Backstory: Prof. Russell McCutcheon

russell3

Backstory” is a series that asks the REL Faculty to tell us a little bit about themselves, to explore how they became interested in the academic study of religion and their own specialty, elaborating on their current work both within and outside the University.

Where are you from?

I was born in Port Colborne, Ontario, in Canada, not far from Buffalo, NY, actually, in a region that is called southern Ontario. It’s both an industrial and a farming region—lots of grapes for wines being grown along the shore of Lake Ontario, about 45 minutes north of where I was from, which was on the north shore of Lake Erie—I could see Pennsylvania on the other side. And lots of heavy industry, like car manufacturing and steel mills, though not as much as when I was a kid. Now, tourism is probably as big as the manufacturing industry once was. There was a canal cutting through my town, which lakers took so they didn’t have to go over Niagara Falls when going to and from the ocean—good thinking. Continue reading

What’s Good for the Goose…?

20110511GR_UWO0011.jpgHave you seen this article, from Canada’s National Post…? It opens as follows:

A London, Ont., university is defending its decision to restrict access to a course that teaches Muslims how to proselytize.

The Huron College course — The Muslim Voice: Islamic Preaching, Public Speaking and Worship — was, according to the syllabus, “open to Muslim men and women who offer religious leadership and/or speak publicly about Islam on behalf of their communities.”

While I have no doubt that there’s a degree of sensationalism to the way the newspaper describes it, and while I have no idea of what all is going on with the person trying unsuccessfully to take the course — apart from the article stating that the “student … Moray Watson, is an accountant who says he is an opponent of Islamic extremism and enrolled in the course partly to test the prerequisite in the syllabus” — what do you think…? Continue reading

Dispatch from a UK Classroom

Adam and EveA friend in the UK on Facebook just posted this newspaper article for what seems to be a new series, “Academic Anonymous” — “where academics can tell it like it is”– entitled:

Teaching Religion: My Students are Trying to Run My Course

Not a few academics in the UK now feel rather frustrated, what with a variety of changes in higher education funding brought about recently by the government there — issues not unfamiliar on this side of the Atlantic, of course, where an increasing emphasis on tuition-based funding (in response to widespread cuts in government funding) has sometimes led to a “student-as-customer” model, a model that sometimes suggests to a few students that their mere attendance in class warrants an A. Continue reading

What Does “Omaha!” Mean?

Photo: Craig Hawkins via Flickr

Peyton Manning loves Omaha. Or at least the Denver Broncos quarterback loves to yell “OMAHA!” just before the start of a play. Omaha is just one of the many words he and other quarterbacks yell just before the ball is snapped. Sometimes these words are audibles, quick changes of the play the team is about to run. Sometimes they are meaningless verbiage meant to confuse the other team. Continue reading

What is the Academic Study of Religion?: A Graduate’s Perspective

gradtalestdavisTim Davis earned his B.A. in Religious Studies and Spanish in 2006. He went on to earn his J.D. at UA’s School of Law. He is now practices law, with an emphasis in civil litigation, in St. Clair County, AL. Tim wrote this piece for new REL students shortly before graduating.

As an entering freshman at The University of Alabama I knew that my older sister, a junior at the time, was a Religious Studies major but I had no clue as to what she studied. Because she told me that she had taken courses in Tibetan Buddhism and the Hebrew Bible, I assumed that Religious Studies majors did all of their coursework studying descriptive information about the different religions that are found throughout the world. Continue reading