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

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.

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

Putting Our Symposium in Context

Yesterday was REL’s 6th annual undergrad research symposium, with six presenters and two of our grad students moderating. While some of the students are majors in REL, others carry out their work all across the university, though they’re all in our classes and so all of them are mulling over what it means to study religion in culture — something our Department been experimenting with and trying to model for almost 20 years. Continue reading

Undergrad Research is on the Agenda

Join us tomorrow morning, Friday Feb. 22, for our 6th annual undergrad research symposium. It starts at 9 a.m. in room 205 of Gorgas Library (on the main floor). We have 6 students presenting their own original work (mentored by REL faculty), on two panels, and two of our M.A. students are presiding.