The other day I was looking at UVA’s podcast, now with several episodes (give it a listen), and couldn’t help but notice a nice example of a theoretical and methodological fracture point in the field, one which likely prompts people to pick a side when doing their work. For although I agree that “the sacred is the profane,” Bill Arnal and I didn’t quite have this sense of the phrase in mind when picking a title for a set of […]
What if Harry Potter is Sacred?
When we label something “sacred,” that designation often changes how we engage it. Discussing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as a sacred text, the podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text illustrates this engagement and the ways readers interpret from their own experiences. Both hosts in this podcast have a particular interest in the category of the sacred. Vanessa Zoltan is a Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, and Casper ter Kuile is studying to minister to those who identify as […]
Do you recall the January 2015 shootings in France, at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and how, in response, people worldwide rallied to the cause of free speech, and its defining place in what many of us call Western culture, and thus the right of the French cartoonists to lampoon pretty much anything? Including the Prophet Mohammad — whether others liked it or not? […]
Did you see that article making the rounds of social media? Click the headline to read it. […]
Should Sunday Schools Be Registered with the Government?
The head of the British government’s Ofsted — the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills — Sir Michael Wilshaw, was on the radio the other day, discussing a variety of things that scholars of religion might find interesting. […]
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Made Sacred Through Branding
What makes the “Capstone A” (central on the banners outside Manly Hall in my photo above) special? What makes people associate it with the University of Alabama? It is not something inherent in the font or colors that gives it a different significance from any other uppercase A. It has been a long-term, extremely successful effort at branding by the University of Alabama, and especially its athletic programs, that give the symbol a generally positive, sometimes passionate, association with the University. To […]
The World is a Funny Place
As I remarked to someone on Facebook some years ago, all it takes is a slight tweak in some of our cherished texts in the study of religion to make plain how problematic the work actually is — i.e., how deeply embedded the argument is in a set of presumptions about the world that likely need to be examined instead of simply assumed. Case in point: consider replacing the words “sacred” and “profane” as follows in this famous passage: If […]
The Eternal Return All Over Again
I wrote a post recently in which I critiqued a new book by Brent Plate, saying it (along with other developments in the field, such as the turn toward so-called embodied or lived religion) was evidence that the work of Eliade was still representative of the field, no matter how much distance some may claim separates us today from when he first wrote many of his now famous studies in the history of religions (that is, back in the 1950s). […]
If You Believe…
Irving Rosenfeld: I got a knife, alright? This is for the mayor. [he shows the knife to Paco] Irving Rosenfeld: You gotta present it to the mayor. [Paco goes to take the knife but Irving pulls it back] Irving Rosenfeld: Just look at me, alright? Look me in the eye. This means a lot to you. Right? That knife. Paco Hernandez: Oh. Irving Rosenfeld: Play it. You present it, alright? Friendship for life. Alright? You gotta feel it. Paco Hernandez: […]
The Pragmatics of Ritual
Did you happen to catch this story about too many “love locks” on Paris’s famous Pont des Arts bridge, which carries foot traffic over the Seine river? A portion of it collapsed under the weight of the locks. […]