part of at the University of Minnesota, one of our goals is to speak to this gap in the research. We have multiple measures of secular belonging and behavior, including four separate measures for irreligious belonging (atheist, agnostic, spiritual but not religious, and nothing in particular). Analyses indicate important distinctions among all four categories, as well as between those who take on a “none” label, those who have atheistic beliefs, and those who do not attend church. Other studies have found these distinctions as well, for example, Baker and Smith (2009) find that American atheists, agnostics, and unchurched believers each have distinct political beliefs and varying stances on religion’s place in public life.

A second aspect of measuring secularity discussed in the interview deals with its relation to religion. For Zuckerman, secularity is and always has to be in relation to religion. He argues, “If there was no religion, secularity would not have to be invented, we wouldn’t have to have a word for it.” Shook disagrees, rebutting, “There is no magic in language. Words don’t bring things into existence.” For Shook, secularism is an objective, measurable phenomenon that can exist with or without the presence of religion. He argues, “Just because the term serves as a contrary doesn’t mean that its existence is dependent on the contrary.” Their discussion in many ways parallels a conversation among scholars of nonbelief identities and communities. Scholars like Smith (2011) and Guenther (2014) argue that atheism in America is a “rejection identity” formed out of a rejection of religious belief and belonging. In contrast, LeDrew (2013) and Cimino and Smith (2014) highlight the ways that atheists and other nonbelievers are forming groups based on beliefs that they share instead of beliefs they reject.

What these discussions ultimately show is that individual and collective expressions of secularity vary across time and space, evolving even within the same community. In short, context matters. The political, cultural, and religious contexts of a given society influence the way secular ideals and beliefs are interpreted and enacted. Secularity, Shook explains, is set up in opposition to religion in some societies, like in the United States, but not all, and this can vary both between societies and within them. The research highlighted in this response has shown that there is a growing diversity of secular identities and ideologies, and what I’m seeing in the emerging field of secular studies is an increased sensitivity to the contexts and subjectivities under which these identities are taking shape.

References

Baker, Joseph and Buster Smith. 2009. “None Too Simple: Examining Issues of Religious Nonbelief and Nonbelonging in the United States.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 48(4): 719-733

Cimino, Richard and Christopher Smith. 2014. Atheist Awakening: Secular Activism and Community in America. Oxford University Press

Guenther, Katja. 2014. “Bounded by Disbelief: How Atheists in the United States Differentiate Themselves from Religious Believers.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 29(1): 1-16

Keysar, Ariela. 2014. “Shifts Along the American Religious-Secular Spectrum.” Secularism and Nonreligion 3(1): 1-16

LeDrew, Stephen. 2013. “Discovering Atheism: Heterogeneity in Trajectories to Atheist Identity

and Activism.” Sociology of Religion 74(4): 431-45

Lim, Chaeyoon, Carol Ann MacGregor, and Robert Putnam. 2010. “Secular and Liminal: Discovering Heterogeneity Among Religious Nones.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 49(4): 596-618

Smith, Jesse. 2011. “Becoming an Atheist in America: Constructing Identity and Meaning from the Rejection of Theism.” Sociology of Religion. 72(2): 215-237

Zuckerman, Phil. 2007. “Atheism: Contemporary Numbers and Patterns.” Pp. 47-62 in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, edited by M. Martin. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press

 

The Faith of the Killable: A Faith for Empowerment?

As one listens to Dr. Johnson describe the high homicide rates of Río de Janeiro, the gap in between the haves and the have nots, as well as the appalling conditions he witnessed –through use of an admirable methodology– in this city’s prison system, something that stands out clearly is how all these elements are strongly concatenated as pieces of the same dehumanizing setting. It’s not a coincidence that, in several countries within Latin America, scandalous levels of inequality coexist with elevated delinquency rates. Francois Bourguignon (1999) stated that, in developing countries, crime and violence are likely to be a socially costly by-product of, among other factors, uneven or irregular economic development processes, and affirmed that economic theory shows how property crime and, in general, all the violence associated with illegal activity may in part be the consequence of extreme inequality and poverty. This framework of socioeconomic disparity and violence is key to understand how entire population sectors in Río become and remain killable people, and to assess the serious restraints that inmates who proceed from these sectors will face again, once their time in prison is finished. Dr. Johnson refers to Pentecostalism as the faith of the killable and suggests that one of the reasons why Pentecostalism succeeds among those who come from impoverished areas –which is the case of many inmates in Río’s prison system– is that “it can empower people who are, otherwise, thrown into the edges”. In this response, I would like to argue that, in order to appreciate to what extent Pentecostalism could be considered empowering, it’s pertinent to take a look at its impacts (or absence of impacts) in the social context of those who convert to this faith.

Ignacio Martín-Baró (1998) stated that religious conversion has important social implications –even if each person experiences it as an individual process– and that, although conversion brings the knowledge of a new meaning that can make individual life more rewarding, this new meaning can either separate people from their social reality and history, or it can make people become more aware of that reality and turn them into subjects of their own history. Martín-Baró also proposed that the individual motivations for religious conversion acquire a wider historical meaning when they are situated in the net of social forces that affect a person, which can be humanizing or dehumanizing. Taking this into account, if we seek to estimate the empowerment potential of the conversion and affiliation to Pentecostal churches among the inmates of Rio’s prison system, it would be valuable to situate these events in a social background and to inquire: are these conversions able to generate only individual changes in the inmates, or do they also confer on them any resources to bring a positive contribution in the dynamics of their marginalized communities?

Recent research conducted in Central America has attempted to answer a similar question, and has explored the impact of Pentecostal and Charismatic movements on communitarian organization and civic participation. In the case of a traditional Pentecostal church, studied in El Salvador, the research results showed that this faith community conferred high importance upon evangelization and to the individual changes derived from religious conversion, as ways of making a contribution to society; an individualistic view was also present in the way this church interpreted the causes of social problems and in the type of solutions that they considered effective to confront them. In addition, they proved to give utmost importance to the involvement of their members in activities that belonged mostly to the private sphere, without encouraging their interest in the public sphere. Regarding the communitarian participation and political attitudes of the members of this church, it was interesting to find that, from the four faith communities that were studied and compared in El Salvador, the traditional Pentecostals reported the least favorable attitude to political participation in general, the lowest willingness to join political parties or to take over public positions, the strongest reluctance to take part in demonstrations, and a scarce participation in initiatives of their neighborhoods and municipalities. These results, of course, show only coexistence between some religiosity traits and political attitudes –not a cause-effect relation between them– but they suggest that the emphasis this Pentecostal church placed on individual change and on the private space participation didn’t offer favorable conditions for its members to recognize the importance of being active in communitarian organizations and articulating efforts with other citizens to pursue collective goals.

It can be useful to take into account these findings as we go back to considering the social impacts that would be reasonable to expect from the conversion of the inmates in Río´s prison system and from their affiliation to Pentecostal churches. In this sense, it would be interesting to analyze if what Dr. Johnson could observe in the prison churches provided reasons to anticipate that the inmates will, in the future, promote changes beyond their individual behavior and beyond the private space in which religious practice often takes place. For example, Dr. Johnson mentioned that personal testimony and tangible changes in personal behavior were a priority for those who had converted, especially in the case of those who had retired from gangs. When these inmates return to their neighborhoods, will this emphasis on the individual transformation be helpful or not for them to become aware of the structural causes of the deplorable conditions experienced in their communities, and the importance of collective solutions for development? Also, Dr. Johnson explains that Pentecostalism offers a platform for a strong identity and even the opportunity to assume leadership in the autonomous churches that exist inside prisons. Therefore, could the inmates’ experience as leaders in the private space increase their willingness to subsequently become active in community organizations?

The answers to these questions are also essential in regard to after-imprisonment reinsertion and relapse prevention because, if the context to which the inmates return is not improved in any way, it will continue exposing them to social exclusion, translated, among other elements, in deficient education opportunities and difficulties incorporating into labor life, two of the structural causes of the criminality epidemic in Latin America (Kliksberg 2008). In the particular case of inmates who previously belonged to gangs, this complex scenario demands that reinsertion initiatives –including those promoted by religious entities– have a holistic approach that transcends the pursuit of individual change; such initiatives have to be articulated, and coordinated with different resources and efforts, in order to impact the individuals, their families and closest relationships, but also the public spaces, the access to employment, the neighborhoods and communities, and the cultural, social and economic factors that contribute to violence (Aguilar and Miranda 2006).

In sum, affiliation with Pentecostal churches in Río de Janeiro’s prison system can certainly offer important benefits to the inmates in the hostile and dangerous situation that their imprisonment represents. Nonetheless, the transformation promoted by these churches could be very limited if it remains circumscribed to the individuals and those who are closer to them, without helping the inmates to understand and modify the social dynamics that keep them marginalized. This kind of empowerment is only relative if it gives people means to recover a sense of dignity in their lives but not necessarily to stop being killable.

References

Aguilar, J., & Miranda, L. (2006). Entre la articulación y la competencia: las respuestas de la sociedad civil organizada a las pandillas en El Salvador. In Cruz, J.M. (ed.) Maras y Pandillas en Centroamérica, Vol. 4. San Salvador: UCA Editores.

Bourguignon, F. (1999). Crime as a Social Cost of Poverty and Inequality: A Review Focusing on Developing Countries. Desarrollo y Sociedad, 44, 61-99.

Kliksberg, B. (2008). ¿Cómo enfrentar la inseguridad en América Latina?. Nueva Sociedad, 215, 4-16.

Martín-Baró, I. (1998). Religión y guerra psicológica. In Blanco, A. (ed.) Psicología de la Liberación. Madrid: Trotta.

Back in the SSSR: Reflections on the 2013 SSSR/RRA Conference

SSSR 2013Boston WaterfrontI had the great fortune of attending the 2013 Society for the The Religious Studies Project (RSP).  The 2013 SSSR took place in Boston Massachusetts from November 8th – 10th a few blocks away from the Boston Harbor. Luckily, the overall tone of the conference and the attending scholars, were much warmer than the brisk weather outside the doors of the lovely Westin Waterfront Hotel. This conference report seeks to capture the unadulterated energy and excitement of a young scholar new to the social scientific study of religion and invite more established scholars to reflect on their early days in the field.

Eight AM bright and early the first day of the conference drew my attention to a session on “New Religious Movements” that featured a presentation by a former RSP podcast respondent Dusty Hoesly assessing the possibility of the Universal Life Church (ULC) as a new religious movement. I was surprised to learn that Hoesly’s presentation was, as far as he could tell, one of the first scholarly looks at the ULC group from academia. He provided some interesting data on Kirby J. Hensley, the founder of the ULC. According to Dusty, one of Hensley’s central concerns in founding the ULC was to demonstrate the ‘absurdity’ of governments giving religious organizations tax-exempt status in the United States. Thus by becoming ordained as a ULC Minister, one could start their own ‘church’ from home and at least in theory be tax-exempt. In the latter part of the morning, Dr. Carissa Sharp spoke about ‘the relationship between religious complexity and pro-sociality’. Dr. Sharp sought to challenge current psychological priming methods in examining the prosociality of religion by introducing the concept of integrative complexity (IC) calling for the need of a deeper level of understanding in the connection between religion and prosociality.

The SSSR Presidential Panel: How Religion Works: Disciplinary Perspectives and Bridges was phenomenal!

The SSSR Presidential Panel: How Religion Works: Disciplinary Perspectives and Bridges was phenomenal!

Every seat was full and a row of people stood along the back wall to hear scholars presenting their disciplinary and research perspectives in the social scientific study of religion. Dr. Laurence Iannaccone spoke about looking at religion through an economic lens taking into account the idiosyncrasies that research on religion demands and that economists often ignore arguing for a study of religion and economics in which both contribute to the other. Dr. Gerardo Marti addressed the study of religion from a sociological perspective followed by Dr. Doug Oman (a scholar in the Public Health field) arguing that the boundaries between disciplinary fields are often blurred and can even overlap at times. Dr. Ann Taves was the final panelist. In words that embody her ‘Religious Experience Reconsidered’ approach to religion, she tied together the multiple disciplines represented on the panel and spoke about a careful balancing of what she termed the ‘interdisciplinary hat’, with the ‘discipline hat’ in the study religion from multiple academic perspectives.

Dr. R. Stephen Warner delivered the annual H. Paul Douglass Lecture (sponsored by the RSP podcast by Douglas Pratt that shared a similar ‘tone’. In Warner’s lecture and Pratt’s podcast, both scholars appear to be parsing what can and can not be included in the category of ‘religion’ making them appear as a stable monolith of fixed positive traits, discounting variation among individuals and assigning negative traits to secularity. Warner’s SSSR lecture and Pratt’s podcast problematically essentialise religious identities and appear as a dangerous call for scholars to offer protection for religion in the public sphere instead of simply researching religion (for a further critical response see Beaman, 2013).

Author Meets Critic - Cragun SSSR 2013The second day of the conference it was time to attend my first ‘author meets critics’ with a review of former RSP podcast scholar Dr. Ryan T. Cragun’s What You Don’t Know About Religion (but should). Cragun had pen and paper out taking notes while the invited critics, Dr. Michael Nielsen, Dr. Christopher Chiappari and Dr. Rick Phillips, spoke – as good critics do – with both praise and careful critique. Dr. Cragun announced that a follow up book titled “More Of What You Don’t Know About Religion” is currently in the works and it was refreshing to hear him advocate for conducting science that was not just for other academics in a specific field, but also for the public as a whole. Later that day, I attended an organized panel on the “Biological and Evolutionary Aspects of Religion” that featured an informative talk by Dr. Stewart Guthrie outlining “A Biological, Evolutionary, and Cognitive Approach” to religion. Upon conclusion of the panel, I was fortunate to have Dr. Guthrie spend several minutes that day, at two separate times no less, discussing both the cognitive and psychological study of belief and non-belief with me. Dr. Guthrie clearly understands what it means to a young student such as me when they get to not only ask questions from a top scholar, but also get asked questions back! This teaching style certainly builds bridges and seems to be indicative of the commitment the SSSR has towards fostering relationships between students and scholars. In fact, the theme according to the Dr. Christopher F. Silver, as the Graduate Student Representative for 2014, and RSP podcast interviewee Dr. Ralph W. Hood Jr. as the Program Chair, this theme of mentorship and collaboration seems to be a something that we can expect to continue into the next year.

The final day of the conference I attended a session on teaching psychology of religion titled “Psychological Approaches to Understanding Religion”. One of the panelist, Dr. Kevin Ladd (RSP podcast on the psychology of prayer with Dr. Ladd coming soon), shared a hands on approach he uses to both demonstrate the problems scholars have defining religion, and to give undergraduates practical experience dealing with real problems researchers encounter. He has each student come up with an operational definition of religion to use for research and then to compare with each other student – obviously they can and do vary greatly. This way, students also gain practical experience navigating the discourse in the study of religion as well.

Thomas J. Coleman III with Ann Taves at SSSR 2013

Thomas J. Coleman III with Ann Taves at SSSR 2013

The final session, titled ‘Atheist Worldviews and Communities’ was the culmination of the conference and resulted in dialectic between the scholars and those attending for the final twenty-five minutes. If the seat count on the last day of an academic conference – at the very last panel no less (which people commonly skip out on attempting to get a head start to the airport) – is any indication of the burgeoning interest in a topic then I dare not say what is and there was a quite an audience for this panel! Scholars from sociology, religious studies and psychology brought together multiple perspectives on current atheism research around the United States. An important quote that has guided my studies comes from psychologist of religion Antoine Vergote on the importance of looking at not only studying belief but also un-belief for “one cannot be understood without the other” (1997). What a way to end a conference – with an engaging conversation on the importance of new directions in research!

*The next Society for the Scientific Study of Religion conference will be held October 31-November 2, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

References

Vergote, A. (1997). Religion, belief and unbelief: A psychological study (Vol. 5). Leuven     University Press.

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Religious Studies Opportunites Digest – 27 July 2012 Edition

26 July 2012 Issue

By sharjah_lover - http://www.flickr.com/photos/sharjahlover/327463339/in/photostream/

By sharjah_lover – http://www.flickr.com/photos/sharjahlover/327463339/in/photostream/

We are not responsible for any content contained herein, but have simply copied and pasted from a variety of sources. If you have any content for future digests, please contact us via the various options on our ‘contact’ page.

In this issue:

  • Calls for Papers
  • Conference Announcements
  • Jobs
  • Resources
  • Workshops

 


CALLS FOR PAPERS


 

Socrel / HEA Teaching and Studying Religion, 2nd Annual Symposium

Call for Papers

The 2012 Socrel / HEA Teaching and Studying Religion symposium will explore the theme: Religion and Citizenship: Re-Thinking the Boundaries of Religion and the Secular.

The symposium is organised by Socrel, the BSA Sociology of Religion Study Group, with funding from the Higher Education Academy, Philosophy, and Religious Studies Subject Centre. Last year’s inaugural symposium was over-subscribed and therefore early submissions are encouraged.

Keynote speaker: Dr Nasar Meer, Northumbria University

Venue: BSA Meeting Room, Imperial Wharf, London

Date:  13 December 2012

10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Religions today are implicated in a wide variety of publics. From contests over the environment and democracy to protests against capitalism, religions remain important factors in political and public life across diverse, and interconnected, global contexts. A variety of diverse responses have been articulated to the so-called ‘return of religion’ in the public sphere, drawing into question relations between the religious, the non-religious and the secular. As scholars have developed new theoretical understandings of the terms of these debates and questioned how these are bound up with cultural conceptualizations of citizenship, education – in schools, universities and less formal educational contexts – has often been a site where contestations of the religious and the secular have been acutely felt.

The aim of this symposium is to consider the interrelation between conceptions of the religious, the secular, citizenship and education, and to explore how these issues affect the study of religion in higher education. We hope to attract presentations of sufficient quality to lead to an edited publication.

The day will be highly participative and engaged. The symposium will be organised as a single stream so that the day is as much about discussion as it is about presentation, and therefore the number of formal papers will be limited.

Papers are invited from students, teachers, and researchers in the disciplines of sociology, anthropology, geography, theology, history, psychology, political science, religious studies and others where religion is taught and studied. Empirical, methodological, and theoretical papers are welcomed.

Presenters will circulate a five-page summary of their paper before the day so that all participants can come prepared for discussion. Presentations will last 10 minutes and will be structured into three sessions, each followed by a discussant drawing out key points. The day will conclude with a discussant-led, focused panel discussion.

Key questions to be addressed may include, but are not limited to:

What are the relationships between the religious, the secular and the public sphere, and how do these affect the study of religion, in both universities and schools?

How do different historical constructions of religion and secularity shape understandings of the civil sphere and citizenship, and what are the implications of this for the study of religion?

Does the increased public visibility of religion in national and global contexts affect how we study it?

What is the role of religious education (school and/or university) in forming citizens and shaping understandings of citizenship?

Are there distinct regional, national or international conceptions of the secular?

Are there distinct regional, national or international conceptions of citizenship?

How do different disciplines approach and study these conceptions, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of these approaches?

Abstracts of 200 words are invited by September 15 2012. Please send these to: Dr Paul-François Tremlett p.f.tremlett@open.ac.uk

Costs: £36.00 for BSA/SocRel members; £45.00 for non-members; £20.00 for SocRel/BSA Postgraduate members; £25.00 for Postgraduate non-members.


 

CALL FOR PAPERS:

SOCIOLOGY OF ISLAM JOURNAL (BRILL)

Winter 2013 Volume 1

ISSN: 2213-140x E-ISSN: 2213-1418

The Sociology of Islam Journal (www.brill.nl/soi) invites article submissions for the first issue, which will be published in the Fall of 2012.

We are delighted to announce the founding of the peer-reviewed, academic journal, the Sociology of Islam (SOI) to be published by Brill once a year beginning in the Fall of 2012. Since Max Weber’s groundbreaking research on the sociology of religion, sociologists have grappled with aspects of religion both at the theoretical and empirical levels. While an increasing number of social scientists, particularly in recent decades, have employed innovative sociological frameworks for the study of Islam, this promising sub-discipline has so far lacked its own academic journal. The Sociology of Islam is intended to bridge this gap by functioning as an academic forum for the publication of innovative contributions to the study of Islam and Muslim societies. For the first issue of Sociology of Islam, we welcome article contributions that address theoretical dimensions of the sociology of Islam and Muslim societies. Submissions for this issue are expected to explore the importance of the sociology of Islam and the influential contributions, current trends and future prospects, and the competing sociological frameworks that apply to the study of Islam. Please email your draft article of 7000-10,000 words by no later than Monday October 3rd. The deadline for submissions to the first issue is October 3rd.

The sub-themes for the first issue are the following:

· Islamic Movements and Parties

· Islam and Capitalism/Neoliberalism

· Islam and Secularism

· Islam and Orientalism/Neo-Orientalism

· Sociology of Religion

· Social and Political Transformations in Muslim Societies

If you need further information, please do not hesitate contact us:

Contact: Tugrul Keskin or Gary Wood

Editor Email: sociologyofislam@yahoo.com

Our book review editors are:

Mustafa Gurbuz (mustafa.gurbuz@uconn.edu) and

Joshua D. Hendrick (jdhendrick@loyola.edu)

Best to all,

Gary Wood, Najm al-Din Yousefi and Tugrul Keskin


32nd ISSR Conference

RETHINKING COMMUNITY

RELIGIOUS CONTINUITIES AND MUTATIONS IN LATE MODERNITY

Turku-Åbo, Finland, 27-30 June, 2013

Conference website:

http://www.sisr-issr.org/English/Conferences/Conferences.htm

Call for papers:

http://www.sisr-issr.org/English/Newsletters/Network%20%28PDF%20and%20Word%29/Network%2043.pdf

Deadlines: October 31st 2012:

-Abstracts of proposed papers for the Thematic Sessions (STS) and

Working Groups (WGT), to be sent to the SESSION ORGANISER(S)

-Abstracts of proposed papers for the Thematic Sessions of the New

Researchers Forum (NRF) and Miscellaneous papers (MPL) for the NRF, to

be sent to the Session Organiser

-Abstracts of Miscellaneous Papers (MPL) to be sent to the GENERAL SECRETARY

Financial support available.

The conference languages are English and French.

Important notice: Organisers of Thematic Sessions (STS) and Working

Groups (WGT) and Presenters of papers have to be members of the

International Society for the Sociology of Religions (ISSR). Each

participant may only present one paper at the conference.

Submission details available in the full call for papers:

http://www.sisr-issr.org/English/Newsletters/Network%20%28PDF%20and%20Word%29/Network%2043.pdf


Title: CFP: The Future of Holocaust Studies

Date: 2012-11-16

Description: CFP: The Future of Holocaust

Studieshttp://thefutureofholocauststudies.wordpress.com/

Southampton and Winchester 29-31 July 2013 As we approach the

70th anniversary of the liberation of the camps in 2014 and

2015, the era of the living witnesses to the events of the

Holocaust is drawing to a close. …

Contact: thefutureofholocauststudies@gmail.com

URL: thefutureofholocauststudies.wordpress.com/

Announcement ID: 195786

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=195786


Title: Asian Conference on Ethics, Religion & Philosophy 2013

Date: 2012-12-01

Description: ACERP 2013 is to be held from March 28 – 31 2013, at

the Ramada Osaka Hotel, Osaka, Japan. CONFERENCE THEME:

“Connectedness and Alienation: The 21st Century Enigma” Being

connected through social networking sites has become an

accepted form of communication in today’s digitalized world.

People can s …

Contact: acerp@iafor.org

URL: acerp.iafor.org/

Announcement ID: 195712

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=195712


Title: 3rd Global Conference: Spirituality in the 21st Century

(March 2013: Lisbon, Portugal)

Date: 2013-03-07

Description: 3rd Global Conference Spirituality in the 21st

Century Thursday 7th March Saturday 9th March 2013 Lisbon,

Portugal Call for Presentations: The contemporary study of

spirituality encompasses a wide range of interests. These have

come not only from the more traditional areas of religious

scholarshipth …

Contact: s21-3@inter-disciplinary.net

URL:

www.inter-disciplinary.net/critical-issues/ethos/spirituality-in-the-21st-century/call-for-papers/

Announcement ID: 195722

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=195722


CONFERENCES


 

INFORM Seminar XLIX

CHANGING BELIEFS AND SCHISMS

IN NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS

Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building,

London School of Economics, Saturday 1 December 2012

 

http://www.lse.ac.uk/resources/mapsAndDirections/howToGetToLSE.htm

To register: WE ARE NOW TAKING PAYPAL BOOKINGS: www.inform.ac/seminar-payment

(Inform@lse.ac.uk; 020 7955 7677).

Tickets (including buffet lunch, coffee and tea) paid by 12 November 2012 cost £38 each (£18 students/unwaged).

NB. Tickets booked after 12 November 2012 will cost £48 each (£28 students/unwaged).

 

A limited number of seats will be made available to A-Level students at £10 before 12 November 2012 (£20 after 12 November). A party of 5 or more A-Level students from one school can include one member of staff at the same price.

PROVISIONAL PROGRAMME

The presence of speakers on an Inform programme does not mean that Inform endorses their position.

The aim of Inform Seminars is to help participants to understand, or at least recognise, different perspectives.

For Inform’s codes of practice see www.Inform.ac

9.30-9.50 Registration and coffee

9.50-10.00 Welcome and Introduction

10.00-10.25 Eileen Barker (Professor Emeritus, LSE; Chair & Honorary Director, Inform)

“Re-vision and Division in New Religions: Some Introductory Remarks”

10.25-10.50 Claire Borowik (Co-Director of the Worldwide Religious News Service, and member of The Family International)

“The Family International: Rebooting for the Future”

10.50-11.15 J. Gordon Melton (Distinguished Professor of American Religious History at Baylor University)

“When Science Intervenes—Revising Claims in the New Age”

11.15-11.45 Coffee

11.45-12.10 Pat Ryan and Joe Kelly (International Cultic Studies Association; ex-members of TM and Society of Divine Love)

“Transcendental Meditation and Swami Prakashananda Saraswati”

12.10-12.35 Susan Palmer (Lecturer in Religious Studies, Dawson College / Concordia University)

“Dr. Malach Z. York’s Spiritual Divagations”

12.35-13.00 Masoud Banisadr (PhD in chemical engineering and engineering mathematics, and former member of MEK)

“The Metamorphism of MEK (Mujahedin e Khalgh) and its Schism”

13.00-14.00 Lunch

14.00-14.25 James Tong (Professor of Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles)

“The Re-Invented Wheel: Revisioning and Diversification in the Falun Gong, 1992-2012”

14.25-14.50 Mike Mickler (Professor of Church History, Unification Theological Seminary)

“The Post-Sun Myung Moon Unification Church”

14.50-15.15 Eugene Clay (Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Arizona State University)

“Mother of God Derjavnaja / The New Cathar Church”

15.15-15.45 Tea

15.45-16.10 Eugene Gallagher (Rosemary Park Professor of Religious Studies, Connecticut College)

“The Branch Davidians”

16.10-16.35 Massimo Introvigne (Lawyer and Managing Director of CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions), Turin)

“Mormon Origins – Revisionism or Re-Interpretation?”

16.35-17.15 Panel Discussion

Please access the attached hyperlink for an important electronic communications disclaimer: http://lse.ac.uk/emailDisclaimer


JOBS


Carnegie Mellon University – Tenure-track position in Anthropology

and History

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=44762>


Freiburg University – 8 Doctoral Positions, available from 1 December

2012

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=44760>


University of Saskatchewan – Special Lecturer, Islamic Studies

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=44778>


Washington University in St. Louis – Assistant Professor, Modern

Arabic Literature and Culture

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=44766>


Bar Ilan University – Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Polish Jewish

History

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=44763>


University of Saskatchewan – Instructor, South / Southeast Asian

Buddhism

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=44777>


Job offer

Where?

Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) 980 „Episteme in Motion. Transfer of

Knowledge from the Ancient World to the Early Modern Period“ in Berlin,

Germany (www.sfb-episteme.de)

How long for?

Postdoc; fixed-term contract, ending 30 June, 2016 (E 13 TV-L FU)

Job description:

The candidate is requested to analyze ancient texts on ascetic ways of

life, with special regard to modes of personal and non-personal knowledge

transfer. The texts are to be explored with a focus on the main research

questions of the SFB. The successful candidate is expected to contribute

to the teamwork within the SFB network.

Requirements:

Ph.D. in Religious Studies, Comparative Literature, Classics, History or a

comparable subject

Assets:

Willingness to engage in intense interdisciplinary collaboration within

the SFB network. Beneficial would be experience in Cultural Studies and

Literary Studies.

To apply, please send all relevant materials (cover letter, CV, etc.) and

a short statement of motivation until 30.07.2012 to Prof. Dr. Almut

Barbara Renger. Please indicate job-reference SFB980/2012/C02/Postdoc.


International Consortium for Research in the Humanities, University

Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany – Postdoctoral and Senior Fellowships –

Call for Applications

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=44801>


  1. LECTURER (specialism open)/ ACADEMIC ADVISOR (Partnerships)

Full Time Permanent

The Department of Theology and Religious Studies is seeking to appoint

a highly qualified and research active academic to work as part of the

Departmental Partnerships Team, which is responsible for overseeing an

expanding area of collaborative provision. The post-holder will also

be expected to deliver high quality teaching and research supervision

in their area of specialism as a full member of a large and thriving

academic department. The post is open to candidates with any area of

specialism within Theology and Religious Studies; applicants with

expertise in New Testament, Christian Theology, Church History or

Jewish Studies are especially welcome.

The successful applicant will hold a PhD in a discipline of Theology

and Religious Studies with a record of research and publications

commensurate with his or her experience.  He or she will have a sound

understanding of QA and academic processes as they relate to

collaborative provision, be highly motivated and resourceful, and have

a demonstrable ability in academic administration.

Further details here: http://www.chester.ac.uk/node/14483

  1. Lecturer in Christian Studies, fixed Term Contract until September

2013 (0.5fte)

The Department of Theology and Religious Studies is seeking to appoint

a highly qualified and research active academic to develop new

undergraduate programmes in Church Schools Studies and Religious

Literacy. The post-holder will also be expected to deliver high

quality teaching and research supervision in their area of specialism

as a full member of a large and thriving academic Department. Research

areas relevant to the post might include Religious Education, Public

Theology, Practical Theology, Contextual Theology, or Religious

Studies with a focus on Christianity.

The successful applicant will hold a PhD or Professional Doctorate in

a discipline of Theology and Religious Studies with a record of

research and publications commensurate with his or her experience.  He

or she will have the ability to contribute to programme development

and curriculum design, be highly motivated and resourceful, and have a

demonstrable ability in academic administration.

Further details here: http://www.chester.ac.uk/node/14480


RESOURCES


Dear colleagues

With Religion and Society programme ‘impact’ funding we have made six digital stories about how children (aged between 6 and 13) learn to be Muslims. This is a spin-off from our grant ‘Religious nurture in Muslim families’ and the stories are primarily for use in education. We had primary and secondary schools in mind, but they could also spark discussion in university classes, so feel free to use them and pass them on to other.

The digital stories can be found here:

http://vimeo.com/channels/learningtobeamuslim

An accessible summary of project findings can be found here:

http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/socsi/research/researchprojects/religiousnurture/publications/research%20findings.pdf

Best wishes

Jonathan Scourfield


WORKSHOPS


Title: Identity, Religion and Ethnicity: New Patterns, Realities,

and Pitfalls, 29 November 2012, Istanbul

Date: 2012-08-10

Description: Identity, Religion and Ethnicity are three terms

interrelated and become all important issues in the European

Union and its neighbourhood. The socio-economic transformations

of societies resulting from immigration and emigration of

people, mindsets, symbols are forcing the change on identity

and cit …

Contact: erkan.toguslu@soc.kuleuven.be

URL: www.gcis-kuleuven.com/workshops/

Announcement ID: 195741

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=195741


Title: Workshop on the Reception of Josephus by Jews and

Christians from Late Antiquity to 1750

Date: 2013-01-07

Description:  Applications are invited to participate in this

workshop to be held at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish

Studies on January 7-8 2013. Bursaries to cover travel expenses

and accommodation will be available for selected participants.

The workshop will be the first in a series as part of a proje

Contact: registrar@ochjs.ac.uk

URL: www.ochjs.ac.uk

Announcement ID: 195818

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=195818

Roundtable: Can We Trust the Social Sciences?

We have another ‘treat’ for you this week – we’ll let you decide whether that was an accurate description or not – in the form of another roundtable discussion, with a slightly different group of people. This was recorded late on the 28th of March at the University of Chester during the British Sociological Association’s Sociology of Religion Study Group (SOCREL for short)’s conference (although, of course, this is an ‘unofficial’ discussion).

Ethan: “We ask a question on a survey, we get an answer… and then we have to fill in the space…”

The topic of discussion grew out of a presentation delivered by Callum Brown at the University of Edinburgh (at the same time as we recorded our podcast with him) on the topic of “People of no religion: The demographics of secularisation in the English speaking world since 1900”, which presented, amongst other things, some conclusions from large-scale demographic surveys of religious identification. Ethan Quillen disagreed forcefully that conclusions drawn from questionnaires and censuses can be used to draw large-scale conclusions, and tabled the motion, “Can We Trust the Social Sciences?”

If you are new to the podcast – this is not what we usually do. If you are a regular listener – you might enjoy this, or you might not; either way, we are back to normal with Jolyon Mitchell’s interview on Religion, Media and Violence on Monday. For an interesting and more rigorous response essay to this podcast, please see Tim Hutchings’ A Response to Callum Brown: Connecting “When” and “Why” in Digital Religion.

David and Ethan

David and Ethan

Conversation ranges from the strengths and weaknesses of such data, whether there is more to the social sciences than quantitative methods, and the place of the social sciences within a multi-disciplinary Religious Studies field. Can we trust social sciences when we study religion? Is a social scientific approach the future of religious studies? What is an alternative to a social scientific approach?  These questions and more form the basis for what we intend to act as a bridge between our previous roundtable (“What is the Future of Religious Studies?”) and our forthcoming roundtable (“Should scholars of religion be critics or caretakers?”), timetabled for release on 6 June 2012.

Discussion largely focussed upon Quantitative Methods… something which future podcasts with Ariela Keysar and David Voas shall be focusing on more explicitly:

Do social scientists depend upon assumptive reasoning when it comes to filling in the blanks in their data? Does a decline in church attendance mean a decline in conviction, or simply a decline in one’s attendance at church? By providing boxes do we force people into boxes? What does one individual tell us about a category? What is it specifically about religion that makes this such an issue? How do we trust people to answer in a certain way?

Kevin: “Aren’t you better hypothesising by going out and asking people questions than by sitting around and hypothesising?”

Reference is made to the panel session on Religious Conspiracies at which David, Kevin and Ethan had presented earlier in the day. We also refer to Tom Rees’ excellent Epiphenom blog. Ethan plays Devil’s advocate, whilst Chris throws himself on the pyre and asks Ethan what he thought was wrong with his approach in his MSc Thesis.

Mat: “It’s not perfect, and I would love to go out and buy a tailored pair of trousers but… I’m not gonna get it. So I’ll go out and buy a pair that are closest to my size, and that’s the most economic way…”

It was late… two thirds of the panel had been up since 7 am travelling down from Edinburgh.

The conclusion? Should there be a balance between quantitative and qualitative approaches? Well… yes. But individual scholars may have to side with one or the other. We need a holistic approach, and this isn’t generally something one scholar can accomplish by themselves…

Sponsored by Pepsi Max, and pink gin.

Katie clearly found Ethan “hilarious”

The Discussants:

Katie Aston

Having completed a BA (hons) in Fine Art at Wimbledon School of Art in 2006, Katie went on to complete her Masters in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths University, with a dissertation investigating gender performance within contemporary Stand Up comedy in London. Building on a pilot study of the Atheist Bus Campaign,  she is currently undertaking an ethnographic study of non-religious value construction and material cultures. She is looking specifically at rationalism and the role Christian heritage within non-religious individuals and organisation, taking a historical perspective from the freethought archives of Bishopsgate Institute. Katie is an Assistant Editor at NSRN Online, the web presence of the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network.

Christopher R. Cotter

Chris recently completed his MSc by Research in Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh, on the topic ‘Toward a Typology of Nonreligion: A Qualitative Analysis of Everyday Narratives of Scottish University Students’. He is currently taking a year out from study to pursue PhD applications, present at conferences, and work on projects such as this. His future research will continue to expand the theme of ‘non-religion’ to apply to ‘everyone’ in religiously diverse, socio-economically deprived urban environments, simultaneously deconstructing the religion-nonreligion dichotomy in the process. He is Deputy Editor and Bibliography Manager at the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network, and currently editing the volume ‘Social Identities between the Sacred and the Secular’ with Abby Day and Giselle Vincett (Ashgate, 2013). See his personal blog, or academia.edu page for a full CV.

Matthew Francis

Matthew graduated from Leeds with a joint-honours degree in Philosophy and Theology and Religious Studies. He subsequently undertook a Masters by Research, where he examined the ideas of Georges Bataille in relation to the problem of meaning in death in contemporary society. Matthew is the Postgraduate Officer for the Sociology of Religion study group (SocRel) of the British Sociological Association (BSA). He has taught on undergraduate and postgraduate modules on subjects including the Sociology of Religion and Religion in Modern Britain.

Matthew recently completed an AHRC-funded PhD at Leeds, which investigated the move to violence in the beliefs of groups. He is the editor for RadicalisationResearch.org, an AHRC/ESRC funded website which provides a resource for policy-makers and the media on radicalisation and extremism, and works at Goldsmiths University managing the Religious Literacy Leadership Project.

Ethan Quillen

Circular Academia: Navigating the Dangerous Waters of Term Re-Assignment for the Religious Studies Project.

David G. Robertson

David G. Robertson is a Ph.D. candidate in the Religious Studies department of the University of Edinburgh. His research  examines how UFO narratives became the bridge by which ideas crossed between the conspiracist and New Age milieus in the post-Cold War period. More broadly, his work concerns contemporary alternative spiritualities, and their relationship with popular culture. Forthcoming publications: “Making the Donkey Visible: Discordianism in the Works of Robert Anton Wilson” in C. Cusack & A. Norman (Eds.), Brill Handbook of New Religions and Cultural Production. Leiden: Brill (2012) “(Always) Living in the End Times: The “rolling prophecy” of the conspracist milieu” in When Prophecy Persists. London: INFORM/Ashgate (2012). For a full CV and his MSc thesis on contemporary gnosticism, see his Academia page or personal blog.

Kevin Whitesides

Kevin Whitesides completed his B.A. in Religious Studies at Humboldt State University. He is currently developing an MSc dissertation at the University of Edinburgh on ’2012′ millennialism as part of a broader emphasis on countercultural transmission. Kevin has contributed articles to ‘Archaeoastronomy’ and ‘Zeitschrift fur Anomalistik’, has contributed chapters for two anthologies on apocalypse and prophecy, and has presented widely on the ’2012′ milieu at academic conferences and universities.

Podcasts

Measuring Secularity

At the home of the first secular studies undergraduate program, amid dozens of secularity scholars from around globe, Tommy Coleman’s interview with sociologist Phil Zuckerman and philosopher John Shook tackles big questions about the measurement of secularity and secularism, the positionality of secularity scholars, and the state of secular studies as a field. The 3rd annual conference of the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network (NSRN) at Pitzer College, which I too attended, was indeed the perfect place for this conversation. Secularity scholars from all over, both geographically and epistemologically, came together to debate and discuss these very questions. In the interview, Zuckerman and Shook describe a burgeoning “field of secular studies,” and, for me, this conference was evidence of just that. Here, I will build on their points about measurement and positionality, arguing that the heterogeneity among those who claim no religion requires more attention than it has been given and that the emerging field of secular studies shows definite signs of rising to that challenge.

To start, Zuckerman and Shook emphasize that “secularity” is a much broader phenomenon than most scholarly research acknowledges and they have given themselves the task of putting together the Oxford Handbook of Secularism to begin addressing the gaps in secular studies that have historically focused solely on atheists and atheism. Many others at the NSRN conference made similar points, and presentations detailing the variety of labels, beliefs, and behaviors found among the secular dominated the panels. This is encouraging and, I would argue, a long time coming. The rise of the “nones” as a category in social science research, while a step in the right direction, is far from sufficient to address the increasing presence and diversity of the religiously disaffiliated.

Referring to a research project in which he attempted to measure the amount of atheists globally (Zuckerman 2007), Zuckerman admits that measuring secularity is no easy task. He questions the validity of global statistics on irreligion and both he and Shook discuss the importance of being sensitive to regionality and culture when measuring secularity outside of a Western, Christian context. I agree, but want to emphasize that we are still far from sufficiently measuring secularity and its effects within Western contexts. Most quantitative research claiming to say something about what the “nones” do and do not do, in contrast to the religious, typically collapses all of those who claim no religious belief or affiliation into one category. These studies often make claims about the benefits of religion based on comparisons with the “nones”, and the religiously affiliated have been found to be happier, healthier, and more engaged with their communities. However, while often rigorously testing for variance among the religious, these studies treat the irreligious as if they have a static identity, resulting in an elision of the range of beliefs and behaviors that have been found within this growing group.

Zuckerman calls on the three Bs – belief, belonging, and behavior – to define what it means to “be secular.” Social scientists often use these categories to measure religiosity, as these three ways of being religious have been found to have distinct, and often contradictory, influences on social attitudes and behaviors. The utility of parsing out these categories among the “nones” is becoming increasingly apparent. For example, Zuckerman details how an individual can be secular in one way and not in another. Someone can go to church while not believing in god(s), or, indeed, can believe in god(s) without affiliating with any religious institution. Lim, MacGregor, and Putnam (2010) found that Americans who claim no religious affiliation one year often join a religious institution the next, highlighting the fluidity and “liminality” of religious and secular belief, belonging, and behavior (see also Keysar 2014). However, Zuckerman asserts that one cannot be truly secular if they believe in god(s). While you can agree or disagree with his definition, the important point is that when these distinct ways of being secular are conflated, the result is often invalid categories and incomplete conclusions (see Joseph Blankholm’s insightful post on the same topic).

At the American Mosaic Project, a survey project I’m a part of at the University of Minnesota, one of our goals is to speak to this gap in the research. We have multiple measures of secular belonging and behavior, including four separate measures for irreligious belonging (atheist, agnostic, spiritual but not religious, and nothing in particular). Analyses indicate important distinctions among all four categories, as well as between those who take on a “none” label, those who have atheistic beliefs, and those who do not attend church. Other studies have found these distinctions as well, for example, Baker and Smith (2009) find that American atheists, agnostics, and unchurched believers each have distinct political beliefs and varying stances on religion’s place in public life.

A second aspect of measuring secularity discussed in the interview deals with its relation to religion. For Zuckerman, secularity is and always has to be in relation to religion. He argues, “If there was no religion, secularity would not have to be invented, we wouldn’t have to have a word for it.” Shook disagrees, rebutting, “There is no magic in language. Words don’t bring things into existence.” For Shook, secularism is an objective, measurable phenomenon that can exist with or without the presence of religion. He argues, “Just because the term serves as a contrary doesn’t mean that its existence is dependent on the contrary.” Their discussion in many ways parallels a conversation among scholars of nonbelief identities and communities. Scholars like Smith (2011) and Guenther (2014) argue that atheism in America is a “rejection identity” formed out of a rejection of religious belief and belonging. In contrast, LeDrew (2013) and Cimino and Smith (2014) highlight the ways that atheists and other nonbelievers are forming groups based on beliefs that they share instead of beliefs they reject.

What these discussions ultimately show is that individual and collective expressions of secularity vary across time and space, evolving even within the same community. In short, context matters. The political, cultural, and religious contexts of a given society influence the way secular ideals and beliefs are interpreted and enacted. Secularity, Shook explains, is set up in opposition to religion in some societies, like in the United States, but not all, and this can vary both between societies and within them. The research highlighted in this response has shown that there is a growing diversity of secular identities and ideologies, and what I’m seeing in the emerging field of secular studies is an increased sensitivity to the contexts and subjectivities under which these identities are taking shape.

References

Baker, Joseph and Buster Smith. 2009. “None Too Simple: Examining Issues of Religious Nonbelief and Nonbelonging in the United States.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 48(4): 719-733

Cimino, Richard and Christopher Smith. 2014. Atheist Awakening: Secular Activism and Community in America. Oxford University Press

Guenther, Katja. 2014. “Bounded by Disbelief: How Atheists in the United States Differentiate Themselves from Religious Believers.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 29(1): 1-16

Keysar, Ariela. 2014. “Shifts Along the American Religious-Secular Spectrum.” Secularism and Nonreligion 3(1): 1-16

LeDrew, Stephen. 2013. “Discovering Atheism: Heterogeneity in Trajectories to Atheist Identity

and Activism.” Sociology of Religion 74(4): 431-45

Lim, Chaeyoon, Carol Ann MacGregor, and Robert Putnam. 2010. “Secular and Liminal: Discovering Heterogeneity Among Religious Nones.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 49(4): 596-618

Smith, Jesse. 2011. “Becoming an Atheist in America: Constructing Identity and Meaning from the Rejection of Theism.” Sociology of Religion. 72(2): 215-237

Zuckerman, Phil. 2007. “Atheism: Contemporary Numbers and Patterns.” Pp. 47-62 in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, edited by M. Martin. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press

 

The Faith of the Killable: A Faith for Empowerment?

As one listens to Dr. Johnson describe the high homicide rates of Río de Janeiro, the gap in between the haves and the have nots, as well as the appalling conditions he witnessed –through use of an admirable methodology– in this city’s prison system, something that stands out clearly is how all these elements are strongly concatenated as pieces of the same dehumanizing setting. It’s not a coincidence that, in several countries within Latin America, scandalous levels of inequality coexist with elevated delinquency rates. Francois Bourguignon (1999) stated that, in developing countries, crime and violence are likely to be a socially costly by-product of, among other factors, uneven or irregular economic development processes, and affirmed that economic theory shows how property crime and, in general, all the violence associated with illegal activity may in part be the consequence of extreme inequality and poverty. This framework of socioeconomic disparity and violence is key to understand how entire population sectors in Río become and remain killable people, and to assess the serious restraints that inmates who proceed from these sectors will face again, once their time in prison is finished. Dr. Johnson refers to Pentecostalism as the faith of the killable and suggests that one of the reasons why Pentecostalism succeeds among those who come from impoverished areas –which is the case of many inmates in Río’s prison system– is that “it can empower people who are, otherwise, thrown into the edges”. In this response, I would like to argue that, in order to appreciate to what extent Pentecostalism could be considered empowering, it’s pertinent to take a look at its impacts (or absence of impacts) in the social context of those who convert to this faith.

Ignacio Martín-Baró (1998) stated that religious conversion has important social implications –even if each person experiences it as an individual process– and that, although conversion brings the knowledge of a new meaning that can make individual life more rewarding, this new meaning can either separate people from their social reality and history, or it can make people become more aware of that reality and turn them into subjects of their own history. Martín-Baró also proposed that the individual motivations for religious conversion acquire a wider historical meaning when they are situated in the net of social forces that affect a person, which can be humanizing or dehumanizing. Taking this into account, if we seek to estimate the empowerment potential of the conversion and affiliation to Pentecostal churches among the inmates of Rio’s prison system, it would be valuable to situate these events in a social background and to inquire: are these conversions able to generate only individual changes in the inmates, or do they also confer on them any resources to bring a positive contribution in the dynamics of their marginalized communities?

Recent research conducted in Central America has attempted to answer a similar question, and has explored the impact of Pentecostal and Charismatic movements on communitarian organization and civic participation. In the case of a traditional Pentecostal church, studied in El Salvador, the research results showed that this faith community conferred high importance upon evangelization and to the individual changes derived from religious conversion, as ways of making a contribution to society; an individualistic view was also present in the way this church interpreted the causes of social problems and in the type of solutions that they considered effective to confront them. In addition, they proved to give utmost importance to the involvement of their members in activities that belonged mostly to the private sphere, without encouraging their interest in the public sphere. Regarding the communitarian participation and political attitudes of the members of this church, it was interesting to find that, from the four faith communities that were studied and compared in El Salvador, the traditional Pentecostals reported the least favorable attitude to political participation in general, the lowest willingness to join political parties or to take over public positions, the strongest reluctance to take part in demonstrations, and a scarce participation in initiatives of their neighborhoods and municipalities. These results, of course, show only coexistence between some religiosity traits and political attitudes –not a cause-effect relation between them– but they suggest that the emphasis this Pentecostal church placed on individual change and on the private space participation didn’t offer favorable conditions for its members to recognize the importance of being active in communitarian organizations and articulating efforts with other citizens to pursue collective goals.

It can be useful to take into account these findings as we go back to considering the social impacts that would be reasonable to expect from the conversion of the inmates in Río´s prison system and from their affiliation to Pentecostal churches. In this sense, it would be interesting to analyze if what Dr. Johnson could observe in the prison churches provided reasons to anticipate that the inmates will, in the future, promote changes beyond their individual behavior and beyond the private space in which religious practice often takes place. For example, Dr. Johnson mentioned that personal testimony and tangible changes in personal behavior were a priority for those who had converted, especially in the case of those who had retired from gangs. When these inmates return to their neighborhoods, will this emphasis on the individual transformation be helpful or not for them to become aware of the structural causes of the deplorable conditions experienced in their communities, and the importance of collective solutions for development? Also, Dr. Johnson explains that Pentecostalism offers a platform for a strong identity and even the opportunity to assume leadership in the autonomous churches that exist inside prisons. Therefore, could the inmates’ experience as leaders in the private space increase their willingness to subsequently become active in community organizations?

The answers to these questions are also essential in regard to after-imprisonment reinsertion and relapse prevention because, if the context to which the inmates return is not improved in any way, it will continue exposing them to social exclusion, translated, among other elements, in deficient education opportunities and difficulties incorporating into labor life, two of the structural causes of the criminality epidemic in Latin America (Kliksberg 2008). In the particular case of inmates who previously belonged to gangs, this complex scenario demands that reinsertion initiatives –including those promoted by religious entities– have a holistic approach that transcends the pursuit of individual change; such initiatives have to be articulated, and coordinated with different resources and efforts, in order to impact the individuals, their families and closest relationships, but also the public spaces, the access to employment, the neighborhoods and communities, and the cultural, social and economic factors that contribute to violence (Aguilar and Miranda 2006).

In sum, affiliation with Pentecostal churches in Río de Janeiro’s prison system can certainly offer important benefits to the inmates in the hostile and dangerous situation that their imprisonment represents. Nonetheless, the transformation promoted by these churches could be very limited if it remains circumscribed to the individuals and those who are closer to them, without helping the inmates to understand and modify the social dynamics that keep them marginalized. This kind of empowerment is only relative if it gives people means to recover a sense of dignity in their lives but not necessarily to stop being killable.

References

Aguilar, J., & Miranda, L. (2006). Entre la articulación y la competencia: las respuestas de la sociedad civil organizada a las pandillas en El Salvador. In Cruz, J.M. (ed.) Maras y Pandillas en Centroamérica, Vol. 4. San Salvador: UCA Editores.

Bourguignon, F. (1999). Crime as a Social Cost of Poverty and Inequality: A Review Focusing on Developing Countries. Desarrollo y Sociedad, 44, 61-99.

Kliksberg, B. (2008). ¿Cómo enfrentar la inseguridad en América Latina?. Nueva Sociedad, 215, 4-16.

Martín-Baró, I. (1998). Religión y guerra psicológica. In Blanco, A. (ed.) Psicología de la Liberación. Madrid: Trotta.

Back in the SSSR: Reflections on the 2013 SSSR/RRA Conference

SSSR 2013Boston WaterfrontI had the great fortune of attending the 2013 Society for the The Religious Studies Project (RSP).  The 2013 SSSR took place in Boston Massachusetts from November 8th – 10th a few blocks away from the Boston Harbor. Luckily, the overall tone of the conference and the attending scholars, were much warmer than the brisk weather outside the doors of the lovely Westin Waterfront Hotel. This conference report seeks to capture the unadulterated energy and excitement of a young scholar new to the social scientific study of religion and invite more established scholars to reflect on their early days in the field.

Eight AM bright and early the first day of the conference drew my attention to a session on “New Religious Movements” that featured a presentation by a former RSP podcast respondent Dusty Hoesly assessing the possibility of the Universal Life Church (ULC) as a new religious movement. I was surprised to learn that Hoesly’s presentation was, as far as he could tell, one of the first scholarly looks at the ULC group from academia. He provided some interesting data on Kirby J. Hensley, the founder of the ULC. According to Dusty, one of Hensley’s central concerns in founding the ULC was to demonstrate the ‘absurdity’ of governments giving religious organizations tax-exempt status in the United States. Thus by becoming ordained as a ULC Minister, one could start their own ‘church’ from home and at least in theory be tax-exempt. In the latter part of the morning, Dr. Carissa Sharp spoke about ‘the relationship between religious complexity and pro-sociality’. Dr. Sharp sought to challenge current psychological priming methods in examining the prosociality of religion by introducing the concept of integrative complexity (IC) calling for the need of a deeper level of understanding in the connection between religion and prosociality.

The SSSR Presidential Panel: How Religion Works: Disciplinary Perspectives and Bridges was phenomenal!

The SSSR Presidential Panel: How Religion Works: Disciplinary Perspectives and Bridges was phenomenal!

Every seat was full and a row of people stood along the back wall to hear scholars presenting their disciplinary and research perspectives in the social scientific study of religion. Dr. Laurence Iannaccone spoke about looking at religion through an economic lens taking into account the idiosyncrasies that research on religion demands and that economists often ignore arguing for a study of religion and economics in which both contribute to the other. Dr. Gerardo Marti addressed the study of religion from a sociological perspective followed by Dr. Doug Oman (a scholar in the Public Health field) arguing that the boundaries between disciplinary fields are often blurred and can even overlap at times. Dr. Ann Taves was the final panelist. In words that embody her ‘Religious Experience Reconsidered’ approach to religion, she tied together the multiple disciplines represented on the panel and spoke about a careful balancing of what she termed the ‘interdisciplinary hat’, with the ‘discipline hat’ in the study religion from multiple academic perspectives.

Dr. R. Stephen Warner delivered the annual H. Paul Douglass Lecture (sponsored by the RSP podcast by Douglas Pratt that shared a similar ‘tone’. In Warner’s lecture and Pratt’s podcast, both scholars appear to be parsing what can and can not be included in the category of ‘religion’ making them appear as a stable monolith of fixed positive traits, discounting variation among individuals and assigning negative traits to secularity. Warner’s SSSR lecture and Pratt’s podcast problematically essentialise religious identities and appear as a dangerous call for scholars to offer protection for religion in the public sphere instead of simply researching religion (for a further critical response see Beaman, 2013).

Author Meets Critic - Cragun SSSR 2013The second day of the conference it was time to attend my first ‘author meets critics’ with a review of former RSP podcast scholar Dr. Ryan T. Cragun’s What You Don’t Know About Religion (but should). Cragun had pen and paper out taking notes while the invited critics, Dr. Michael Nielsen, Dr. Christopher Chiappari and Dr. Rick Phillips, spoke – as good critics do – with both praise and careful critique. Dr. Cragun announced that a follow up book titled “More Of What You Don’t Know About Religion” is currently in the works and it was refreshing to hear him advocate for conducting science that was not just for other academics in a specific field, but also for the public as a whole. Later that day, I attended an organized panel on the “Biological and Evolutionary Aspects of Religion” that featured an informative talk by Dr. Stewart Guthrie outlining “A Biological, Evolutionary, and Cognitive Approach” to religion. Upon conclusion of the panel, I was fortunate to have Dr. Guthrie spend several minutes that day, at two separate times no less, discussing both the cognitive and psychological study of belief and non-belief with me. Dr. Guthrie clearly understands what it means to a young student such as me when they get to not only ask questions from a top scholar, but also get asked questions back! This teaching style certainly builds bridges and seems to be indicative of the commitment the SSSR has towards fostering relationships between students and scholars. In fact, the theme according to the Dr. Christopher F. Silver, as the Graduate Student Representative for 2014, and RSP podcast interviewee Dr. Ralph W. Hood Jr. as the Program Chair, this theme of mentorship and collaboration seems to be a something that we can expect to continue into the next year.

The final day of the conference I attended a session on teaching psychology of religion titled “Psychological Approaches to Understanding Religion”. One of the panelist, Dr. Kevin Ladd (RSP podcast on the psychology of prayer with Dr. Ladd coming soon), shared a hands on approach he uses to both demonstrate the problems scholars have defining religion, and to give undergraduates practical experience dealing with real problems researchers encounter. He has each student come up with an operational definition of religion to use for research and then to compare with each other student – obviously they can and do vary greatly. This way, students also gain practical experience navigating the discourse in the study of religion as well.

Thomas J. Coleman III with Ann Taves at SSSR 2013

Thomas J. Coleman III with Ann Taves at SSSR 2013

The final session, titled ‘Atheist Worldviews and Communities’ was the culmination of the conference and resulted in dialectic between the scholars and those attending for the final twenty-five minutes. If the seat count on the last day of an academic conference – at the very last panel no less (which people commonly skip out on attempting to get a head start to the airport) – is any indication of the burgeoning interest in a topic then I dare not say what is and there was a quite an audience for this panel! Scholars from sociology, religious studies and psychology brought together multiple perspectives on current atheism research around the United States. An important quote that has guided my studies comes from psychologist of religion Antoine Vergote on the importance of looking at not only studying belief but also un-belief for “one cannot be understood without the other” (1997). What a way to end a conference – with an engaging conversation on the importance of new directions in research!

*The next Society for the Scientific Study of Religion conference will be held October 31-November 2, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

References

Vergote, A. (1997). Religion, belief and unbelief: A psychological study (Vol. 5). Leuven     University Press.

By sharjah_lover - http://www.flickr.com/photos/sharjahlover/327463339/in/photostream/

Religious Studies Opportunites Digest – 27 July 2012 Edition

26 July 2012 Issue

By sharjah_lover - http://www.flickr.com/photos/sharjahlover/327463339/in/photostream/

By sharjah_lover – http://www.flickr.com/photos/sharjahlover/327463339/in/photostream/

We are not responsible for any content contained herein, but have simply copied and pasted from a variety of sources. If you have any content for future digests, please contact us via the various options on our ‘contact’ page.

In this issue:

  • Calls for Papers
  • Conference Announcements
  • Jobs
  • Resources
  • Workshops

 


CALLS FOR PAPERS


 

Socrel / HEA Teaching and Studying Religion, 2nd Annual Symposium

Call for Papers

The 2012 Socrel / HEA Teaching and Studying Religion symposium will explore the theme: Religion and Citizenship: Re-Thinking the Boundaries of Religion and the Secular.

The symposium is organised by Socrel, the BSA Sociology of Religion Study Group, with funding from the Higher Education Academy, Philosophy, and Religious Studies Subject Centre. Last year’s inaugural symposium was over-subscribed and therefore early submissions are encouraged.

Keynote speaker: Dr Nasar Meer, Northumbria University

Venue: BSA Meeting Room, Imperial Wharf, London

Date:  13 December 2012

10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Religions today are implicated in a wide variety of publics. From contests over the environment and democracy to protests against capitalism, religions remain important factors in political and public life across diverse, and interconnected, global contexts. A variety of diverse responses have been articulated to the so-called ‘return of religion’ in the public sphere, drawing into question relations between the religious, the non-religious and the secular. As scholars have developed new theoretical understandings of the terms of these debates and questioned how these are bound up with cultural conceptualizations of citizenship, education – in schools, universities and less formal educational contexts – has often been a site where contestations of the religious and the secular have been acutely felt.

The aim of this symposium is to consider the interrelation between conceptions of the religious, the secular, citizenship and education, and to explore how these issues affect the study of religion in higher education. We hope to attract presentations of sufficient quality to lead to an edited publication.

The day will be highly participative and engaged. The symposium will be organised as a single stream so that the day is as much about discussion as it is about presentation, and therefore the number of formal papers will be limited.

Papers are invited from students, teachers, and researchers in the disciplines of sociology, anthropology, geography, theology, history, psychology, political science, religious studies and others where religion is taught and studied. Empirical, methodological, and theoretical papers are welcomed.

Presenters will circulate a five-page summary of their paper before the day so that all participants can come prepared for discussion. Presentations will last 10 minutes and will be structured into three sessions, each followed by a discussant drawing out key points. The day will conclude with a discussant-led, focused panel discussion.

Key questions to be addressed may include, but are not limited to:

What are the relationships between the religious, the secular and the public sphere, and how do these affect the study of religion, in both universities and schools?

How do different historical constructions of religion and secularity shape understandings of the civil sphere and citizenship, and what are the implications of this for the study of religion?

Does the increased public visibility of religion in national and global contexts affect how we study it?

What is the role of religious education (school and/or university) in forming citizens and shaping understandings of citizenship?

Are there distinct regional, national or international conceptions of the secular?

Are there distinct regional, national or international conceptions of citizenship?

How do different disciplines approach and study these conceptions, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of these approaches?

Abstracts of 200 words are invited by September 15 2012. Please send these to: Dr Paul-François Tremlett p.f.tremlett@open.ac.uk

Costs: £36.00 for BSA/SocRel members; £45.00 for non-members; £20.00 for SocRel/BSA Postgraduate members; £25.00 for Postgraduate non-members.


 

CALL FOR PAPERS:

SOCIOLOGY OF ISLAM JOURNAL (BRILL)

Winter 2013 Volume 1

ISSN: 2213-140x E-ISSN: 2213-1418

The Sociology of Islam Journal (www.brill.nl/soi) invites article submissions for the first issue, which will be published in the Fall of 2012.

We are delighted to announce the founding of the peer-reviewed, academic journal, the Sociology of Islam (SOI) to be published by Brill once a year beginning in the Fall of 2012. Since Max Weber’s groundbreaking research on the sociology of religion, sociologists have grappled with aspects of religion both at the theoretical and empirical levels. While an increasing number of social scientists, particularly in recent decades, have employed innovative sociological frameworks for the study of Islam, this promising sub-discipline has so far lacked its own academic journal. The Sociology of Islam is intended to bridge this gap by functioning as an academic forum for the publication of innovative contributions to the study of Islam and Muslim societies. For the first issue of Sociology of Islam, we welcome article contributions that address theoretical dimensions of the sociology of Islam and Muslim societies. Submissions for this issue are expected to explore the importance of the sociology of Islam and the influential contributions, current trends and future prospects, and the competing sociological frameworks that apply to the study of Islam. Please email your draft article of 7000-10,000 words by no later than Monday October 3rd. The deadline for submissions to the first issue is October 3rd.

The sub-themes for the first issue are the following:

· Islamic Movements and Parties

· Islam and Capitalism/Neoliberalism

· Islam and Secularism

· Islam and Orientalism/Neo-Orientalism

· Sociology of Religion

· Social and Political Transformations in Muslim Societies

If you need further information, please do not hesitate contact us:

Contact: Tugrul Keskin or Gary Wood

Editor Email: sociologyofislam@yahoo.com

Our book review editors are:

Mustafa Gurbuz (mustafa.gurbuz@uconn.edu) and

Joshua D. Hendrick (jdhendrick@loyola.edu)

Best to all,

Gary Wood, Najm al-Din Yousefi and Tugrul Keskin


32nd ISSR Conference

RETHINKING COMMUNITY

RELIGIOUS CONTINUITIES AND MUTATIONS IN LATE MODERNITY

Turku-Åbo, Finland, 27-30 June, 2013

Conference website:

http://www.sisr-issr.org/English/Conferences/Conferences.htm

Call for papers:

http://www.sisr-issr.org/English/Newsletters/Network%20%28PDF%20and%20Word%29/Network%2043.pdf

Deadlines: October 31st 2012:

-Abstracts of proposed papers for the Thematic Sessions (STS) and

Working Groups (WGT), to be sent to the SESSION ORGANISER(S)

-Abstracts of proposed papers for the Thematic Sessions of the New

Researchers Forum (NRF) and Miscellaneous papers (MPL) for the NRF, to

be sent to the Session Organiser

-Abstracts of Miscellaneous Papers (MPL) to be sent to the GENERAL SECRETARY

Financial support available.

The conference languages are English and French.

Important notice: Organisers of Thematic Sessions (STS) and Working

Groups (WGT) and Presenters of papers have to be members of the

International Society for the Sociology of Religions (ISSR). Each

participant may only present one paper at the conference.

Submission details available in the full call for papers:

http://www.sisr-issr.org/English/Newsletters/Network%20%28PDF%20and%20Word%29/Network%2043.pdf


Title: CFP: The Future of Holocaust Studies

Date: 2012-11-16

Description: CFP: The Future of Holocaust

Studieshttp://thefutureofholocauststudies.wordpress.com/

Southampton and Winchester 29-31 July 2013 As we approach the

70th anniversary of the liberation of the camps in 2014 and

2015, the era of the living witnesses to the events of the

Holocaust is drawing to a close. …

Contact: thefutureofholocauststudies@gmail.com

URL: thefutureofholocauststudies.wordpress.com/

Announcement ID: 195786

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=195786


Title: Asian Conference on Ethics, Religion & Philosophy 2013

Date: 2012-12-01

Description: ACERP 2013 is to be held from March 28 – 31 2013, at

the Ramada Osaka Hotel, Osaka, Japan. CONFERENCE THEME:

“Connectedness and Alienation: The 21st Century Enigma” Being

connected through social networking sites has become an

accepted form of communication in today’s digitalized world.

People can s …

Contact: acerp@iafor.org

URL: acerp.iafor.org/

Announcement ID: 195712

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=195712


Title: 3rd Global Conference: Spirituality in the 21st Century

(March 2013: Lisbon, Portugal)

Date: 2013-03-07

Description: 3rd Global Conference Spirituality in the 21st

Century Thursday 7th March Saturday 9th March 2013 Lisbon,

Portugal Call for Presentations: The contemporary study of

spirituality encompasses a wide range of interests. These have

come not only from the more traditional areas of religious

scholarshipth …

Contact: s21-3@inter-disciplinary.net

URL:

www.inter-disciplinary.net/critical-issues/ethos/spirituality-in-the-21st-century/call-for-papers/

Announcement ID: 195722

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=195722


CONFERENCES


 

INFORM Seminar XLIX

CHANGING BELIEFS AND SCHISMS

IN NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS

Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building,

London School of Economics, Saturday 1 December 2012

 

http://www.lse.ac.uk/resources/mapsAndDirections/howToGetToLSE.htm

To register: WE ARE NOW TAKING PAYPAL BOOKINGS: www.inform.ac/seminar-payment

(Inform@lse.ac.uk; 020 7955 7677).

Tickets (including buffet lunch, coffee and tea) paid by 12 November 2012 cost £38 each (£18 students/unwaged).

NB. Tickets booked after 12 November 2012 will cost £48 each (£28 students/unwaged).

 

A limited number of seats will be made available to A-Level students at £10 before 12 November 2012 (£20 after 12 November). A party of 5 or more A-Level students from one school can include one member of staff at the same price.

PROVISIONAL PROGRAMME

The presence of speakers on an Inform programme does not mean that Inform endorses their position.

The aim of Inform Seminars is to help participants to understand, or at least recognise, different perspectives.

For Inform’s codes of practice see www.Inform.ac

9.30-9.50 Registration and coffee

9.50-10.00 Welcome and Introduction

10.00-10.25 Eileen Barker (Professor Emeritus, LSE; Chair & Honorary Director, Inform)

“Re-vision and Division in New Religions: Some Introductory Remarks”

10.25-10.50 Claire Borowik (Co-Director of the Worldwide Religious News Service, and member of The Family International)

“The Family International: Rebooting for the Future”

10.50-11.15 J. Gordon Melton (Distinguished Professor of American Religious History at Baylor University)

“When Science Intervenes—Revising Claims in the New Age”

11.15-11.45 Coffee

11.45-12.10 Pat Ryan and Joe Kelly (International Cultic Studies Association; ex-members of TM and Society of Divine Love)

“Transcendental Meditation and Swami Prakashananda Saraswati”

12.10-12.35 Susan Palmer (Lecturer in Religious Studies, Dawson College / Concordia University)

“Dr. Malach Z. York’s Spiritual Divagations”

12.35-13.00 Masoud Banisadr (PhD in chemical engineering and engineering mathematics, and former member of MEK)

“The Metamorphism of MEK (Mujahedin e Khalgh) and its Schism”

13.00-14.00 Lunch

14.00-14.25 James Tong (Professor of Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles)

“The Re-Invented Wheel: Revisioning and Diversification in the Falun Gong, 1992-2012”

14.25-14.50 Mike Mickler (Professor of Church History, Unification Theological Seminary)

“The Post-Sun Myung Moon Unification Church”

14.50-15.15 Eugene Clay (Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Arizona State University)

“Mother of God Derjavnaja / The New Cathar Church”

15.15-15.45 Tea

15.45-16.10 Eugene Gallagher (Rosemary Park Professor of Religious Studies, Connecticut College)

“The Branch Davidians”

16.10-16.35 Massimo Introvigne (Lawyer and Managing Director of CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions), Turin)

“Mormon Origins – Revisionism or Re-Interpretation?”

16.35-17.15 Panel Discussion

Please access the attached hyperlink for an important electronic communications disclaimer: http://lse.ac.uk/emailDisclaimer


JOBS


Carnegie Mellon University – Tenure-track position in Anthropology

and History

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=44762>


Freiburg University – 8 Doctoral Positions, available from 1 December

2012

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=44760>


University of Saskatchewan – Special Lecturer, Islamic Studies

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=44778>


Washington University in St. Louis – Assistant Professor, Modern

Arabic Literature and Culture

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=44766>


Bar Ilan University – Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Polish Jewish

History

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=44763>


University of Saskatchewan – Instructor, South / Southeast Asian

Buddhism

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=44777>


Job offer

Where?

Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) 980 „Episteme in Motion. Transfer of

Knowledge from the Ancient World to the Early Modern Period“ in Berlin,

Germany (www.sfb-episteme.de)

How long for?

Postdoc; fixed-term contract, ending 30 June, 2016 (E 13 TV-L FU)

Job description:

The candidate is requested to analyze ancient texts on ascetic ways of

life, with special regard to modes of personal and non-personal knowledge

transfer. The texts are to be explored with a focus on the main research

questions of the SFB. The successful candidate is expected to contribute

to the teamwork within the SFB network.

Requirements:

Ph.D. in Religious Studies, Comparative Literature, Classics, History or a

comparable subject

Assets:

Willingness to engage in intense interdisciplinary collaboration within

the SFB network. Beneficial would be experience in Cultural Studies and

Literary Studies.

To apply, please send all relevant materials (cover letter, CV, etc.) and

a short statement of motivation until 30.07.2012 to Prof. Dr. Almut

Barbara Renger. Please indicate job-reference SFB980/2012/C02/Postdoc.


International Consortium for Research in the Humanities, University

Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany – Postdoctoral and Senior Fellowships –

Call for Applications

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=44801>


  1. LECTURER (specialism open)/ ACADEMIC ADVISOR (Partnerships)

Full Time Permanent

The Department of Theology and Religious Studies is seeking to appoint

a highly qualified and research active academic to work as part of the

Departmental Partnerships Team, which is responsible for overseeing an

expanding area of collaborative provision. The post-holder will also

be expected to deliver high quality teaching and research supervision

in their area of specialism as a full member of a large and thriving

academic department. The post is open to candidates with any area of

specialism within Theology and Religious Studies; applicants with

expertise in New Testament, Christian Theology, Church History or

Jewish Studies are especially welcome.

The successful applicant will hold a PhD in a discipline of Theology

and Religious Studies with a record of research and publications

commensurate with his or her experience.  He or she will have a sound

understanding of QA and academic processes as they relate to

collaborative provision, be highly motivated and resourceful, and have

a demonstrable ability in academic administration.

Further details here: http://www.chester.ac.uk/node/14483

  1. Lecturer in Christian Studies, fixed Term Contract until September

2013 (0.5fte)

The Department of Theology and Religious Studies is seeking to appoint

a highly qualified and research active academic to develop new

undergraduate programmes in Church Schools Studies and Religious

Literacy. The post-holder will also be expected to deliver high

quality teaching and research supervision in their area of specialism

as a full member of a large and thriving academic Department. Research

areas relevant to the post might include Religious Education, Public

Theology, Practical Theology, Contextual Theology, or Religious

Studies with a focus on Christianity.

The successful applicant will hold a PhD or Professional Doctorate in

a discipline of Theology and Religious Studies with a record of

research and publications commensurate with his or her experience.  He

or she will have the ability to contribute to programme development

and curriculum design, be highly motivated and resourceful, and have a

demonstrable ability in academic administration.

Further details here: http://www.chester.ac.uk/node/14480


RESOURCES


Dear colleagues

With Religion and Society programme ‘impact’ funding we have made six digital stories about how children (aged between 6 and 13) learn to be Muslims. This is a spin-off from our grant ‘Religious nurture in Muslim families’ and the stories are primarily for use in education. We had primary and secondary schools in mind, but they could also spark discussion in university classes, so feel free to use them and pass them on to other.

The digital stories can be found here:

http://vimeo.com/channels/learningtobeamuslim

An accessible summary of project findings can be found here:

http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/socsi/research/researchprojects/religiousnurture/publications/research%20findings.pdf

Best wishes

Jonathan Scourfield


WORKSHOPS


Title: Identity, Religion and Ethnicity: New Patterns, Realities,

and Pitfalls, 29 November 2012, Istanbul

Date: 2012-08-10

Description: Identity, Religion and Ethnicity are three terms

interrelated and become all important issues in the European

Union and its neighbourhood. The socio-economic transformations

of societies resulting from immigration and emigration of

people, mindsets, symbols are forcing the change on identity

and cit …

Contact: erkan.toguslu@soc.kuleuven.be

URL: www.gcis-kuleuven.com/workshops/

Announcement ID: 195741

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=195741


Title: Workshop on the Reception of Josephus by Jews and

Christians from Late Antiquity to 1750

Date: 2013-01-07

Description:  Applications are invited to participate in this

workshop to be held at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish

Studies on January 7-8 2013. Bursaries to cover travel expenses

and accommodation will be available for selected participants.

The workshop will be the first in a series as part of a proje

Contact: registrar@ochjs.ac.uk

URL: www.ochjs.ac.uk

Announcement ID: 195818

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=195818

Roundtable: Can We Trust the Social Sciences?

We have another ‘treat’ for you this week – we’ll let you decide whether that was an accurate description or not – in the form of another roundtable discussion, with a slightly different group of people. This was recorded late on the 28th of March at the University of Chester during the British Sociological Association’s Sociology of Religion Study Group (SOCREL for short)’s conference (although, of course, this is an ‘unofficial’ discussion).

Ethan: “We ask a question on a survey, we get an answer… and then we have to fill in the space…”

The topic of discussion grew out of a presentation delivered by Callum Brown at the University of Edinburgh (at the same time as we recorded our podcast with him) on the topic of “People of no religion: The demographics of secularisation in the English speaking world since 1900”, which presented, amongst other things, some conclusions from large-scale demographic surveys of religious identification. Ethan Quillen disagreed forcefully that conclusions drawn from questionnaires and censuses can be used to draw large-scale conclusions, and tabled the motion, “Can We Trust the Social Sciences?”

If you are new to the podcast – this is not what we usually do. If you are a regular listener – you might enjoy this, or you might not; either way, we are back to normal with Jolyon Mitchell’s interview on Religion, Media and Violence on Monday. For an interesting and more rigorous response essay to this podcast, please see Tim Hutchings’ A Response to Callum Brown: Connecting “When” and “Why” in Digital Religion.

David and Ethan

David and Ethan

Conversation ranges from the strengths and weaknesses of such data, whether there is more to the social sciences than quantitative methods, and the place of the social sciences within a multi-disciplinary Religious Studies field. Can we trust social sciences when we study religion? Is a social scientific approach the future of religious studies? What is an alternative to a social scientific approach?  These questions and more form the basis for what we intend to act as a bridge between our previous roundtable (“What is the Future of Religious Studies?”) and our forthcoming roundtable (“Should scholars of religion be critics or caretakers?”), timetabled for release on 6 June 2012.

Discussion largely focussed upon Quantitative Methods… something which future podcasts with Ariela Keysar and David Voas shall be focusing on more explicitly:

Do social scientists depend upon assumptive reasoning when it comes to filling in the blanks in their data? Does a decline in church attendance mean a decline in conviction, or simply a decline in one’s attendance at church? By providing boxes do we force people into boxes? What does one individual tell us about a category? What is it specifically about religion that makes this such an issue? How do we trust people to answer in a certain way?

Kevin: “Aren’t you better hypothesising by going out and asking people questions than by sitting around and hypothesising?”

Reference is made to the panel session on Religious Conspiracies at which David, Kevin and Ethan had presented earlier in the day. We also refer to Tom Rees’ excellent Epiphenom blog. Ethan plays Devil’s advocate, whilst Chris throws himself on the pyre and asks Ethan what he thought was wrong with his approach in his MSc Thesis.

Mat: “It’s not perfect, and I would love to go out and buy a tailored pair of trousers but… I’m not gonna get it. So I’ll go out and buy a pair that are closest to my size, and that’s the most economic way…”

It was late… two thirds of the panel had been up since 7 am travelling down from Edinburgh.

The conclusion? Should there be a balance between quantitative and qualitative approaches? Well… yes. But individual scholars may have to side with one or the other. We need a holistic approach, and this isn’t generally something one scholar can accomplish by themselves…

Sponsored by Pepsi Max, and pink gin.

Katie clearly found Ethan “hilarious”

The Discussants:

Katie Aston

Having completed a BA (hons) in Fine Art at Wimbledon School of Art in 2006, Katie went on to complete her Masters in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths University, with a dissertation investigating gender performance within contemporary Stand Up comedy in London. Building on a pilot study of the Atheist Bus Campaign,  she is currently undertaking an ethnographic study of non-religious value construction and material cultures. She is looking specifically at rationalism and the role Christian heritage within non-religious individuals and organisation, taking a historical perspective from the freethought archives of Bishopsgate Institute. Katie is an Assistant Editor at NSRN Online, the web presence of the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network.

Christopher R. Cotter

Chris recently completed his MSc by Research in Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh, on the topic ‘Toward a Typology of Nonreligion: A Qualitative Analysis of Everyday Narratives of Scottish University Students’. He is currently taking a year out from study to pursue PhD applications, present at conferences, and work on projects such as this. His future research will continue to expand the theme of ‘non-religion’ to apply to ‘everyone’ in religiously diverse, socio-economically deprived urban environments, simultaneously deconstructing the religion-nonreligion dichotomy in the process. He is Deputy Editor and Bibliography Manager at the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network, and currently editing the volume ‘Social Identities between the Sacred and the Secular’ with Abby Day and Giselle Vincett (Ashgate, 2013). See his personal blog, or academia.edu page for a full CV.

Matthew Francis

Matthew graduated from Leeds with a joint-honours degree in Philosophy and Theology and Religious Studies. He subsequently undertook a Masters by Research, where he examined the ideas of Georges Bataille in relation to the problem of meaning in death in contemporary society. Matthew is the Postgraduate Officer for the Sociology of Religion study group (SocRel) of the British Sociological Association (BSA). He has taught on undergraduate and postgraduate modules on subjects including the Sociology of Religion and Religion in Modern Britain.

Matthew recently completed an AHRC-funded PhD at Leeds, which investigated the move to violence in the beliefs of groups. He is the editor for RadicalisationResearch.org, an AHRC/ESRC funded website which provides a resource for policy-makers and the media on radicalisation and extremism, and works at Goldsmiths University managing the Religious Literacy Leadership Project.

Ethan Quillen

Circular Academia: Navigating the Dangerous Waters of Term Re-Assignment for the Religious Studies Project.

David G. Robertson

David G. Robertson is a Ph.D. candidate in the Religious Studies department of the University of Edinburgh. His research  examines how UFO narratives became the bridge by which ideas crossed between the conspiracist and New Age milieus in the post-Cold War period. More broadly, his work concerns contemporary alternative spiritualities, and their relationship with popular culture. Forthcoming publications: “Making the Donkey Visible: Discordianism in the Works of Robert Anton Wilson” in C. Cusack & A. Norman (Eds.), Brill Handbook of New Religions and Cultural Production. Leiden: Brill (2012) “(Always) Living in the End Times: The “rolling prophecy” of the conspracist milieu” in When Prophecy Persists. London: INFORM/Ashgate (2012). For a full CV and his MSc thesis on contemporary gnosticism, see his Academia page or personal blog.

Kevin Whitesides

Kevin Whitesides completed his B.A. in Religious Studies at Humboldt State University. He is currently developing an MSc dissertation at the University of Edinburgh on ’2012′ millennialism as part of a broader emphasis on countercultural transmission. Kevin has contributed articles to ‘Archaeoastronomy’ and ‘Zeitschrift fur Anomalistik’, has contributed chapters for two anthologies on apocalypse and prophecy, and has presented widely on the ’2012′ milieu at academic conferences and universities.