“The Personal Faith of Each Individual”

Recently, my friend, Jack Llewellyn, sent me the following email, with some very useful observations on just how widely used the rhetorical of personal faith has been.

With his permission, I copy it below:

Continuing to research Partition, I ran into a quote — speaking as the President of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11 August 1947, in what was really his inaugural address to the new nation, Mohammed Ali Jinnah said (among other things):

“Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State”

On one level, this seems a strange ideal, since the very raison d’etre of Pakistan was that Muslims would suffer as a minority in a Hindu-dominated India. However, it is clear in the context of the speech that Jinnah was thinking of the fate of the Hindu and Sikh minorities in Pakistan and of the Muslim minority that was left in India, even subsequent to the establishment of Pakistan.

Soon after Partition, the governments of Pakistan and India came to accept that there would be an exchange of populations in Punjab, with almost Hindus and Sikhs fleeing to India and almost all Muslims to Pakistan. But the government of Pakistan tried to reassure Hindus elsewhere in the new nation that they were welcome to stay—they were some of the most important and wealthy business people and the economic effect of their departure was dreaded. Also there was no way that Pakistan could have fed and housed, much less rehabilitated, the millions of Muslims in India outside of Punjab, should they all have pulled up stakes and moved to Pakistan. So there is a clear strategic logic in arguing that in the new nation being Hindu or Muslim should be confined to “the personal faith of each individual.”

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The Incongruity Is What It’s All About

I got an email the other day from a student elsewhere in the US who was working on a paper on religion and film. I’m not sure how the paper will turn out, but when we later connected by phone I tried to prompt the student to think about this common genre — religion and film — not in terms of the data but in terms of something else. Continue reading

“People imagine and people believe: and it is that belief, that rock-solid belief, that makes things happen”

I remarked over on Twitter the other day that there’s a curious correspondence between two shows that are now streaming online. For both “Happy” and “American Gods” are about non-obvious beings who exist solely because people believe in them — cease believing in them, whether a child’s imaginary friend or a god, and they are no more.

While the former is about a fallen police detective who discovers he not only has a daughter who has been kidnapped but that she has an imaginary friend — a flying blue unicorn — who has come to find him to help her out, the latter is about a man named Shadow Moon, newly released from prison, who is drawn into the middle of an impending battle between the old gods (e.g., Mr. Wednesday, Mr. Ibis, and Bilquis, etc.) and the new gods (e.g., Mr. World, Technical Boy, and Media, etc.). And in both cases the existence of the immortals hinges on the beliefs of the mortals. After all, when the child grows up, Happy fades away… Continue reading

Some Old Books Find a New Home

Prof. William Doty (1939-2017) was a professor in the Department of Religious Studies, at the University of Alabama, from 1981 until his retirement in 2001, though he continued teaching courses on campus for many years after that — often, though not always, on the study of myth — for either the Honors College or A&S’s Blount Scholars Program. Yesterday afternoon, a small group of current M.A. students were invited to William’s now mostly empty house, here in Tuscaloosa, where an estate sale had recently taken place, but where a large number of books still remained. “Who knew that the academic books wouldn’t go?” said Doty’s longtime friend and neighbor, Charles Day, with a wink, when he let them into the house to browse the shelves.

It’s fitting that a fairly large number of his books and his detailed notes, written on thick stacks of paper folded into each book, their pages bulging with paperclips and Post-it notes  — on everything from postmodernism and New Testament studies to books on myth, material religion, film, literary studies, philosophy, and semiotics — will now populate the shelves of students in the Department; even the faculty will each get a chance to claim a few that, for the time being, reside in boxes in the Chair’s office, as a memento of one of Manly Hall’s former residents.

Read about William’s life and career.

A Look Back on 2018-2019

Yes, it’s Honors Day again!

And what better time is there to look back on another great year in REL — from a busy student association, some wonderful B.A. students, and faculty who all go the extra mile, to grad students successfully using Manly Hall as a springboard
to bigger and better things…

Highlights from 2018-19 from UA Religious Studies on Vimeo.

See you on the balcony around 12:00 noon, for some awards,
some food, and a few surprises.

Thanks to Ellie Cochran for the slide show

 

Chris Hurt Returns for Grad Tales

Last night REL welcomed back 2008 grad Chris Hurt, who had a thing or two to say about the continuing relevance of his liberal arts degree at UA. Interviewed by Justin Nelson (himself an REL grad from 2007), Chris talked about how he ended up at UA from Mississippi, his experiences in our classes, as well as how he found his way to Los Angeles after graduation — where he now lives, working at Wag while also pursuing a career in music. Continue reading

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

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