Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Exorcism Update: The Twain Have Met, Dammit

via Pharyngula:

Don't get a massage, don't stand on your head, and for Christ's sake don't read Twilight.

I can get behind that last churchly demi-commandment, but for different reasons that those offered from the Archbishoprick of Sydney by "auxiliary bishop" Julian Porteous.

The whole teen vampire connection is left rather vague, but as far as "yoga, reiki massages, and tai chi" go, them there things "all come out of religious traditions of the East and [therefore] people can ... find themselves in the grip of demonic forces." Apparently Satan invented the East so he could ensnare innocent white Chrustians, especially those who, like Australians, are unfortunate enough to have East to the right of them, East to the left of them, East in front of them...and lots of Eastern immigrants.

It's OK, though: Sydney will soon have a new exorcist and presumably Satan's going to have to go back where he came from.

Scroll down in the article for unusually direct commentary by a god-hatin' liberalcommiefag English professor. I don't mean "unusually" for a prof, since you hear this sort of thing in the hallow'd halls all the time, but it's unusual for the news media to quote someone like this, since they prefer that their experts give more boring, more considered, more unwittingly-supportive-of-the-status-quo commentary.

OMG-- am I advocating "incivility"???

Previously on WiHW: The Rite by Matt Baglio

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Student Council of Trinity High Proudly Presents...

...a useful, if staid, list of blogs about religion ... and mucho commentary about mucho things, mostly from profs, including crapophilic spokesmodels like Judith Butler, Jurgen Habermas, and Charles Taylor.

The Immanent Frame.... oh dear... the Social Science Research Council's look at the religious world. It's a monochromatic mosaic of varied perspectives that all sound the same (as my fellow academics would suspect), but just because it's scholarly doesn't excuse the drabness, the mistaking of what people are excited about for what matters.

The Framers are very serious. They write, with high seriousness, about a vitally serious topic: religion and "the public sphere." And listen up, yahoos: "The Immanent Frame is a forum marked by civil discourse," with "a high standard of intellectual exchange."

Reading The Immanent Frame is like being teleported back to that high-minded, browline-glasses churchological epoch of the mid-60s, as if Mary Daly, Robert Anton Wilson, and Anne Lamott never happened. We're all earnestly sifting doctrine and seeking relevance and reading Krishnamurti and fretting over our lentils... OK, swap Žižek for Krishnamurti (they're fairly interchangeable) and you're there.

I'm just being--terribly unfair. No one reads this stuff because they're looking for God, any more than people read agronomy journals when they get a taste for mangoes. It's shoptalk, and shopkeepers have a right to talk, right?

Yeah, but this kind of funerary treatment of religion helps define the whole discourse on religion. That list of of around 90 religion blogs? It's going to be linked and meta-linked and forwarded and is going to Stand for Something, and--take a deep breath--it's got one pagan blog, one feminist blog, one spiritual autobiographer, no Hindu blogs, no LGBT blogs, no mystical blogs, no indigenous/Native American blogs, no recovery blogs, and ... five Buddhist blogs, nine Muslim blogs, and twenty blogs by or about conservative Christians. As usual in the American Mall of Religions, Buddhism and Islam stand for all the exotic off-brands, the weird-costume and squiggly- alphabet crowd who haven't yet accepted Jesus.

Naturally (whew) I'm not begrudging anyone's inclusion on this list or the compiling of such a list, which is actually nice to see. It is damned difficult to find decent religion blogs of any stripe, and God knows there are more folks out there wanting to read about Jesus and Mohammed than there are wondering about the latest developments in shamanism. It's encouraging to see Slacktivist on this list--he and the lone pagan are the oddest of this very Wonder Bread lot, and their voices, in their ringing individuality, are much more the kind I associate with the God-kiss'd. I've discovered a couple of interesting writers I'd never heard of from browsing the links, and for this I'm glad.

But... we all see the world through some lens or other, some--frame. The Frame's frame, social science, isn't any worse than any other, but social science is always the science of deviance and fads, and so the squeaky wheels and Squeaky Frommes of jihadism and jesusism end up getting the attention-grease they crave. Religions are boiled down to lists of beliefs that animate little chess sets of believers posted on the various grids of nationality, SES, and political affiliation. The actual experience of religious faith-- presumably what keeps packin' 'em in at the churches, mosques, zendos, and whatever you call the places those other people worship-- is curiously absent. Oh, sure, it's social science and we're all into medians and modes and not individuals, but the Frame has no trouble talking up ethics, politics, the psychology of belief, and all kinds of phenomena that bear on the individual. On the lived experience of religion, however, the Frame reminds me of Monty Python's wink wink, nudge nudge guy, who after all his slinkily self- referential patter finally blurts, "What's it like?"

And they do ask, once in a while. Check out this interview with Ann Taves, whose work sounds absolutely fascinating and addresses exactly this problem of experience that I've just been bending your ear about. A couple of years back, the Frame had a whole seminar on the "cognitive revolution" in religious studies, with quite a bit of excellent material. So they don't suck. But-- damn, people. Sack the professional bloviators and lighten up. "Critique" won't save the world any more than will prophecy or any of that other top-down stuff. Top-down is done.