Archive | January 2011

Call for Papers: eSharp Issue 17 – Crisis

Call for Papers: eSharp Issue 17 – Crisis

eSharp, an established peer-reviewed journal publishing high-quality research by postgraduate students invites papers for the forthcoming themed issue. For issue 17, Crisis, we invite articles which engage with crises, real and perceived, contemporary and historical, from within the spheres of the social sciences, education, and the arts and humanities. We encourage submissions from postgraduate students at any stage of their research and early career authors within one year of graduation.

The effects of the recent banking crisis are both financial and social, resulting in struggling markets, property devaluation, and mass unemployment. Within academia, austerity measures taken by
national governments are depleting and restructuring educational funding, and there is widespread speculation over greater social problems to come. Natural disasters and continuing wars challenge
governments and citizens to respond, both in action and thought. Conducting an analysis of the origins, explanations and consequences of crises, both within and across disciplines, will help construct a more complete picture, contextualize topical concerns, and indicate fruitful lines of further enquiry.

Subjects may include, but are not limited to:

*Economic Crises, Past and Present
*Natural Disasters
*Social Change and Upheaval
*Regime Change
*Identity Crisis
*Crises in Representation
*Approaches to Crisis Management
*The Family in Crisis
*Shortage and Austerity
*Consumption and Excess
*Personal Crises
*Stability and Flux
*Diasporic Responses to Crisis
*Crises in (Post)modernity
*Revolution and Conflict
*Digital Literacy and Education in Crisis
*Crises in print media
*Serious Illness and the Body in Crisis
*Ageing Populations
*Destruction, Reconstruction and Restructuring

Submissions must be based on original research and should be between 4,000 and 6,000 words in length. These should be made in Word document or RTF format.  Please ensure that you accompany your article with an abstract of 200 to 250 words and a list of three to five keywords to indicate the subject area of your article. A full list of guidelines and our style sheet is available online at  Submissions and enquiries should be sent to The final deadline for submission of articles is Monday 14th of March 2011.


Cardiff University – Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK: Public Lecture Series 2011

Cardiff University

Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK

Public Lecture Series 2011

The Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK is pleased to announce this year’s rich and varied programme of public lectures.

All begin at 7pm (lasting for about an hour) and take place in Lecture Theatre 0.31, Humanities Building, Colum Drive, Cardiff University CF10 3EU.

Lectures are FREE and open to the public but booking is advised. To book, or for more information, please contact:

Tuesday 8th Feb 7pm

Jeremy Henzell-Thomas (Founder and former Executive Director of the Book Foundation): British and Muslim, or just Human…and what about Welshness? Some reflections on Identity.

Tuesday 15th Feb 7pm

Samia Bano (University of Reading): Muslim Women, Faith-based Arbitration and Family Disputes in Britain (in conjunction with Cardiff Law School).

Tuesday 22nd Feb 7pm

Dr. Gary Bunt (University of Wales, Trinity St. David): From Mosque to YouTube: Muslims in Britain and the Internet.

Tuesday 1st March 7pm

Sughra Ahmed (Research Fellow, Policy Research Centre of the Islamic Foundation): Seen and Not Heard: Voices of Young British Muslims- Exploring these Voices in Light of Current Social Policy Changes.

Tuesday 8th March 7pm

Dr. Elizabeth Poole (Staffordshire University): Shifting Patterns of Representation: British Muslims in the British Press.

Tuesday 15th March 7pm

Dr. Katherine E. Brown (Kings College London): Beyond Security: British Muslim Women’s Constructions of Citizenship.

Tuesday 22nd March 7pm

Roz Warden (Current Islam-UK Centre PhD Student): Exploring Islamic Social Work: Early Research Findings.

Carl Morris (Current Islam-UK Centre PhD Student): Sounds Islamic? Contemporary Muslim Musicians in the UK.

Tuesday 29th March 7pm

Mufti Mohammed Zubair Butt (Senior Advisor on Islamic Law, Institute of Islamic Jurisprudence, Bradford): Islam, Ethics and Health Care- Issues and Challenges (in conjunction with Cardiff University School of Medicine).

How to reach us:

Location and Travel
The Humanities Building is fully accessible. The nearest train station (Cathays) is a 5 minute walk and a short stop from Cardiff Central (main line) or Cardiff Queen Street Stations. For a map of the University, please do visit:

Please feel free to circulate this information amongst your friends and networks. We hope to welcome you soon.

Dr. Sophie Gilliat-Ray

Director, Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK.


Call for Abstracts: Islamic family law in the courts: experiences from the Muslim World and the West

Subject: Call for Abstracts
Islamic family law in the courts: experiences from the Muslim World and the West
We are interested in looking at how Islamic family law is interpreted and applied in the contemporary Muslim world , in Europe and North America. We want to emphasize diversity (between countries as well as within them), contextuality (how court decisions respond to the political and social context) and contrasts between law in the books and law in action.
We have already solicited proposals relating to Pakistan, Turkey,
Canada, Italy, Britain, and Spain. Proposals regarding any other country are welcome.
A multi-disciplinary approach is adopted: researchers in law, sociology, political science, anthropology and relate fields, are welcome to submit abstracts.
We believe this book will be useful for legal practitioners and social workers dealing with immigrants, as well as for students and scholars.
The deadline for abstracts , accompanied by a short personal bio-data, is 1 March  2011, while the manuscript submission deadline is May 2012. The publisher has not been contacted yet, but this will be done in thenext few months.
Elisa Giunchi
Assistant Professor
Faculty of Political Science
Università degli studi di Milano
Prakash Shah
Senior Lecturer
School of Law, Queen Mary
University of London

Pastor Terry Jones, John Hick, and ‘Religion of the Devil’

Last week, it was reported in the UK that the world’s favourite pastor, Terry Jones, was denied access to the UK, where he was due to address “England is Ours” because, according to the Home Office, “Coming to the UK is a privilege not a right and we are not willing to allow entry to those whose presence is not conducive to the public good.”

So what has Mr Jones had to say? A choice selection from an interview at the above link, and on Radio 4 (Around 1hr 20mins in. Should still be available for another couple of days) would be these:

Interviewer:  “Are you an extremist?”

TJ: “Definitely not. We are very convinced about our views, when it comes to our Christian views or when it comes to our political views, or our views on Islam. We have always tried to make it very clear that we are not against Muslims… we are not against their rights… we have always spoke out against the radical element of Islam.”


TJ: “We are not against the Muslims or the Muslim community… we believe in freedom of speech and freedom of religion… our concern is… the radical element of Islam. […] If you are talking to the Pastor, then of course I believe that the Bible and Christianity are the only way, that means that Islam and all other religions are wrong and of the devil. That is normal Christian doctrine. […] If you are talking to me as an American… we welcome Muslims into this country, they are protected under our constitution…”


TJ:  “From a religious aspect, from a Christian aspect, we would consider [Islam] a religion of the devil… so would the Anglican Church… they may not say that…”

Interviewer: “They certainly don’t say that…”

“Well, that’s because none has the real guts to stand up and say what they really believe, because of persecution… because of being called a hate preacher.”

What a delightful man, eh? Well… whilst I don’t agree with this guy on many, many things… I am going to focus now on his belief that it is normal Christian practice to consider other religions, and Islam in particular, as ‘of the devil’.

I am going to take John Hick as my exemplar here… not because he is by any means an exemplar of mainstream Christian thought – although he is a very highly regarded theologian and philosopher of religion, with degrees from Edinburgh and Oxford, and is currently an emeritus professor of both Birmingham University UK and the Claremont Graduate University, California. He is a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Research in Arts and Social Sciences, University of Birmingham UK, and a Vice-President of the British Society for the Philosophy of Religion and of the World Congress of Faiths. See for more info. He has also spent a lot of time thinking about the issue of religious pluralism… And I would suggest, from my personal experiences, and my conversations with many moderate Christians, that this is a fair representation of the way in which many come to terms with the reality of religious pluralism.

Here, I am referring to the 1988 reissue of Hick’s God and the Universe of Faiths.

Hick begins his discussion by posing an age old problem – “if I had been born in India, I would probably be a Hindu…” (p. 100). There are two standard solutions to this problem: If each religion is true subjectively for its adherents, but not objectively, then we render religion an illusion (this would pretty much be where I stand on this matter), and if one religion is simply true and the others false (in totality or varying degrees) how can this be reconciled with the view of a loving Creator God who wishes continual and universal relationship with his creation?

Hick continues, stating: “it is not appropriate to speak of a religion as being true or false, any more than it is to speak of a civilisation as being true or false” and proceeds to identify what he considers to be the ‘essence’ (that is, that which is most important) of Christianity as “the way of life and salvation which has its origin in the Christ-event (p. 119).” Here, he is using the term “Christ-event” to “refer to the complex of happenings constituting the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the birth of the persisting community which was created by its response to him (p. 111).”  There then follows a discussion of how the community’s actions and beliefs were ever changing and developing, even during the short period during which the gospels were written, which leads Hick to his conclusion that even though the Christ-event is the single most important thing in Christianity, Christianity “cannot be defined in terms of adherence to any doctrinal standard, for its doctrines are historically and culturally conditioned (p.119).” So far so good…

Hick then sets out what I believe to be his central thesis. Accepting his definition of ‘the essence of Christianity’, “do we regard the Christian way as the only way, so that salvation is not to be found outside it; or do we regard the other great religions of mankind as other ways of life and salvation (p. 120)?” After discussing the traditional Christian position (to answer the former in the affirmative), Hick points to the moral contradiction of a loving God who allows only a small minority of mankind to achieve salvation (p. 122). Hick likens the wavering position of the church, to the controversies surrounding the old Ptolemaic image of the universe. Before abandoning the view that the earth was at the centre of the solar system, astronomers tried valiantly to keep adding extra epicycles to the scheme, until it became increasingly artificial and burdensome to try and maintain this position (p. 125). Likewise, the Church continues to add extra epicycles to its theology to explain the problem of other religions, when it should face up to the reality and “shift from the dogma that Christianity is at the centre to the realisation that it is God who is at the centre, and that all the religions of mankind, including [Christianity], serve and revolve around him (p. 131).”

To me, everything up to this point seems to be good philosophical reasoning, but to the person of faith, this discussion does raise the question “Why should I bother? If every faith in the world will get me to the same place, why should I stick with mine, and what reason do I have to choose another?” The majority of the rest of the book is spent trying to answer these concerns. Hick does this by suggesting, in the words of Irenaeus that “There is but one and the same God who, from the beginning to the end and by various dispensations comes to the rescue of mankind (p. 175).” In other words Mohammed, Gotama Buddha, Moses, Nanak and Jesus of Nazareth all reveal the nature of “God” in their specific geographical, historical, and cultural contexts, and encourage a moral life which is can be in some way considered to be core to all religions. Thus a Christian should stick to being a Christian, even though other religions may be equally right, because this is a way of life which has worked for the past two millennia in the West, and which has grown with and shaped the entire Western existence as it is known today.

This would be my crude summary of Hick’s take on religious pluralism. Personally, I find his final attempts to redeem the practice of individual faiths both belittles his impressive Copernican idea, and the concept of faith. If someone is to make a voluntary decision to place their faith in the “God” revealed through a certain religion, this decision cannot (in my opinion) be an arbitrary choice, but requires some sort of reasoning based on their opinion of the truth or falsehood of that religion’s core beliefs. This is why I always look sceptically upon interfaith work, because I simply don’t know what it can achieve. Don’t get me wrong… I think it is vitally important that people talk to each other, and that religious communities should work together to break down barriers… but I also believe that they should be open about the fact that they fundamentally disagree, and relate to each other simply as human beings, rather than as ‘religious’ human beings. Whatever your take on it, I hope I have demonstrated that it is not ‘normal’ Christian practice to consider other religions ‘of the devil’. Individual believers will react differently to other faiths… and so will the religious leaders and institutions. However, this is one issue particularly where Jones does not speak for the Christian mainstream.

I will end on a positive note, however. For all his ridiculousness, Jones does make one very sensible statement in these interviews:

“The idea isn’t to cause trouble or kick up a stink. These things do need addressing and people do need to speak about them. We shouldn’t be frightened about them.”

Whilst I don’t agree with his methods of ‘addressing’ people’s fear of extremist Islam, I sincerely believe that things are much better out in the open, and that people need to talk about things. I would much rather people engaged in critical dialogue, than stored up unjustified prejudice inside…

Some Snippits from the Psychological Study of Religion

I am always fascinated by the variety of ways in which people try to scientifically test ‘religion’. Here are a couple of quotations I have come across recently that somewhat whetted my appetite.

“In practice, experimentation requires much effort, imagination, and resources. The subject of religion seems too complex and too ‘soft’ for the laboratory. It is filled with much fantasy and feelings, two topics which academic psychology finds hard to approach. One solution is to report on a naturally occurring quasi-experiment. In the first celebrated quasi-experiment in the literature, Francis Galton (1883) looked at the effects of prayer on health and longevity. He found that members of royal families, who were regularly wished long lives in their subjects’ prayers, did not live longer than those same subjects. They even died, on average, younger than their subjects! Similarly, relatives of the ‘prayerful’ did not recover any faster from illnesses than other people.”

From Beit-Hallahmi, Benjamin, and Michael Argyle. 1997. The psychology of religious behaviour, belief and experience. London: Routledge, p. 47, citing Galton (1883) Inquiries into Human Faculties and Developments

I’m very interested in this sort of research, and intrigued that it was happening as early as 1883. Of course it is always going to be affected by all sorts of subjectivities, and by the ever present charge that any deity could intervene to influence the results of such attempts to scientifically test their influence… but interesting nonetheless.

“Darley and Batson (1973) wanted to test whether the parable of the Good Samaritan, taken from the New Testament and presented as a model of true altruism, would affect helping behaviour. In this story a traveller, robbed and severely beaten, is saved by a kind stranger. Christian seminary students, who had just read the parable, and some who were supposed to give a talk about it, were put in a situation where they could help someone in apparent distress. The experiment was well designed. There were two experimental variables, being exposed to the parable (or not) and being told to hurry, or not to hurry, in going to another office in order to help the experimenter. On their way to the office, after having met the experimenter and being asked to help, the students ran across a man who was clearly incapacitated. The results showed that the parable of the Good Samaritan had no effect on the students’ readiness to help, while the instruction to hurry did.”

From Beit-Hallahmi, Benjamin, and Michael Argyle. 1997. The psychology of religious behaviour, belief and experience. London: Routledge, p. 47 citing Darley and Batson (1973) “From Jerusalem to Jericho…” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 27, 100-108.

This doesn’t tell us too much about religion… the relevant text could have been anything ‘presented as a model of true altruism’… but I guess it shows that people behave as people in certain situations. It probably suggests something about the kinds of circumstances where people allow their ‘religion’ to influence their actions.

Just a couple of interesting little excerpts that caught my eye :-). If anyone knows of any interesting studies into similar areas, please do let me know.


Call for Papers: Faith Schools in Liberal Secular States: identity, integration and citizenship – University of Iceland, 25th-27th August 2011

If I happened to have the spare cash I would SO be there! In case anyone out there is interested…
Maybe we’ll be able to follow the events online?
6th ECPR General Conference
University of Iceland
(25th – 27th Aug. 2011)
Faith Schools in Liberal Secular States: identity, integration and
Panel Chair:  Victoria Montgomery (
Institution: Queen’s University, Belfast
Abstract: Faith schools are far from a new phenomenon, but recent years have witnessed a growing interest and concern regarding their place and expansion in liberal secular states, with people such as Richard Dawkins (2001) declaring them as ‘lethally divisive’. Although the post 9/11 context with its greater attention to issues such as integration and the public place of religion has increased such interest, the question of whether faith based education exacerbates societal fragmentation has been an ongoing issue in places such as Northern Ireland for many decades. The importance of faith schools goes beyond what is taught. The ethos and environment is a tool towards the maintenance of a particular way of life. And, certainly the right to have your child educated in a particular way hardly seems excessive or contrary to a liberal political culture. Moreover, as diversity is now regularly posited as a source of civic strength in many plural states, why is the practical expression of it in education so problematic? Yet, faith based education has been charged with having more to do with communalism than communitarianism.
Segregated education is seen to be at the heart of parallel communities. Indeed, moving beyond the physical lack of contact and communication that is implicit in faith based education; the mental distance it creates may also be problematic to a political culture which values autonomy and rationality as well as equality and liberty. In other words, if education in the Durkheim perspective socializes children into the norms of society, does a plural education system undermine the state? This panel then seeks to bring together scholars with an interest in the complex issue of faith schools and integration.
Click here to download the guidelines and deadlines for paper givers:

The Secular Beatification of Stephen Fry

I have just read the following email from the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, and I thought they wouldn’t mind me sharing it with you…

I think Stephen Fry is great, and why not give him an award, eh? I wonder what the motivations are though? Is it a sort of ‘middle-finger to religion’ publicity stunt? Is it some form of secular beatification? Or is it just about giving a nice guy an award?

I LOVE that previous winners have been Greg Graffin, Salman Rushdie and Joss Whedon, though… I’d consider myself a fan of all of them, though I had never thought about their ‘humanistic’ credentials really.


The Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism is presented at Harvard University each year by the Harvard Secular Society on behalf of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard and the American Humanist Association. Selected by a committee of 20-30 Harvard students each year, this award is given to a figure greatly admired by our students and community for both artistic and humanitarian reasons.

Now in its fifth year, we’re excited to announce that the HSS Cultural Humanism committee has chosen Stephen Fry based on what they feel is an outstanding contribution to Humanism in popular culture. (Buy your tickets now!)

Actor, author, comedian, Fry has worked for three decades in film and theater. Well known for his exploration of the US in “Fry in America,” Fry has also starred alongside Hugh Laurie (“A Bit of Fry and Laurie” and “Jeeves and Wooster”) and in a variety of award-winning films including V for Vendetta, Wilde, Alice in Wonderland, and his own documentary The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. Fry has more than two million followers on Twitter. He’s known to European audiences as not only a cultural icon, but a passionate and compassionate voice for Humanism. Now we’re honored to bring his unique Humanist message to an American audience.

The award ceremony will take place Tuesday, February 22 at 8 pm and will feature a performance by Fry.

Previous winners of the Cultural Humanism Award are, in 2007, novelist Sir Salman Rushdie, in 2008, punk rock star Greg Graffin (of the band Bad Religion and the UCLA Faculty of Biology), in 2009, writer/ director/producer Joss Whedon (“Buffy,” “Angel,” Firefly,” “Dollhouse”) and in 2010 Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, the hosts of The MythBusters.

The Lifetime Achievement Award sells out every year, so get your tickets at the Harvard Box Office now! And to see the Facebook event, click here.


21 Photos of Dhammakaya

I have just seen this excellent photo essay on Foreign Click the image above to check it out for yourself. It contains 21 stunning images from around the headquarters of the Thai based Dhammakaya Buddhist movement. I have no idea how accurate the facts are, but I found it interesting nonetheless…

Islam at the Dinner Table: Baroness Warsi, Religious Illiteracy, Dichotomies and Road Safety

Baroness Warsi

Yesterday, Baroness Warsi, co-chairman of the Tory Party and the first Muslim woman to serve in the cabinet, warned that anti-Muslim prejudice is becoming normal in the UK. According to a BBC report on a speech she was to deliver later that day, the baroness warned “against dividing Muslims into moderates and extremist” saying that “such labels fuel misunderstanding”.

The report continued:

Baroness Warsi will say anti-Muslim prejudice is now seen by many Britons as normal and uncontroversial, and she will use her position to fight an “ongoing battle against bigotry”. In extracts of the speech, published in the Daily Telegraph, the peer blames “the patronising, superficial way faith is discussed in certain quarters, including the media”, for making Britain a less tolerant place for believers. […]

[…] Baroness Warsi is to say publicly what many Muslims privately complain about – that prejudice against them does not attract the social stigma attached to prejudice against other religious and ethnic groups.

[… In the past, Baroness Warsi] told the 2009 Conservative Party conference that anti-Muslim hatred had become Britain’s last socially acceptable form of bigotry, and claimed in a magazine article last October that taking a pop at the Muslim community in the media sold papers and didn’t really matter.”

In her speech, she is expected to say the description of Muslims as either moderate or extremist encourages false assumptions.

“It’s not a big leap of imagination to predict where the talk of ‘moderate’ Muslims leads; in the factory, where they’ve just hired a Muslim worker, the boss says to his employees: ‘Not to worry, he’s only fairly Muslim’,” she will say.

“In the school, the kids say: ‘The family next door are Muslim but they’re not too bad’.

“And in the road, as a woman walks past wearing a burka, the passers-by think: ‘That woman’s either oppressed or is making a political statement’.”

Baroness Warsi will say terror offences committed by a small number of Muslims should not be used to condemn all who follow Islam. But she will also urge Muslim communities to be clearer about their rejection of those who resort to violent acts.

“Those who commit criminal acts of terrorism in our country need to be dealt with not just by the full force of the law,” she will say.

“They also should face social rejection and alienation across society and their acts must not be used as an opportunity to tar all Muslims.””

It’s bizarre to find myself saying this (in that Baroness Warsi is a Conservative), but I totally agree with her on this. I certainly find myself having conversations with I would say the vast majority of my friends, about Muslims, which we would never dream of having about other faith groups. I was talking to friends at the weekend, and I started to digress on my own personal thoughts about when this started to happen. When I did so, the traditional beacon of 9/11 appeared to be the turning point. However, for me at least, this was not a moment where conversations on Islam started to take an overall negative turn, but it was the first time that I can remember EVER having conversations about Islam at all.

Now there are perhaps two keys reasons for this: firstly, I went to school in Northern Ireland, where until recently, ‘Religious Education’, even up to GCSE Level, consisted of studying Christianity. You didn’t have to agree with it (although I do remember a certain lad getting into heated arguments with teachers about whether God existed or not, etc), but the subject matter was simply Christianity, in a few of its locally-represented forms; secondly, again, this was Northern Ireland… which a decade ago was certainly not the most ethnically diverse country on the planet. I remember there was a black kid in one of the years above me… and one of my best friends had an an Arabic-sounding surname, but that was about it as far as diversity went. Even when I was a committed Christian, I don’t think I ever really stopped to consider what ‘other’ people believed… just that they didn’t ‘believe in God’. It seems that my trips to Egypt and Tunisia, and pop-cultural references (such as the many “By Allah’s” in Aladdin) just went completely over my head. And it wasn’t just Islam… I can remember the topic of another good friend’s father’s religious beliefs coming up in conversation at one point, and the response came ‘He’s a Buddhist… they don’t believe in God’, and I never thought about it any further.

I wonder how similar this is to the experiences of other 20-somethings in the UK? Probably not… given that most other parts of the UK probably had ‘actual’ Religious Education… and because most places aren’t quite as boringly homogeneous as Northern Ireland was at the end of the 90s (although, in the Northern Irish case, maybe a little less ‘religious diversity’ might have been a good thing? In fact, with the influx of immigration from various parts of the EU and further afield, we have actually seen some groups of ‘Protestants’ and ‘Catholics’ putting aside their differences to do physical harm to these new arrivals… ‘delightful’, isn’t it?). However, I have no doubt that had I not decided to embark upon Religious Studies at University, purely out of curiosity, I would be buying into the contemporary pervasive attitudes towards Islam even more than I already (hopefully unconsciously) do.

This pervasive attitude has emerged in the wake of 9/11, other terror attacks, and other sensationalised statements and actions of small minorities. The only ‘Islam’ which the vast majority of the British population are presented with, and indeed the only Islam that they are remotely interested in, is a media-distorted version propagated by a small minority of extremists/fundamentalists. In a way, this pervasive Islamaphobia is exactly what the perpetrators of various terror attacks, and the preachers of extreme interpretations of Islam would have wished to create. How could things have turned out better for them? The ‘common man’ in the ‘West’ didn’t have any major attitudes towards Islam before terrorist atrocities, combined with biased and un-educated, deadline-driven media coverage (a charge from which the BBC is not exempt), and instant internet-based publicity platforms for extremists on all sides, started to form this negative opinion.

I am not going to start talking about religious toleration… or pluralism… or where we draw the line between ‘dinner-table’ conversations and ‘bigotry’. Firstly, this is because I have almost completed another post about everyone’s favourite pastor -Mr Terry Jones – but I left my laptop at home with the document on it… boo! And secondly, because I have a very inherently negative attitude towards most forms of inter-faith dialogue etc, where the ‘religious’ are seen as having something which the ‘nonreligious’ don’t… and therefore they should all band together and try to protect this very important thing which ‘unites’ them… when really the whole idea of a religious faith essentially precludes this unity. But… before I get drawn into this.. I will echo the sentiments I stated in my very first blog post, 18 months ago, that EDUCATION about religion is ‘absolutely necessary for the future co-operation, integration and progress of the human race as the world becomes smaller, and the stakes grow higher and higher.’

On this note, I am becoming more and more swayed by the idea that certain outspoken atheists are doing a pretty good job in educating the wider public about ‘religion’ in general. Obviously, they have their own agenda which may or may not be helpful, but the simple fact is that many, many ‘religious’ people know very little about the specific tenets and narratives of the ‘faith’ that they claim to belong to, and the information provided by atheistic texts etc (if accurate, which isn’t always the case) might at least spur them to read more widely into their faith, and the faith of others. It’s one way of getting people ‘interested’ in religion again, I guess.

But, back to Baroness Warsi. Dichotomising tendencies are an inherent human problem… we all do it, and we always will. But even if people are not educated in the idiosyncrasies of individual religions, political views etc we can try and espouse an ethos where we repeatedly and continuously question the reason why we hold the opinions that we do. Religion is not a monolith. Neither is Islam. Neither is Islam a dichotomy between ‘moderates’ and ‘extremists’. If you ever hear someone trying to apply ‘common sense’ dichotomies like ‘black and white’ or ‘male and female’ to complex, human situations, you need to be suspicious. People are not either ‘religious’ or ‘nonreligious’… they are not either ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’… they are not either ‘moderate’ or ‘extreme’… the list goes on and on. Each person is an individual… whilst they may choose in certain circumstances to identify with certain groups or ideals, and whilst ‘we’ may categorise them , on occasion, dependent upon contextual variables, we tend to be much more ‘fuzzy’ than these rigid, contextualised categories allow.

Does anyone else remember Tufty the squirrel? I definitely have one of these badges kicking about in my parents’ house somewhere. Tufty advised on road safety… and his motto was, of course – “Stop! Look! and Listen!” Maybe we need to instigate a similar motto for people to use in situations where people with verbal diarrhea come out with dichotomising statements? Perhaps Baroness Warsi would like to design the mascot for this campaign?

Feel free to send in suggestions :P

A dark and turbulent sea of despair stretches endlessly ahead…

Just came across the following nice bit of fundamentalism, and thought I’d share.

“We have come into an electronic dark age, in which the new pagan hordes, with all the pwer of technology at their command, are on the verge of obliterating the last strongholds of civilised humanity. A vision of death lies before us. As we leave the shores of Christian western man behind, only a dark and turbulent sea of despair stretches endlessly ahead… unless we fight!” From Francis Schaeffer, Time for Anger (1982:122)

In Castells, Manuel. 1997. The Power of Identity – Volume 2: The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. Vol. 2. 3 vols. Oxford: Blackwell, p. 21.

Apparently, “Francis Shaeffer is one of the leading inspirations of contemporary American Christian fundamentalism. His Christian Manifesto, published in 1981, shortly after his death, was the most influential pamphlet in the 1980s’ anti-abortion movement in America.” (ibid:21fn)

One wonders what he would have to say about the situation 30 years on?