Margaret M. Miles
In the field of Religion and Art, gender plays an important role in developing methods for the analysis of artworks in relation to the cultures and societies in which they were created. Images offer a means to correct a pervasive contemporary misrepresentation of Western Christianity as focused on ideas, doctrines, and theology—that is, on language. Imagery and religious imagination are intertwined in the testimony of many historical people from Francis of Assisi to Catherine of Siena. This article examines the interrelationships between religion, art, and gender. It discusses disciplines that address the nexus of gender, imagery, and religious imagination, and how each field has spawned studies of historical women before studies of gender relations. These include Gender and Art, Film Studies, Gender Studies, Feminist Studies, Religious Studies, and Women’s Studies.
This chapter provides conceptual tools for mapping the role of humor in humanist communities. First, it sets parameters for the study, emphasizing humanist organizations’ self-definitions, a theory of humor based in current research, and atheist standup comedy as a data set to explore. Broadly, the chapter follows the International Humanist and Ethical Union’s 2002 “Amsterdam Declaration,” which sees humanism as ethical, rational, and supporting of democracy and civil rights; insists that personal liberty must be combined with social responsibility; is a response to the widespread demand for an alternative to dogmatic religion; values artistic creativity and imagination; and is a life stance aiming at maximum possible fulfillment. Next, it investigates the role of humor in the construction of atheist identity and communities. Finally, it suggests some other ways of looking at standup comedy to rethink and expand the boundaries of what constitutes humanist humor.
The issues of relating religious and aesthetic experience, and the role of art, especially the power of images, are identified as critical to conversion studies. The role of the visual modality, identified here as seeing encompasses the full expression of the senses and the imagination in the development of identity, both individual and communal, through symbols and images. Highlighting the significance of human affectivity, the concept of homo aestheticus is promoted as fundamental to the nature of being human. Explorations of specific motifs of Western Christian art exemplify the potential significance of both an iconography and an iconology of conversion both generically for conversion studies and in terms of world religions.