Frank Burch Brown
Melanie Elyse Brewster
The present article explores scholarship regarding links between atheism, gender, and sexuality. A review and analysis of available theory and research is presented through a social scientific lens. Specifically, research suggesting that more men than women identify as atheist is contextualized through reviews of gender role socialization, structural location, personality, and evolutionary theories. Ties between atheism, women’s issues, and feminism are also discussed. Moreover, data about atheism and religiosity amongst lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) groups is presented. Findings regarding rates of atheist identification and sexual orientation indicate that atheism may be higher among LGBTQ individuals than heterosexually identified people; such research is discussed in the context of anti-LGBTQ religious stigmatization and oppression. Lastly, in an effort to deconstruct ‘coming out’ as atheist identity development processes, parallels between LGBTQ and atheist movements are examined and critiqued. Directions for future research are proposed.
Matthew J. Walton
This article looks thematically at several important aspects of Buddhist politics in Myanmar, from the precolonial period to the present. It considers a number of arguments regarding the use of Buddhism in both supporting and opposing political authority, especially as they are rooted in a dualistic conception of human nature. It presents several examples of Burmese Buddhist political thought that creatively combine traditional Buddhist ideas with other political ideologies and practices, revealing a once-vibrant tradition that will hopefully be revitalized with the country’s current political transition. The role of monks in politics is controversial in Myanmar, and the article looks at some of the unique aspects of monastic activism, using examples from the 2007 “Saffron Revolution” and the current anti-Muslim Buddhist nationalist movements. Finally, it offers several different strands of democratic thought, including a provocative Burmese Buddhist notion of “moral democracy.”
This chapter advocates applying a communication theoretical model to the study of religion. This proceeds by observing the procedure of religious communication, the ways in which this communication reflects upon and describes itself, and the means by which it sets itself apart from other kinds of communication. While there is no such thing as religion per se, the specific feature of religious communication consists in ultimately coping with contingency on the basis of the distinction between immanence and transcendence. Religious semantics and the institutional framework of religious communication should be analytically distinguished and synthetically related to each other. Inner and outer boundaries of religious communication should also be distinguished. Religious communication constitutes a self-referential societal system and also differentiates itself (and is distinguished) from other forms of communication such as politics, economics, science, and the arts. Differentiation is the basis for interaction between various forms of communication including religion.
Harvey Whitehouse and Brian McQuinn
This chapter investigates one of the most powerful mechanisms by which groups may be formed, inspired, and coordinated—ritual—which may be defined as normative behavior with an irretrievably opaque causal structure. The divergent modes of religiosity (DMR) theory is applied to armed groups engaged in civil conflicts, some of which explicitly incorporate “religious” traditions while others vehemently repudiate supernatural beliefs of any kind. It is argued that the DMR theory can be extended to explain recurrent features of ritual traditions which lack many or all beliefs typically marked “religious.” Unlike many religions, rebel groups tend to display the predictions of only one mode, although this may be an effect of small sample size. It is believed that the DMR theory can possibly clarify broad patterns in intergroup violence and the dynamics of contemporary civil wars.
Stories and images from the Christian Apocrypha have appeared in popular, or ‘non-ecclesiastical’, settings since the Middle Ages when the various collections of lives of saints, books of hours, mystery plays, and incunabula repurposed apocryphal traditions for devotional purposes. Examples of such use have increased exponentially over the last century, in music (Gustav Holst’s ‘Hymn of Jesus’, Tori Amos’s ‘Original Sinsuality’), fiction (Thomas B. Costain’s The Silver Chalice, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code), television (the ‘Hollywood A.D.’ episode of The X-Files, the Banned from the Bible documentaries), and film (Rupert Wainwright’s Stigmata, Abel Ferrara’s Mary). For the most part, these works, though entertaining, misrepresent and sensationalize the content of the texts, but their value lies not in what they say about ancient texts and traditions but in what they say about the interests and anxieties of their creators and audiences.
Religion often has attended to emotion as a part of religious experience. While that has enhanced theological depth and precision, it also has framed a highly psychologized view of emotion in religion. Historical scholarship of religious practice has prompted other views of emotion, shifting attention from religious experience to culturally derived emotional frameworks. Researchers have also emphasized the cognitive element in emotion, and the biological superstructures of emotional life. Research has translated to a range of investigative projects, some blending discussion of cognition, feeling, and biology with analysis of social life and the role of culture in emotional performances in religious settings. Current research on emotion has revolved around a fairly standard listing of familiar emotions. It may be, however, that emotions or emotional clusters in religion are not easily placed on such lists. The subfield should not shy from studying emotions that seem strange.
‘Religious experience’ is a concept attributed to a wide variety of phenomena, including mystical states, altered states of consciousness, and spirit possessions; theorists variously attribute the causes of experience to divine sources, social or cultural prompting, or natural, biological processes. Classic theorists employed a normative paradigm that authorizes some experiences as superior to others, and often linked their account of experience with an evolutionary theory of religion. These normative approaches have been called into question by contemporary theorists who have exposed the normative baggage in the classic works, baggage often tied to European colonialism or assumptions of Christian superiority. Contemporary theorists offer more critical, analytical paradigms for analyzing special experiences cross-culturally without reifying them or presuming their universality. These theorists not only permit but encourage some reductionist theorizing of experience. However, even these more analytical paradigms are subject to a number of possible criticisms.
The first part of the chapter, ‘Sources’, consists of an overview of various theological accounts of families, drawn from Roman Catholic official teaching, from the Protestant Family, Religion, and Culture project, and from a range of other sources. The second part, ‘Themes’, analyses and compares the sources, allowing standard and contested issues to surface. The issues include the analogy between divine and human persons: the designation of families as domestic churches; whether theology stigmatizes ‘non-traditional’ families; the place of equal-regard love in families and the place of kin within the Kingdom of God; the claim that the family of church is prior to the family unit; the idea of kin altruism; and different approaches to the problem of family form. Finally the Trinitarian framework for thinking about families, and the method and key ideas of the Family, Religion and Culture are endorsed as a basis for future theological thinking about families.
This article discusses the relationship between cinema and atheism, and draws out some of the analogies used to describe the role of cinema in modernity (particularly similarities between Plato’s cave and the cinema experience and images of cinema as ‘dream-like’). It examines the work of Soviet film-maker Dziga Vertov in particular, and looks at his use of anti-religious and atheist themes. The article suggests that while little attention has been paid to the topic of cinema and atheism, there is a rich seam of thinking to be mined here, and there exist unresolved questions about the ‘religious’ dimensions of cinema itself that go far beyond the force of the odd parodic or documentary atheist film.