The Implications of Designations

A lot of people in our field now advocate approaches that find religion either in unexpected or overlooked places. What once might have been called the implicit religion movement, at least as once associated with the work of the late Ed Bailey, has now been joined by the more-or-less related lived religion, material religion, religion on the ground, as well as the embodied religion approaches, all of which aim to identify religion in places where scholars, who have long been preoccupied with reading texts (and thereby studying what some of our literate predecessors left behind), have not found it before, often due to some sort of scholarly bias. Continue reading

Spring Semester Coming Attractions

After Spring break there’s plenty happening in REL.

Apart from the American Examples workshop, mentioned in a post yesterday, on the first Monday back, starting at 10 am, we have our annual button event, just in time for the upcoming registration for Fall classes (which opens on Mon, Mar. 25). Once again, Prof. Newton is at the helm and he’d love to see you stop buy, hand out a few buttons and some info on classes. The REL tent will be set up adjacent to Manly Hall, in the usual spot.

On March 27, from 7-9 pm, Grad Tales returns, with REL grad Chris Hurt being interviewed by REL grad Justin Nelson (and member of REL’s Alum Liaison Committee). Chris, a 2008 grad, has a day job, sure, but is also actively pursuing a career in music, out in LA, with the Jamestown Pagans. More info about our event here. Or catch him on lead vocals and keyboard here: Continue reading

Coming Soon: American Examples

Just after Spring Break, the first American Examples Workshop will be hosted at the University of Alabama, funded jointly by the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Religious Studies. Held here in Tuscaloosa and organized by Prof. Michael Altman, the goal of the workshop is to rethink the way religion in America is studied and taught.

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On Paying Attention to Politicians Signing Bibles

Geoff Davidson graduated from the University of Alabama Religious Studies Department in 2009 before earning his M.Div. at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary. He is now a minister, writer, and library information specialist at Baylor.

Late last week President Trump was seen autographing Bibles while surveying the effects of a devastating tornado in eastern Alabama, leading to skirmishing in both news media and religious communities. There were those who dismissed this incident immediately, and why shouldn’t they? Why should a signed Bible merit discussion in the face of any other pressing political or religious topic de jour?

For the scholar of religion, such easy dismissiveness is a good way to miss important data. Christians, not a monolithic lot by any stretch, have been hotly divided on the topic with some leveling serious religious charges against both the president and those who asked that their Bibles be signed. This disagreement warrants accurate reflection in its own right, but it also points to critical underlying issues: how Christians see their holy texts and how this affects their actions. Continue reading

A Social-Psychological Theory of Religion

So…, just why are people religious?

It’s not a question everyone asks, since many scholars today are more concerned with what it means (often to the participants themselves) to be religious. But there are those in the academy today who, like those who helped to establish the study of religion in the late 19th century, are interested in explaining the historical (even evolutionary) cause of religion or its contemporary function. Often, though, they are found outside Religious Studies, in other academic fields, like sociology or anthropology.

If we define religion as belief in a supernatural being, as many do, and aim to answer questions of cause or function, then here’s an almost hour-long podcast from last summer, posted at NPR’s Hidden Brain, on the work of Azim Shariff, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia.


If the embed doesn’t load, try here.

Learn more at the MOOC (massively open online course) he co-designed.

Sesame Street, Bears, The Mahabharata, and Ideology

Image from Pexels and authorized for use under the Pexels license

Kyle Ashley is a junior from Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Majoring in Religious Studies, his main interests include music, games, sports, and their respective subcultures.

Ever wonder why there are so many different versions of the same story? For example, in the version of Goldilocks and The Three Bears that was told to me by my grandmother, Goldilocks is, for all intents and purposes, a home invader, a home invader that steals Baby Bear’s porridge, breaks Baby Bear’s chair, and sleeps in Baby Bear’s bed. But in the Sesame Street version that I watched as a child, Goldilocks and Baby Bear are friends in the middle of a fight, apparently. And instead of chasing her out of their house, the Bear family bring in Goldilocks for a big ol’ bear hug (her replacement, the Big Bad Wolf, proves to be less than ideal). What’s going on here? Continue reading

Making Our Theories Explicit

Nyx (/nɪks/;[1] Greek: Νύξ, Nyks, “Night”;[2] Latin: Nox) is the Greek goddess (or personification) of the night

So opens a Wikipedia article that caught my eye the other day, because of the theory of religion buried in it. For by means of a misleadingly simple parenthetical aside, one that hearkens back to a much earlier approach to understanding religion, the writer tells us a great deal about their thoughts on why people tell tales of the gods. Continue reading

Symposium Recap

Last week, the Department of Religious Studies hosted its annual Undergraduate Research Symposium at Gorgas Library. Students from Religious Studies courses collaborated with advisors on written projects before presenting their work at the event. The unique topics, challenging question-answer portion, and free coffee made for a refreshing Friday morning. Professors, alumni, MA students, and undergraduates used social media to keep up with the event.

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Time for Fall 2019 Registration Advising!

When we all get back from Spring Break on March 18 it will officially be time for registration advising for the Fall 2019 semester.  Prof. Altman has set aside Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday afternoons from noon-3:30 for advising appointments. So please email him and let him know a time and date that fits those afternoons so you can chat about the excellent courses we’re offering next semester and how to get you one semester closer to graduation!

Also, check out our excellent list of fall courses.

Spotlighting Graduating MA Students

Emma Gibson and Sierra Lawson have spent the last two years developing their skills in research, social theory, and the public and digital humanities among other useful accomplishments. This spring, both students will graduate with a Master’s of Arts in Religion in Culture and plan to put their analytical tools to work as they further their education. Emma will pursue a Master’s of Architecture while Sierra earns a Ph.D. in Religious Studies. Find out what these young women have planned after graduation.

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