Archive | December 2011

Social Media, Science and Religion

A couple of interesting pieces from Religion Dispatches on Social Media Trends and Religion, and the ongoing ridiculous Science and Religion “wars”.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Advertisements

Sinn Fein Mayor refuses to present Duke of Edinburgh’s award

In response to my previous post on the mistreatment of Irish WW2 Veterans, my friend sent me through a link to the following article. Belfast has a 26 year-old mayor? Who knew…

Apologies for the Irish emphasis today… and for appearing to only be criticising nationalists/the Republic of Ireland. This is not my intention, it is just the material that has come my way today. I think it is disgusting that someone in public office can get away with this sort of behaviour. Were this anywhere else I would have expected some sort of disciplinary action… I would ESPECIALLY expect disciplinary action in Belfast of all places. When will people learn that there are more important things in life?

Sinn Fein Lord Mayor’s snub to Army cadet at awards ceremony (from the Belfast Telegraph)

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Lord Mayor of Belfast is facing calls to resign after he failed to present a Duke of Edinburgh award certificate to an Army cadet force member.

Niall O Donnghaile (26) pulled out halfway through presenting awards at Belfast City Hall on Monday night to avoid interacting with the girl, believed to be aged just 15.

Ironically, the Sinn Fein first citizen was yesterday photographed at the launch of a new good relations plan for Belfast, just hours after he had caused the row.

UUP MLA Mike Nesbitt, who was at the ceremony, said questions were raised when the proceedings were delayed for 45 minutes.

He explained: “Then the five people listed as forming the platform party, including the Lord Mayor, were joined by a sixth. The programme of events listed item two as ‘Presentation of Certificates by the Lord Mayor’ but for some reason he stopped halfway through and the remainder of the certificates were presented by the sixth person, Gordon Topping of The Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

“The problem appeared to be down to the fact that one of the recipients was from the Army Cadet Force.”

Mr Nesbitt added: “Actions speak louder than words and thanks to the actions of the Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Belfast, 150 award winners, plus friends and parents, were kept waiting. This is absolutely shameful. So much for Sinn Fein’s fine rhetoric about a shared future.”

Last night Mr O’Donnghaile denied he had shirked his civic responsibilities, claiming he had stepped aside because he did not want to compromise his republican principles.

“As Lord Mayor I was invited to attend The Duke of Edinburgh Awards in City Hall,” he said. “I agreed to present a number of the awards to the young people in recognition of their endeavours. As an Irish republican I did not shirk my responsibilities in this instance. At the last minute I was informed that one of the awards was to be presented to a representative of the Army Cadet Force.

“In order to avoid any unnecessary sensitivities to either party, it was arranged for the outgoing chairman of the organisation to present some of the certificates alongside me.

“Since becoming Mayor in late May I have attended over 620 engagements, many of them in working class unionist communities. I take my responsibilities as being a Mayor for all very seriously.”

This is not the first time the Sinn Fein man has courted controversy. In June he caused outrage among unionists after replacing Royal portraits in the parlour with a copy of the 1916 Irish Proclamation of Independence.

He also refused to attend an event at the cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday and declined to attend a homecoming parade for troops back from Afghanistan.

DUP councillor Gavin Robinson said: “Of course the irony is that he agreed to present the awards at all. The Duke of Edinburgh is Colonel-in-Chief of the cadet forces. The Lord Mayor needs to start upholding the value of his office and representing everyone within the city; either that, or he needs to step aside.

“It is a scandal that the Lord Mayor debased himself and his office by politicising the event.”

Bob Stoker, whose soldier son was injured while serving in Afghanistan, has also called for the Lord Mayor to step down.

“Previous Lord Mayors have had to engage with people from unsavoury backgrounds, such as people who were in prison or who were members of the IRA, but they did so because it was their civic duty. I think he needs to consider his position.”

Maire Hendron, who chairs the good relations working group at Belfast City Hall, said she was “appalled” by what happened.

Irish WW2 Veterans still being treated as criminals 70 years later

I know I am supposed to be Northern Irish… unfortunately I don’t know much about the history of my island. I think this is largely to do with the fact that I didn’t even take GCSE History at High School… and the fact that all we studied was the potato famine (presumably out of fear of teaching anything to do with sectarianism, in case teachers were accused of bias). However, I heard this on the news a couple of days ago and was absolutely appalled.

If you have access to the BBC, there is some video footage here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16343906

I am also going to paste in an interview below, which I found here: http://www.theworld.org/2011/12/irelands-debt-to-its-world-war-ii-soldiers/

I simply cannot believe that in this day and age politicians are even having to consider whether to officially apologise to the last remaining victims of this appalling criminalisation. Essentially, Irish soldiers who decided during WWII that they would rather fight the Nazis than sit on their arses in a neutral country were criminalised on their return… denied jobs and pensions, and many had their children taken into care… all because of petty rules about desertion, and the fact that they were serving in the army of the ‘old enemy’, the UK.

Perhaps this was a bit more understandable at the time: after all, the Republic of Ireland had only recently won its freedom from the UK. But to have STILL not acknowledged that this was (and still is) a horrible miscarriage of justice amounts (yes, I am about to say this) to showing support for Hitler. I am well aware of the perils of entering this area of hyperbolism, but in a situation where a government not only remained neutral in the conflict (fair enough, that was their decision), but criminalised people who acted on their conscience and fought Nazism, I don’t think there is any other conclusion I can make.

I haven’t been able to find an online petition – it seems that there was a physical petition in Dublin. But it seems that the campaign is being organised by a group called the Irish Soldiers Pardons Campaign: www.forthesakeofexample.com. I hope that you will show them your support.

Here is an article about the campaign in the London Times. And the interview I promised…

There is also an audio recording of the interview available on the source website, http://www.theworld.org/2011/12/irelands-debt-to-its-world-war-ii-soldiers/

During World War II, thousands of Irish soldiers joined the British army to fight on the beaches of Normandy, in the Battle of the Bulge and in the jungles of Burma.

But when they came home to Ireland, they were treated as deserters and put on a blacklist.

Now, there is growing pressure on the Irish government to pardon those men.

Anchor Lisa Mullins talks to the BBC’s John Waite, who has made a radio documentary on these soldiers.

Read the Transcript
The text below is a phonetic transcript of a radio story broadcast by PRI’s THE WORLD. It has been created on deadline by a contractor for PRI. The transcript is included here to facilitate internet searches for audio content. Please report any transcribing errors to theworld@pri.org. This transcript may not be in its final form, and it may be updated. Please be aware that the authoritative record of material distributed by PRI’s THE WORLD is the program audio.

Lisa Mullins: I’m Lisa Mullins and this is “The World”. During the Second World War, five thousand soldiers defected from the Irish army and signed up with the British. They fought with the Allies on the beaches of Normandy in the Battle of the Bulge and in the jungles of Burma. They helped to liberate the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. They came home to Ireland not to a hero’s welcome, but to find that the Irish government had put them on a blacklist. Now, pressure is growing on Dublin to pardon the Irish vets. Irish Senator, Mary Ann O’Brien is advocating on behalf of the men.

Mary Ann O’Brien: I would like to see their situation brought to justice and I would like to see a full pardon granted both to them and to their families and I just think it would be such a wonderful gift to those people, and it’s such a small gift to make sure that they’re properly pardoned and recognized for what they did for their continent and their country.

Mullins: Irish Senator, Mary Ann O’Brien. The BBC’s John Waite has made a documentary about the soldiers from Ireland. He says the Irish government gave them the cold shoulder because of the country’s relations with Britain at the time.

John Waite: In 1939, these relations were probably at rock bottom. If you think the beginning of the 20th century, the Irish Rebellion that had been put down “viciously”, as the Irish would say, you think about the civil war, you think about the Black and Tans. That’s, again, a vicious paramilitary group that was unleashed upon the Irish. They really didn’t didn’t like the British. So when ten percent of their own army, that’s around five thousand people as you say, deserted, that’s the word they use, the Irish army, which was neutral during the war, to join up with the Allies because they wanted to join the fight against fascism, because anti-British sentiment was so high, when they came back, they were villains, not heroes.

Mullins: So they joined up not because they were looking for a job, they already had a job, but for ideological reasons?

Waite: Most of them did I think, Lisa. Some joined up because conditions were better, but I mean the Irish army did nothing during the war. I mean it was neutral so it had nothing to do. It [xx], and for many of these men, you know, you remember in Ireland they didn’t even admit it was a war. They called it an emergency. These men could see that Europe and then the world was engulfed in this war and they were part of Europe and they wanted to take part in fighting fascism and that’s why most of them did it, and so they didn’t desert in the sense as desert as run away, they ran towards gunfire.

Mullins: What happened when they returned from the war? What happened to them and their families?

Waite: They were, I think the word has to be “vindictively”, punished. They were put on this blacklist that you mentioned. It was, in fact, a book with all their names and addresses. It was handed around to all town halls, all those public buildings, where if they went for jobs, the people could look up their names and if they were on the list, they weren’t to be given a job, so they could get no work. They could get no pensions, they could get unemployment payment, they could get no widows benefits if their loved one had been killed in the war, their children were often taken into care into institutions which were quite wicked in themselves, state-run and church-run institutions where sexual and physical abuse was wright. They were punished beyond all measure for what, as you say in America and as we would think here in Britain, they ought to have been held as heroes. They were, in fact, treated in, I think everyone agrees now, a most despicable way.

Mullins: One of the men with whom you spoke, one of the veterans, is John Stout. He fought at the Battle of the Bulge. He’s eighty eight years old now. Let’s hear what he told you about the way he and his fellow vets were treated when they got back.

John Stout: We were put down as renegades, traitors, and I know in my heart that we’d done the right thing. We fought for our nations and we liberated the camps. There were people being slaughtered. I would never regret it. I would do it again all over again.

Mullins: So he says that he would do it all over again. He left Ireland; others stayed and lived in extreme poverty as their children did. Why is the Irish government, right now, taking up this issue again?

Waite: I think this issue was buried for a very long time. I think when people, if they knew about it at all, they were embarrassed about it, ashamed about it, hoped it would go away, and of course every year that’s gone by, there were fewer and fewer people like John Stout there to remind people of the suffering, but it’s become a live issue right now. There’s a new government as you know, a relatively new government in Dublin. Fine Gael is now in coalition with the Labor Party. Now Fine Gael was in opposition in 1945 when these measures, “starvation orders” they were called, were issued and they voted against it then. Now they’re in power and if ever there was a time when this appalling piece of legislation can be revoked and possibly pardons given to these men, these few men that still survive, now is the time and all we hope is by highlighting this, and it is a story so few people know about, that it will help the Dublin government do the decent thing, and everyone I’ve spoken to in Ireland, when they heard about this story, everyone to a man says, “These people should be pardoned and recognized as the heroes they were.”

Mullins: How many of these men are left?

Waite: It’s very difficult to say because nobody wants to admit to being on the blacklist, Lisa. In fact, I’ve had the greatest difficulty talking or even finding or getting men to speak to it. They want to forget about it because they were outcasts, and one man who’s ninety two, he appears on my documentary, Phil Farrington, he still has nightmares that he will be arrested for being a deserter. He was put into prison when he came back on leave and when he was released from prison, he joined up again with the Allied Forces and he still feels that he may be arrested in the last years of his life. He’s frail now and I really don’t think has too far to go. These are the things that keep him awake at night. He’s frightened of that period in his life. So it’s very difficult to talk to these men, very difficult to get them to talk about it and therefore very difficult to say how many there are, but there can’t be more than a few hundreds. Possibly less.

Mullins: The BBC’s John Waite. We have a video clip about his radio documentary on Ireland’s punishment of it’s soldiers who fought in World War II. You can find the link at theworld.org. Thank you, John.

Waite: Thank you, Lisa.

Copyright ©2009 PRI’s THE WORLD. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to PRI’s THE WORLD. This transcript may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior written permission. For further information, please email The World’s Permissions Coordinator at theworld@pri.org.

Perhaps this is not as simple as these accounts make out… I am more than interested in hearing more information.

An atheist nativity

An atheist nativity.

Just a quick reblog for you today. You’re probably wondering why I haven’t commented on Christopher Hitchens’ death yet… Or on David Cameron’s ridiculous comments about Britain being a Christian nation… Quite simply I haven’t had the time.

Soon, perhaps…

Merry Christmas!

An International Journal on Charms, Charmers and Charming

Not that I have time to read it… this journal sounded so bizarre that I had to share it with you. It’s open access so I’d be interested to hear what is contained therein!

INCANTATIO 
An International Journal on Charms, Charmers and Charming
Issue 1, 2011

General Editor: Mare Kõiva
Guest Editor: Jonathan Roper

To buy this issue, contact the editors. You can see the issue here (PDF) or click on article titles for individual PDF files.

CONTENTS

  • Introduction
    P. 6
  • Secrecy and Ritual Restrictions on Verbal Charms Transmission in Greek Traditional Culture
    Haralampos Passalis
    Pp. 7-24The paper focuses on the ritual restrictions and taboos surrounding verbal charms transmission in Greek traditional culture. These restrictions and taboos which are closely connected with a strategy of secrecy based on the wide-spread belief that revealing the verbal part of charm renders the ritual ineffective, aim at protecting the transmission of verbal part which is considered as the main part of the ritual performance. Moreover, they can cast light on issues as the social status of performer, the owned state of magic, the problem of collecting charms in fieldwork, and even on the way of performance (the verbal part has to be recited in such a way so that it is not heard). Special attention is given to how this strategy of secrecy affects the construction of the verbal part by way permitting transformations, innovations substitutions, omissions, even texts which lack logical coherence without disturbing the efficacy of the rituals themselves.
    Key words: Greek traditional culture, performative context, restrictions, secrecy, taboos, transmission, verbal charms
  • Practical Texts in Difficult Situations: Bulgarian Medieval Charms as Apocrypha andFachliteratur
    Svetlana Tsonkova
    Pp. 25-35The objects of this article are medieval Bulgarian charms, written in Old Church Slavonic language and preserved in manuscripts. The article is focused on two issues. Firstly, it deals with the charms as specialized texts, as a specific kind of Fachliteratur, with important practical function in coping daily life challenges and problems. The main purpose of these charms was to meet and solve the crucial quotidian issues, like health problems, provision of good luck and protection against evil forces. Secondly, the article refers to the position of the charms among the canonical Orthodox Christian texts. This position is examined in the context of practicality and of the historical changes in the society. This is also a question of the relations between the content of the charms and the content of the other texts from the same manuscript. In this respect the medieval Bulgarian charms are an interesting phenomenon, as they intermingle among canonical Orthodox Christian books, as service books and books of needs.
    Key words: apocrypha, apotropaic magic, daily life, medieval Bulgarian charms, medievalFachliteratur, oral and written transmission of charms, practical magic
  • Immateria Medica: Charmers and their Communities in Newfoundland
    Martin Lovelace
    Pp. 36-47This paper offers a typology of charmers in Newfoundland, Canada. The ability to charm may be transmitted, often cross-sex, or may be ascribed by the community and adopted as a role by an individual who falls into the recognized categories of being a posthumous child, or a woman who marries a man who shares her own family name. Seventh sons and priests are ascribed the widest range of healing competency and are at the apex of a conceptual pyramid of power. Material is drawn from fieldwork conducted in 2010 and a review of holdings on charming contained in MUNFLA, the Memorial University Folklore and Language Archive. It is argued that it may be premature to conclude that charmers have lost their healing and social roles in Newfoundland communities and that in the case of wart charming, and blood stopping, the tradition continues.
    Key words: Ascribed healing roles, charming, folklore archives and appraisal of sources, Newfoundland, scarcity of verbal charms.
  • The Three Good Brothers Charm: Some Historical Points
    Lea Olsan
    Pp. 48-78The charm for wounds beginning “Three good brothers were going/walking” has been documented in written and spoken sources in various languages across the European continent from the medieval period. Ferdinand Ohrt’s article in the Handwörterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens contained many examples of the formula from Northern European manuscript sources. There remain many more examples to be assembled from English manuscripts and from other cultural traditions This paper (including the Appendices) does not attempt to offer a comprehensive collection of Three Good Brothers charms. Rather, it seeks to understand and interpret selected instances of the charm’s appearance from the evidence of selected manuscript contexts. The phrase ‘Historical Points’ in the title of this paper signals my attempt to elucidate the cultural contexts for the use of this wound charm at specific moments during, before and after its popularity in the manuscript culture of the medieval period.
    Key words: Tres boni fratresLonginusNeque doluit neque tumuit, encounter charm, Christ as healer.
  • Genre and Authority in the Scholarly Construction of Charm and Prayer: A View from the Margins
    James A. Kapaló
    Pp. 79-101This paper presents a critique and some theoretical reflections on the relationship between the genres of charm and prayer in folklore and religions scholarship. I draw special attention to the construction of the liminal genre of ‘archaic prayer’ in Hungarian scholarship and its relationship to magic and the ‘charm’ genre as elucidated in the work ethnographers Éva Pócs, Zsuzsanna Erdélyi and Irén Lovász amongst others. It is commonly recognised that scholarly distinctions between genres cut across emic categories and insider knowledge structures. Drawing on the work of Pierre Bourdieu, this paper critiques the discourse on archaic prayer in relation to the dichotomy between magic and religion and the emic/etic distinction through a focus on power/knowledge relations and the politics of language in the religious field.
    Key words: Bourdieu, charms, folklore, folk prayer, genre, folk religion

BOOK REVIEW
Successful and Fruitful Model – Lithuanian Charms Collection as a Contribution to the Research of Verbal Magic, pp. 102-103
A New Generation Study on Lithuanian Incantations, pp. 104-106

CONFERENCE REPORT
Charms, Charmers and Charming. International Conference at the Romanian Academy (Bucharest, June, 24–25, 2010), pp. 107-109

NSRN Launch New Website!

I have been working on this website for months now, and launch day has finally happened! It would be great if you could all take a look and let me know what you think :)

NSRN Launch New Website!.

The thrill of seeing your name in print!

The thrill of seeing your name in print :)

Underground Student Atheist Groups

Something which might be of interest, from Kimberly Winston @ USA Today:

Late one night over pizza, University of Dayton students Branden King and Nick Haynes discovered neither of them believed in God. Surely, they thought, they couldn’t be the only unbelievers at the Roman Catholic college.

Last year, King and Haynes and a couple of other like-minded students applied to the administration to form the Society of Freethinkers, a student club based on matters of unbelief.

The university rejected their application — and rejected them again in September. Without university approval, the group cannot meet on campus, tap a student activities fund, participate in campus events or use campus media.

For now, they meet at a Panera cafe off campus, relying on word-of-mouth to draw members, up to about 15 now. And they are appealing the rejection.

“A religious campus can be a lonely place for someone who doesn’t subscribe to faith,” said King, now 23 and a graduate student in biology. “We want to reach out to these people.”

The Dayton students are not alone. The Secular Student Alliance, a national organization of nontheistic students with 320 campus chapters, reports at least two other religious universities —Notre Dame and Baylor — have rejected clubs for atheist, agnostic, humanist and other nontheistic students. Students at Duquesne, a Catholic school, say they have little hope of approval on their first application this year.

All the schools say they rejected the clubs because they conflict with their Christian mission _ which perplexes some students who note that Duquesne, Dayton and Notre Dame approved Muslim and Jewish student clubs. Dayton and Duquesne have also approved gay student groups.

“The only difference between us and them is our club’s agenda does not assume the existence of the Judeo-Christian God,” said Stephen Love, 21, a Notre Dame student whose application was rejected twice. “I think those clubs should be allowed, but if they are going to use that line of reasoning to reject us they should be consistent.”

The Rev. James Fitz, Dayton’s vice president, said the school can support a gay student club without condoning the members’ sexual orientation. Approving non-Catholic religious clubs is acceptable, too, because faith in God is involved.

“As a Marianist university we aspire ‘to educate for formation in faith,”‘ he wrote in an email, quoting Marianist principles.

Many students say their peers are supportive of their nontheistic clubs. Others have asked why, if they do not believe in God, they chose a religious school in the first place.

Haynes and King came to Dayton after attending Catholic high schools. Andrew Tripp, president of DePaul University’s Alliance for Free Thought, liked DePaul’s urban setting and its service to Chicago’s poor. Brandi Stepp said as an atheist she worried about choosing DePaul, but was drawn to its theater department’s reputation.

“I thought I might have to keep my mouth shut about a lot of things,” she said. “I was really interested in finding a community of like-minded people. I saw the SSA ad, showed up and had a great time.”

Not all religious schools reject nontheist clubs. California Lutheran University has an active group that regularly cooperates with religious groups on campus, and DePaul has a thriving group that meets with administration support.

“Once they realized we were not going to march on the president’s office demanding the de-Catholization of the university they were very amenable to our goals,” said Tripp.

Suzanne Kilgannon, director of DePaul’s Office of Student Involvement, said the club’s goal of open inquiry into matters of faith — and non-faith — conforms to the school’s Catholic mission.

“We looked at it as we are the marketplace of ideas, so how could we not have an organization like this?” she said. “Because it is important to study all sides of the subject — regardless of the subject — we felt like this club belonged here.”

Other religious schools have arrived at the same conclusion. There are sanctioned Secular Student Alliance chapters at Southern Methodist University, Luther College, Presbyterian College and Iowa’s Central College as well.

Jesse Galef, SSA’s communications director, said some religious universities misunderstand the purpose of nontheist clubs. It isn’t to promote atheism, he said, but to provide “a safe place” for students exploring nonbelief.

“Secular student groups promote discussion, and community and compassion,” Galef said. “If the University of Dayton and other schools value these things they need to stop refusing secular students the same rights religious students have.”

Galef has heard from Baylor students who said they felt threatened with expulsion because of their lack of faith. The Baylor Atheist/Agnostic Society, continues to meet, organizing through a private Facebook page with 69 members. No one in the group agreed to be interviewed.

Nick Shadowen, a philosophy major who proposed a secular society at Duquesne and is currently awaiting the administration’s decision, sees a gap between religious and nonreligious students.

“A lot of students come from small, conservative towns centered around church where there is not a lot of discussion about atheists and so they are sort of forced to keep their opinion to themselves,” he said. “This group is a chance to show the rest of the student body we are just like everyone else.”

Toward a Typology of Nonreligion (Parts 1 and 2)

I’ve decided to enter the world of YouTube. Not because I had any burning desire to do so, but because I had some material and thought it couldn’t hurt to share it. The following two videos are audio recordings with the accompanying PowerPoint presentation of a paper I presented at the European Association for the Study of Religions’ Annual Conference in Budapest on 19 September 2011. I’m not in the habit of recording my presentations, but as I am writing a conference report on our panel session for the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network, it made sense for me to record the full panel. Unfortunately I cannot share the full six-paper panel, or the ensuing discussion, as that would be a breach of privacy/copyright etc etc.

If you have 15 minutes… have a listen. Tell me what you think… and if you would like to read something more substantial, I can send through the full 25,000-word thesis. Feel free to cite this as you will – if you do can you use the following format:

Cotter, Christopher R. 2011. “Toward a Typology of Nonreligion: A Qualitative Analysis of Everyday Narratives of Scottish University Students”, European Association for the Study of Religions Annual Conference, 19 September. Budapest. Available here: <URL>

Enjoy!