Names and Things

Picture 4Have you heard?

There’s a new theory as to where the term “eskimo” originated.

Click the above image to read the brief article, but here’s a snippet: Continue reading “Names and Things”

Now You Have Taken It Too Far

herodotusThis semester I’m teaching an introductory course on the Study of Religion, that is, looking at scholarly definitions and scholarly approaches to the study of religion. We’re exploring among other things, together with my students, questions like what is the study of religion? What is at stake in naming/defining/classifying things in this or that way? Although this early in the semester one question that prevails is: Continue reading “Now You Have Taken It Too Far”

What’s Your Definition of Religion?

definitiontweetI had the good fortune the other week to do a virtual class visit, via Skype, with Brad Stoddard’s students at McDaniel College. To get things going, one of his students asked me a question; given that they’d read a little of an intro book I wrote, that’s concerned with issues surrounding defining religion, it concerned how I define religion. Continue reading “What’s Your Definition of Religion?”

“The problem is that we have that distinction…”

timpaints

Have you heard of the movie “Tim’s Vermeer” (2013) — it caused a bit of a stir for it suggests that a great artist wasn’t quite the artist we think him to be but, instead, a technologist who might have used lenses and mirrors to produce surprisingly life-like oil paintings. Continue reading ““The problem is that we have that distinction…””

An Agonistic Affair

timIf identification is an agonistic affair — in which social actors continually define and redefine Self and Other while wrestling over competing interests, ranks, and domains — then negotiating what counts as a legitimate place for a date (especially when one party forgot it was Valentines Day and failed to make a reservation somewhere nice) might be as good a place as any other to try to see what’s going on when we try to ascribe an identity.

Prescriptive Descriptions

whiteflightI recently wrote a post, scheduled for a week or so from now, in which I used the term “white flight” — which names the process whereby many U.S. inner cities have, since about the 1960s, lost a large portion of their white population by people moving out to the suburbs — and so I was thinking about linking the term in that post to a definition online, for those who were not already familiar with it.

So, wondering what it said, I first tried the Urban Dictionary (see the full entry here). The first definition listed on the page reads as follows: Continue reading “Prescriptive Descriptions”

“It’s Not a Religion”

Picture 9The latest installment of the “religion” wars (i.e., over what gets to count as, and receive the social perks of, religion) comes to us from right in the middle of Tennessee. The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, whose construction began in the summer of 2010 after heated disputes over whether it should even be allowed to be built, is in the news again, with its hopes to add a cemetery to its property. Predictably, perhaps, local opponents are trying to stop it in court. Continue reading ““It’s Not a Religion””

What Does God Mean?

boy george

Boy George, the lead singer for Culture Club, a British pop group in the 80’s with hits like “Karma Chameleon,” recently released a new album that includes the song “My God”. (As you can see in the video below, he looks different now, though he continues to maintain a unique style.) “My God” contrasts two mirrored narratives. In the first, a person hands Boy George a religious tract and tells him, “Jesus loves you, don’t you know.” In the second, Boy George is in the opposite position, telling another person, “Jesus loves you, don’t you know.” In both cases, the recipient’s response is to shake his head. Continue reading “What Does God Mean?”