Talking Religion at 30,000 Feet

Religion Enters the Academy: The Origins of the Scholarly Study of Religion in America
by James Turner
University of Georgia Press , 2011
I lie a lot on airplanes. Not in any way that should upset the TSA or anything like that—just to the question “What do you do?” I don’t like admitting to strangers what it is I do. I’m a Ph.D. student in religious studies.

I always have a book with me when I fly because I’m always supposed to be reading something. These books are usually about religion and American history or culture. They often tip people off. A friend of mine, another religious studies Ph.D. student, tells the story of the time he was reading Isis Unveiled in a local coffee shop. He was approached by a very excited man with an interest in Theosophy and other sorts of New Thought systems who talked his ear off for an hour. My friend is Catholic and was reading the book as a bit of research for some project or another.

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I Got a (Kinda) New Blogging Gig

I’m taking a small step up as a blogger. I’ve been blogging as a guest blogger over at Religion Dispatches for a while now. I’ve been writing a weekly review of religion in the news and I’ve also done some other posts here and there. I usually post a portion of these peices here and a link to the full text at RD. Anyways, now the fine folks over at RD have asked me to come on as regular blogger and write a few blog posts a week.  So, that means I’ll be doing a lot more writing there and a lot less here–not that I’ve been doing much here lately. I won’t be posting everything I write over at RD on this blog. Instead, there’s a nifty new RSS feed from my RD blog on the right hand sidebar here.

I will still use this blog to write about academic stuff, my research, history, and other things but please read my blog at RD to find great stuff on religion, culture, and politics. I’m really excited to take this chance to  branch out and find ways to relate my academic training to news and opinions going on everyday. I’m a big fan of public scholarship and our role in the academy as public intellectuals. This a chance to begin learning how to write for a general audience as a young scholar.

If you read this blog in an RSS reader, please add the RD Blog RSS feed or the RSS feed for my RD blog. Its going to be some great content, I promise.

 

Religion Dispatches: Julian Assange Nativity, Castro’s Hanukkah, & a Burger Blessing

Jesus will return on May 21, according to a billboard in Omaha. He really can’t get here before tax day?

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights sent nativity scenes to all 50 state governors. WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange is represented in nativity scenes in Naples, Italy. A Dallas, Texas megachurch pastor is compiling a list of business that fail to recognize Christmas and instead settle for ‘Happy Holidays.’ Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma is taking a stand in the war on Christmas by trying to keep the “Christ” in “Christmas parade.” And the three wise men may have been from China.

Always striving to sink to ever lower levels of human decency, the Westboro Baptist Church says it will picket Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral.

According to the latest WikiLeaks dump, Saudi Arabian King Abdullah once criticized themutaween, who enforce Islamic behavior in his country, for treating people like donkeys. He said they take a stick and hit you with it, saying “Come donkey, it’s time to pray.” A new survey of Muslims around the world reveals mixed feelings about Hamas and Hezbollah but an outright rejection of al Qaeda by the majority of Muslims.

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‘Atheizing’ the Dead, Religious Doughnuts, & Tax-Free Witching: The Week in Religion, Poetically

Inspired by Mormon baptism practices, Atheize the Dead offers to convert your deceased loved one to atheism.

The Hartford, Connecticut city council found itself in hot water when it proposed a Muslim invocation for one of its pre-meeting prayers. After its website was inundated with protests against the planned invocations, the council decided to cancel prayers of any sort at the meetings and will open with an “interfaith moment of silence.”

Donald Trump offered to buy out one of the major investors in the Park51 project. The investors said thanks but no thanks.

A North Carolina teenager whose family is part of the Church of Body Modification has run into trouble with her school’s dress code. The 14-year-old is looking at a ten day suspension if she returns to school wearing her prohibited nose ring. In Roswell, New Mexico, a group of students have been suspended for giving their teachers boxes of doughnuts with religious messages attached to them.

Romania has decided not to tax its witches and fortunetellers. One reason being that the witches and fortunetellers aren’t good at keeping receipts.

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Shariah-Approved Sex Aids, Abstinence-Only Goes to China, and Abercrombie Hijab…The Week in Religion, Poetically

Ramadan is not only a time for fasting, it’s also a time for the best television around the Muslim world. A television serial in Egypt has stirred controversy: The Group explores the world of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest opposition movement. Similarly, a Syrian serial, What Your Right Hand Possess (it sounds better in Arabic) has drawn furiouscriticism for allegedly distorting Islam. A Malaysian TV station has axed a commercial wishing Muslims a happy Eid al-Fitr because viewers complained the commercial was too Christmas-y.

In France, halal food is going upscale.

Christian morality meets communist population control: evangelical group Focus on the Family has partnered with Chinese officials to bring its abstinence program to Chinese teens. Muslim couples can find “shariah-approved” products for “sexual health” at El Asira—an online shop attracting 30,000 visits a week.

Teetotaling Mormons in Idaho grow barley for beer brewers.

A Muslim mason who worked to rebuild the Saint Jean Cathedral in Lyon, France, has been immortalized as a winged gargoyle on the facade of the church. The inscription beneath his stone image reads “God is great.” In Germany, a team of researchers have built digital models of synagogues destroyed by Nazis on Kristallnacht in 1938.

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The Week in Religion, Poetically

A limit of two stories about the not-a-mosque not at Ground Zero: First,I can’t get “We’ve Got To Stop the Mosque at Ground Zero” out of my head. It’s mix of offensive lyrics and campy Toby Keith rip-off vocals makes it funny and pathetic at the same time. Plus, it’s catchier than the Bed Intruder song. Second, Miss USA, a Muslim herself, has taken a standagainst the Park51 project. So, there you have it.

The Salem Witch Trials: video game edition. It’s like a Hawthorne short story for your PC or Mac.

A Brooklyn rabbi has been approved to serve as a chaplain in the Army reserves but can’t because the Army wants him to shave his beard. As an older rabbi serving the Army put it, “Look at some of our past generals’ beards, like Ulysses Grant. In the Civil War, a lot of those guys in the military leadership looked like Hasidic individuals.” At Fort Eustis in Virginia, about 80 soldiers were punished for choosing not to attend an evangelical Christian concert organized by the camp’s commanders. A Muslim soldier is wants to leave the military as a conscientious objector.

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