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Melissa M. Wilcox explores the complex spiritual lives of queer women in the Los Angeles area. She takes the reader on a tour of a colorful array of religious and secular groups that serve as spiritual resources for these women -- from the well-known Metropolitan Community Churches to Wiccan covens, from the Gay and Lesbian Sierrans to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Arguing that these women's stories are exemplary cases of postmodern patterns of religious identity, belief, and practice, Wilcox offers a nuanced analysis of contemporary Western spirituality and selfhood, and a detailed exploration of the history of queer religious organizing in Los Angeles. Queer Women and Religious Individualism is important reading for scholars in religious studies, sociology, women's studies, and LGBT studies.
In the wake of September 11, 2001 religion is often seen as the motivating force behind terrorism and other acts of violence. Religion and Peacebuilding looks beyond headlines concerning violence perpetrated in the name of religion to examine how world religions have also inspired social welfare and peacemaking activism. Leading scholars from the Aboriginal, Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions provide detailed analyses of the spiritual resources for fostering peace within their respective religions. The contributors discuss the formidable obstacles to nonviolent conflict transformation found within sacred texts and living traditions. Case studies of Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Cambodia, and South Africa are also examined as practical applications of spiritual resources for peace.
Producing the Common Good
While Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone (2000) highlighted the notion of volunteerism, little attention has been paid to religion's role in generating social capital - an ironic omission since religion constitutes the most common form of voluntary association in America today. Featuring essays by prominent social scientists, this is the first book-length systematic examination of the relationship between religion and social capital and what effects religious social capital has on democratic life in the United States.
What We Mean by Religious, Spiritual, Secular
In this highly provocative investigation, C. John Sommerville examines common linguistic uses of the terms “religion,” “religious,” “spiritual,” and “secular” in order to discern understandings of these words in contemporary American culture. For example, he finds that, in English, “religion” is our word for a certain kind of response to a certain kind of power (the power and the response both being beyond anything else in our experience). Sommerville then uses these definitions to examine the ways that institutions in the fields of education, science, law, politics and religion are affected—often in unexpected ways—by a shared set of assumptions about what these words mean.
Beyond the Culture Wars
This volume investigates some of the most visible issues in American politics today, including gay marriage and race, along with ongoing concerns that often fly below the radar of the mass media, such as healthcare and homelessness. The book uncovers explores the political motivations, effectiveness, and interplay of organized religious interests as they confront public problems in their local communities.
Politics, Ideology, and Tradition
One of Bosnia’s leading intellectuals explains the Bosnian experience by critiquing the politics and ideology that brought about the great destruction—both material and spiritual—of Bosnia and Herzegovina. These incisive and theologically profound essays address the confrontation between the West and Islam as the author explores the realm of humanity’s long-standing search for the roots of evil in the dual nature of mankind to gain insight into ways of achieving peace. By drawing on the Bosnian situation, the author explores questions of identity and otherness, knowledge and transcendence, authority and authoritarianism, and tradition and fundamentalism, and he argues for a reconciliation between modernity and tradition for the benefit of modern coexistence, not just in his native land but throughout the world.
South Korean Popular Religion in Motion
Thirty years ago, anthropologist Laurel Kendall did intensive fieldwork among South Korea’s (mostly female) shamans and their clients as a reflection of village women’s lives. In the intervening decades, South Korea experienced an unprecedented economic, social, political, and material transformation and Korean villages all but disappeared. And the shamans? Kendall attests that they not only persist but are very much a part of South Korean modernity. This enlightening and entertaining study of contemporary Korean shamanism makes the case for the dynamism of popular religious practice, the creativity of those we call shamans, and the necessity of writing about them in the present tense. Shamans thrive in South Korea’s high-rise cities, working with clients who are largely middle class and technologically sophisticated. Emphasizing the shaman’s work as open and mutable, Kendall describes how gods and ancestors articulate the changing concerns of clients and how the ritual fame of these transactions has itself been transformed by urban sprawl, private cars, and zealous Christian proselytizing. For most of the last century Korean shamans were reviled as practitioners of antimodern superstition; today they are nostalgically celebrated icons of a vanished rural world. Such superstition and tradition occupy flip sides of modernity’s coin—the one by confuting, the other by obscuring, the beating heart of shamanic practice. Kendall offers a lively account of shamans, who once ministered to the domestic crises of farmers, as they address the anxieties of entrepreneurs whose dreams of wealth are matched by their omnipresent fears of ruin. Money and access to foreign goods provoke moral dilemmas about getting and spending; shamanic rituals express these through the longings of the dead and the playful antics of greedy gods, some of whom have acquired a taste for imported whiskey. No other book-length study captures the tension between contemporary South Korean life and the contemporary South Korean shamans’ work. Kendall’s familiarity with the country and long association with her subjects permit nuanced comparisons between a 1970s "then" and recent encounters—some with the same shamans and clients—as South Korea moved through the 1990s, endured the Asian Financial Crisis, and entered the new millennium. She approaches her subject through multiple anthropological lenses such that readers interested in religion, ritual performance, healing, gender, landscape, material culture, modernity, and consumption will find much of interest here.
What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment
“Silver” Winner of the 2008 Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Award, Religion Category
Before he began his recent travels, it seemed to Phil Zuckerman as if humans all over the globe were “getting religion”—praising deities, performing holy rites, and soberly defending the world from sin. But most residents of Denmark and Sweden, he found, don't worship any god at all, don't pray, and don't give much credence to religious dogma of any kind. Instead of being bastions of sin and corruption, however, as the Christian Right has suggested a godless society would be, these countries are filled with residents who score at the very top of the "happiness index" and enjoy their healthy societies, which boast some of the lowest rates of violent crime in the world (along with some of the lowest levels of corruption), excellent educational systems, strong economies, well-supported arts, free health care, egalitarian social policies, outstanding bike paths, and great beer.
Zuckerman formally interviewed nearly 150 Danes and Swedes of all ages and educational backgrounds over the course of fourteen months. He was particularly interested in the worldviews of people who live their lives without religious orientation. How do they think about and cope with death? Are they worried about an afterlife? What he found is that nearly all of his interviewees live their lives without much fear of the Grim Reaper or worries about the hereafter. This led him to wonder how and why it is that certain societies are non-religious in a world that seems to be marked by increasing religiosity. Drawing on prominent sociological theories and his own extensive research, Zuckerman ventures some interesting answers.
This fascinating approach directly counters the claims of outspoken, conservative American Christians who argue that a society without God would be hell on earth. It is crucial, Zuckerman believes, for Americans to know that “society without God is not only possible, but it can be quite civil and pleasant.”