Why is a Praying Atheist Newsworthy?

This week, several media outlets (Washington Post and Huffington Post) have highlighted an atheist who advocates prayer. The man has blogged that when he started a twelve step program he began praying regularly to a being he created (without believing in the existence of a deity), which changed his life for the better. Last summer, I pondered a somewhat similar hypothetical scenario in which a self-identified atheist maintained a belief in god in order to illustrate, as my colleagues here at Culture on the Edge have been saying, that identifications are strategic, not intrinsic. That blog post received pushback from some friends asserting that atheists, by definition, cannot believe in god. Continue reading “Why is a Praying Atheist Newsworthy?”

HuffPost Blog

huffpostSteven Ramey occasionally writes blog posts for HuffPost Religion. Read his latest blog “Constitutional Freedoms and Defining Religion” here.

Marketing and Competing Essentialisms

Picture 2An Idaho company has demonstrated the marketing power of a little religious studies knowledge, producing Jihawg Ammo, which is coated in pork-infused paint. The company asserts, “With Jihawg Ammo, you don’t just kill an Islamist terrorist, you also send him to hell. That should give would-be martyrs something to think about before they launch an attack.” The company tags the product “Peace through pork” because it “promotes peace through the natural deterrence of pork infused ballistic coating.” Continue reading “Marketing and Competing Essentialisms”

Patricide and the Nation

Jinnah and Gandhi, “fathers” of Pakistan and India

Yesterday was Father’s Day in the United States, a manufactured holiday (like any other) that promotes socially-sanctioned sentiments through the mass production of “World’s Greatest Dad” cards and mugs. The day before US Father’s Day, multiple attacks in the Pakistani province of Balochistan included a form of symbolic patricide, as a group fired rockets to destroy a residence where M. A. Jinnah, regarded as the father of Pakistan, had lived in Ziarat, also killing the police officer guarding the site. The other attacks in Balochistan that day reportedly killed dozens, including bombings at a women’s university and a hospital, both in Quetta (a few hours away from Ziarat). While Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which some people link with al Qaida, claimed responsibility for the hospital and university attacks, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), identified as a separatist group trying to gain the independence of Balochistan from Pakistan, claimed the attack on Jinnah’s residence. Continue reading “Patricide and the Nation”

Changing Symbols and the Swastika

Chilocco Indian Agricultural School basketball team 1908-09

Symbols serve as a significant way to express identity within society. Crosses generally identify someone as a Christian, a hammer and sickle as a communist, and black and white houndstooth as a University of Alabama fan. Of course, that simple equation provides an arena for significant competition about exactly which symbol represents which ideas. The apparent incongruency of Native Americans wearing swastikas on their basketball uniforms (Chilocco Indian Agricultural School in Oklahoma, 1908) derives from the assumption that symbols have a defined meaning. As with identity labels generally, the meanings of symbols like the swastika shift over time, and seldom does a symbol have only one meaning.

Continue reading “Changing Symbols and the Swastika”

Unsettling Sikh and Muslim Conflict

Katy P. Sian, Unsettling Sikh and Muslim Conflict: Mistaken Identities, Forced Conversion, and Postcolonial Formations (Lexington Books, 2013).

Sian focuses on the process of identification and the ways the interests of those who identify as Sikhs and the context of contemporary Britain generate narratives about “dangerous Muslims” seducing young Sikh women. These narratives address multiple community issues (e.g., shifting gender relations, generational differences, differentiation from a feared Muslim other, alliance with Europeans, etc.). Although a little thin in places, she clearly illustrates Sikh identity as continually constructed, not pre-existing.

Regional AAR President

edgeaarFor 2012-3, Culture on the Edge’s Steven Ramey was President of the Southeastern Region of the American Academy of Religion (part of the Southeast Commission on the Study of Religion, or SECSOR). Visit our blog, Claims, to watch his Presidential Address.

Culture on the Edge Podcast

relstproj2During its working session in Chicago, in November 2012, the members of Culture on the Edge (pictured below) took some time to record a conversation on identity creation and its study, for The Religious Studies Project (RSP)–a series of podcasts created and maintained by UK grad students that is devoted to the work of scholars of religion from around the world.

Click here to listen to our conversation.

Apart from thanking RSP’s Christopher Cotter and David Robertson for their interest in our work, we would like to thank Andie Alexander, then a student in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama, for assisting with the technology, and also thank the Department for supporting the group.)

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Accidental Favorites

Steven Ramey was the 2012-13 President of the Southeast Region of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). Here he gives the Presidential Plenary Address for its annual (held in South Carolina in March of 2013) entitled, “Accidental Favorites: The Implicit in the Study of Religions.” Although not referencing Culture on the Edge explicitly, the themes Ramey discusses are directly related to many of the group’s–as Jonathan Z. Smith named them in his own career–persistent preoccupations.

Presidential Plenary Address for the 2013 Southeastern AAR from UA Religious Studies on Vimeo.

(Thanks to Andie Alexander, a graduate of the University of Alabama’s Department of Religious Studies, for filming Steven.)

Creatio Ex Nihilo: Pew Forum and the “Nones”

Originally posted on the Bulletin for the Study of Religion blog

New analysis suggests that almost 1 in 5 people in the United States have no religious affiliation! Media coverage has sensationalized the publication of this analysis from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and various church and institutional leaders have presented explanations for the increase of the “Nones,” as some call them, and suggestions of how to change the trend. Continue reading “Creatio Ex Nihilo: Pew Forum and the “Nones””