ISSN: 1522-5658
Volume 18 (2016)

Religion and Identity [ Supplement 13 ]

Edited by Ronald A. Simkins and Thomas M. Kelly, Creighton University


Taylor and Dummett on the Rushdie Affair

Paul Cliteur, University of Leiden, The Netherlands
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Prophets, Demons, and Witch Hunts: American Spiritual Warfare as Scapegoat Ideology

Steve Snow, Wagner College
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

A Secular Nation under God's Protection: Brazil's Porous State Secularism and the Problem of the Differentiation of Value Spheres

J. E. Chemin, Çağ Universitesi, Mersin/Tarsus, Turkey
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Civil Religion and the Bush Doctrine of Preemptive War: Revisiting the Civil Religion Hypothesis During the War on Terror

Aaron Q. Weinstein, Brown University
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Boundary Formation and Cultural Construction: Religion and Ethnicity for Chinese and Indian Immigrant Converts in the U.S.

Di Di, Rice University
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Born into Deviance: Disaffiliation Processes for First and Second-Generation New Religious Movement Members

Nicole A. Shoenberger and Chris Grayburn, Penn State Erie, The Behrend College
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Syncretism in Vodu and Orisha: An Anthropological Analysis

Eric James Montgomery, Wayne State University
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]


Is Rodney Stark Correct on the Reasons for the West’s Economic Success? A Review Essay

Rumy Hasan, University of Sussex, UK
[ Abstract ] [ Review Essay PDF ]

The famous twentieth-century philosophers Charles Taylor and Michael Dummett have both commented on the Rushdie Affair. This article analyzes their criticism of the British author Salman Rushdie and tries to demonstrate the relevance of this criticism against the backdrop of the massacre in the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris on January 7, 2015. Unfortunately, two great philosophers of our time do not give us guidance here. The world is confused, our political leaders are confused, and great political philosophers are confused. This is important, because if freedom of expression, thought, and religion are to survive in this world, it is necessary to defend these freedoms.
The New Apostolic Reformation – a right-wing Christian organization whose leaders are privy to revelations from God and keenly interested in partisan politics – is part of a long tradition of anti-subversive movements in the United States. The NAR aggressively blames perceived national problems on hidden enemies, and theories of scapegoating therefore form a useful lens through which to view this movement. The NAR has close connections to political elites, who benefit from the demonization of their opponents. Spiritual warfare, a continuous martial struggle with Satan and his legions, is the central feature of this movement's scapegoat ideology, which taps into a deep current of American political culture. The NAR is part of what Richard Hofstadter terms the "modern paranoid style," as it asserts that American government is quietly controlled by the conspiratorial evil enemy.
In Brazil, religion influences many aspects of the everyday life of most citizens. But despite this ubiquity, Brazil has favored a strong separation between church and state. Whilst these two realities are by no means incompatible, I ask the question: in a society where religion is ubiquitous, how does state secularism function? As I attempt an answer, I discuss some of the meanings associated with the term "secularism," whilst critically engaging with the idea underpinning much of our sociological understanding of secularism, namely Max Weber's differentiation of "value spheres." I ground the more theoretical part of the argument on the much-publicized "shift" from Catholicism to Protestantism that has occurred in Brazil in the past three decades. I argue that this shift is forcing a more fluid relationship between Brazil's secular and religious spheres. As a result, the institutional and constitutional boundaries between these spheres could be considered porous. This insight reveals a Brazilian-style state secularism that is more inclined toward accommodation than conflict.
Scholars have struggled to offer a concise definition of "American civil religion" (ACR). This article proposes a narrow definition in order to test whether civil religious views can be associated with opinions on a specific foreign policy: preemptive strikes during the War on Terror. Drawing on extant literature, it develops a four-fold definition: belief that (1) America is a beacon of freedom; (2) God specially blesses America; (3) America is exceptional; and (4) America should promote democracy abroad. Data from a 2008 survey indicate that those believing America is blessed and exceptional are statistically more likely to support preemption. There is no statistical evidence that Americans who believe the nation is a beacon of democracy support preemption more or less than other Americans. Finally, the "export democracy" hypothesis is not statistically significant and also runs counter to expectations, suggesting further research is necessary.
Most scholars study immigrants' religious lives in a vacuum, paying little attention to the religious lives of people who switch from one religious tradition to another. This article relies on interviews with Chinese and Indian immigrant converts in the U.S. to provide a unique comparative perspective on the religious lives of Asian immigrant converts, with a specific focus on their identity construction processes. Findings indicate that Chinese and Indian immigrants establish different types of boundaries, but form similar cultural content within their identities. I debunk the assumption in existing theories that religious conversion is an either/or transition.
Much information on New Religious Movements (NRM) has focused attention on members who either chose or were recruited into a movement. Less information has been recruited from second-generation members, or members born into a NRM. This paper examines the disaffiliation process from a NRM for both first and second-generation ex-members. Results illustrate that both generations experience some of the same catalysts for exiting. Specifically, both experience disruption of group mindset, disillusionment with leaders, and failed teachings or prophecies. Though both experience the same catalysts that generate disaffiliation, it is how they experience these catalysts that differ for the groups.
This article is a comparative and ethnographic analysis of syncretism as a theoretical tool for explaining "African-based" religions (Vodu and Orisha) in West Africa and the New World. Vodu and Orisha defy syncretism as a valid concept for explaining the creativity of ritual life because it fails to account for the historicity, the religious imagination, or the cultural context of these forms. This article discusses that despite many shortcomings and problems with syncretism as a concept, it continues to be employed across many disciplines, even as it conflates and mystifies the different aspects and elements of African religions. Syncretism approaches tend to mystify African symbols and explain away things that, from the inside, are fundamental to African systems. This article will explain and contextualize many of these flaws and deficiencies with the concept through fieldwork and archival research.
In a number of his works but particularly in two books, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity led to Freedom, Capitalism and Western Success (2005) and How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity (2014), Rodney Stark makes the case that the most important, indeed decisive, factor for the rise of the West and its enduring supremacy, is Christianity. Stark asks a series of questions that have long been considered fundamental to our understanding of the modern world: Why was it that China, India, and Islam were backward by comparison with sixteenth century Europe? Why did alchemy develop into chemistry only in Europe? Why was it that for centuries Europeans were the only ones possessed of eyeglasses, chimneys, reliable clocks, heavy cavalry, or a system of music notation? Stark avers that while other world religions emphasized mystery and intuition, Christianity alone embraced reason and logic as the primary guide to religious truth. Stark further makes the claim that it is quite possible that Christianity remains an essential element in the globalization of modernity. Though there is compelling evidence for the Protestant work ethic as being a key determinant for the rise of Europe, as hypothesized by Weber, there are important objections to Christianity per se being a sine qua non for Western success.