Why You Need To Stop Following THAT Facebook Friend

July 9th, 2014 1 comment
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We all have them – that one Facebook Friend (FF) who posts pictures of themselves in compromising situations; has daily public meltdowns; openly mocks and antagonizes their exes; or posts things one might generally find distasteful and irresponsible. The problem is, that particular FF may actually be a friend or family member that you have regular face-to-face contact with. They may also be someone that in the real world you actually like. Defriending your FF isn’t ideal – although always an option. Let’s face it though, that could lead to whole lot of drama. And you’re looking for less drama, right? So, what’s the next best thing? Simple really: stop following your FF.

Now if your FF is someone who solely uses Facebook for all manners of offense and distaste, you may want to consider putting them on a ‘Restricted’ list as well. If they’re irresponsible enough to post that kind of rubbish regularly, how responsible do you suppose they are with their security settings?

Why would your friend’s security matter to your account? If they are given ‘Friend’ status on your Facebook account, this usually means they have access to things like photos and your contact information (depending on how much you share with Facebook).  How confident are you that your FF logs out of Facebook after each use or has passwords on all devices that they might use Facebook on?  If they are irresponsible enough to tarnish their online identity, why should you trust them with yours? Giving them the same kind of access that any stranger has is the probably the best way to sidestep the possibility of a security breach (other than defriending them… which is always an option).

The best part about unfollowing and restricting your FF is that they’re none the wiser. They don’t get notified that they’ve been ‘downgraded’. And if they’re truly self-absorbed, they won’t even notice the absence of your posts on their newsfeed. Adding your FF to the ‘Restricted’ list in Facebook does mean that they will only see ‘Public’ posts from you, but that’s kind of the point, right?

Here’s how you do it:

  • Go to your FF’s profile page.
  • Locate the ‘Following’ button on the lower right portion of the cover photo section.
  • Now click that button, and there you have it – no more posts from your FF on your newsfeed!

If you’ve decided that your FF warrants harsher measures, use the ‘Friends’ button to add them to your ‘Restricted’ list. Problem solved.

So, why does it matter how you communicate and represent yourself online? Think about it for a second: whenever you comment, post, or upload, you’re leaving an imprint of your activity on the Internet. It’s activity that you consciously choose to share. You make choices about what you’re going to share, and the manner in which you’re going to communicate it. Over time, this collection of activity and communication becomes consolidated by the powers of the Internet, and voilà – you’ve created a virtual identity (which may or may not be like your real world identity)! And here’s the most eye-opening thing about it: that identity you create – are creating – is going to be your online legacy.  Many years after your time, your virtual identity will still exist. There aren’t any ‘do-overs’. You won’t get to go online and simply delete all those things you wish you hadn’t posted. Once they’re out there, they belong to the Internet.

It’s your identity. It’s your legacy. Choose wisely.

M. xo

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[VIDEO] Learn About World Religions Via Free Screencasts

June 27th, 2014 No comments
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I was delighted to come across philosophy and religious studies professor, Dale Tuggy’s Youtube account. As a religion blogger and scholar, I often find it difficult to locate quality and informative videos that are free from theological/philosophical biases to share with my flock.  It’s a somewhat arduous task, but thankfully Dr. Tuggy has just made it a whole lot easier.  Here, you can learn about the five major world religions (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism).  You can also learn about various theories of religion put forth by such scholars as Freud, Durkheim, Weber, and Marx.

There are 90 videos to choose from, ranging from just a few minutes long to over 15 minutes – meaning you can complete a ‘lecture’ in about the time it takes to make a cup of tea.  Don’t let the duration of these lectures deceive you – they are packed full of useful information which Tuggy presents in an ‘easy-listening’ voice.

Soar on over and subscribe to Dr. Tuggy’s YouTube channel or start watching now:

World Religions (Screencast lectures by Dr. Dale Tuggy)

M. xo

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#TBT: Cast the Ballot (circa 1994)

June 12th, 2014 No comments
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Since it’s Throwback Thursday (#TBT), AND election day here, I thought this was the perfect poem from my teen angst years to share.  The year was 1994 and I was officially an adult. I could finally vote.  It seems I may have had some reservations…

Cast the Ballot

Beneath my hollow footsteps
The fallen leaves of Autumn’s decay –
Crush.
A chill has set into the air,
Creeping into the bones of the young and the old.

My path treads over a damp, withered sign.
Its bold letters scream of an election.
Soon I will be in the assembly line
To cast my ballot and play the game of
The Politician.

Behind me the laughter of children echoes through the evening.
They too pass over the sign,
But are safe from its beckoning calls.
Their innocence shelters them.
Soon they will follow the same path I tread.

Now their footsteps and strides
Do not match mine.
As they travel down the roads I have,
They too will discover…
The Politician following in their shadow.

M. xo

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Categories: #TBT, Personal, Poetry Tags: ,

Beyond Allport’s Paradox: The Religion and Prejudice Equation: Part Three

June 6th, 2014 No comments
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The following is adapted from an essay submitted to the Department of Psychology, University of Carleton, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the B.A. with Honours degree.  Read Part One here, and Part Two here.

Religiousness vs. Spirituality

Clearly, social scientists face many challenges when applying religion as a variable to other factors such as prejudice. In an attempt to clarify how religion should be studied, researchers have begun to assess how individuals and religious professionals view religion and spirituality. Despite these admirable pursuits, these investigations are revealing just how complex these challenges are, and that there appears to be little consensus.

In a study conducted by Zinnabauer, et al. (1997), individuals (N = 346) from various religious and secular institutions were surveyed about the meaning of religiousness and spirituality. Several measures, including closed and open-ended questions were conducted. Participants provided written definitions of religiousness and spirituality, answered Likert-type scales measuring their degree of religiousness/spirituality, and chose the most personally relevant statement designed to assess the interdependence of religiousness and spirituality in their beliefs. Overall, the results suggest that religiousness and spirituality were viewed as interdependent, but separate terms, both of which encapsulate the sacred.

A more recent study by Marler and Hadaway (2002) supports these results by showing that most individuals do not differentiate between religiousness and spirituality. In this study, 64% of Protestant participants responded that they considered themselves religious and spiritual. Only 27% of the respondents viewed themselves as one or the other.

In another study designed to explore concepts and definitions of religiousness and spirituality, Marler and Hadaway found that 63% of participants believed that religious and spiritual were distinctive, but codependent ideas. The samples from these studies consisted of self-identified marginal Protestants. These are Protestants who considered themselves affiliated with the tradition, but who may not adhere to rigorous practices, such as attending church frequently. The researchers cautiously conclude that their samples may identify more with being spiritual than religious because they consider themselves less religious than their counterparts who may adhere more strictly to traditional religious practices.

Yet, another study suggests that spiritual and religious may be two independent constructs. Saucier and Skrzypinska (2006) explored two constructs, tradition-oriented (TR) and subjective-spirituality (SS), which they hypothesized related to religious and spiritual respectively. Their sample of 375 participants was assessed on over twenty different measures including: attitude scales, authoritarianism measurements, social dominance orientation ratings, Big Five personality inventories, and various demographic elements. In general, the results of their comprehensive study demonstrate that TR and SS were separate facets. Further analysis suggests that the word spiritual may actually muddle self-report assessments, but that words such as religious and mystical carry more concrete distinctions for people. In addition, the term spiritual can often diverge into two areas: one associated with the tradition and authority of institutional religion; the other associated towards a more subjective and individualized mystical belief system. They argue that religious and spiritual should not be treated as similar measurements, and that a distinction needs to be made between TR and SS systems of belief.

Finally, a pilot study by Hyman and Handal (2006), confirms the inconsistencies present in the previous three studies surveyed in this paper. Researchers surveyed a small sample of religious professionals (N = 32) from the three major monotheistic traditions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Their analyses showed that even among religious professional no consensus could be determined as to whether religion and spirituality were independent or interdependent terms. Thus, it appears that the research into defining religiosity is as paradoxical as the research which attempts to correlate religiosity with other factors, such as prejudice.

Discussion

Social scientists who study religion have many challenges facing them. One important consideration might ask whether it is even possible for researchers to reach a consensus on the construct of religion given its fluid nature of changing across time and cultures. It might also be considered as to what, if any steps, researchers need to make in order to develop more meaningful investigations.

The challenge of defining religiousness is certainly an issue that will plague these studies, but it should not negate the necessity to find more consistent approaches. One way in which this may be accomplished is through more research that assesses what religion means to individuals and groups. To date, there have been only a handful of studies that address these challenges. These research investigations must account for not only the traditionally religiously-affiliated, but also individuals of new religious movements, the SBNR affiliated, and those of the irreligious persuasion. While this will certainly provide more complex data, it may also provide more accurate representations of thoughts, practices, beliefs and behaviours of religiosity.

Religious identification also changes with time and culture. How people thought of their religious selves half a century ago is much different than how this identification is made today. It will, in all likelihood, change again in the future. Religious identification is also vastly different from one global context to the next. For example, the place of religion in the life of the individual in North America will differ dramatically from that of someone in Asia or Middle Eastern nations. Thus, it would be prudent of researchers to account for these variations and be mindful that research may have to be confined to the context under which it is being studied. This may mean ongoing issues that limit applications across populations.

While reductionist approaches to studying religion have been becoming the norm in modern investigations, the complexity of religion may not be suitable for such methods. Conversely, broader research approaches do not necessarily equate to more reliable results. The value of understanding religious phenomenon as it means to people and groups in different times and cultural contexts is even more pronounced. If religion changes with time and culture, then research approaches must also adapt to accommodate for the fluidity of religious phenomenon. Finding an appropriate balance that reduces religion for sake of ease in studies, while maintaining the essences of religious diversity is paramount for future researchers in the psychology of religion. Researchers must also be mindful of overly broad definitions that could erroneously incorporate other phenomenon not related to the sacred. This is indeed a monumental task facing researchers – one that admittedly may be elusive. Nevertheless, these limitations are important to consider in future research.

Another area of particular concern with research investigating religious phenomenon in relation to items such as prejudice is the role of social, cultural, and political factors. Religious prejudice investigations cannot claim relevancy unless these extraneous factors are also examined. Assuredly, these factors will change, much like the concept of religion does. They play a vital role in understanding what influences religious prejudice to flourish. Without accounting for the influence of these variables, researchers will be left with investigations that may be only marginally applied across time and populations.

Despite these seemingly insurmountable issues, research into religious prejudice is vitally important. The consequences of such prejudice can lead to marginalization, violence, and in some cases fatalities. Developing a more robust understanding as to how and why religious prejudices arise is an important first step in finding methods to combat this serious social problem. As previously identified, this issue is on the rise. It is doubtful that without appropriate research that it will merely diminish. Through empowering investigations into religious prejudice with more insightful and relevant studies, researchers will be poised to provide more applicable solutions to ensuring a more peaceful co-existence among the various religious groups. The prospect of peace is assuredly one of the most valuable pursuits that social scientists can endeavor toward.

M. xo

References

Marler, P. L., & Hadaway, C. K. (2002). “Being religious” or “being spiritual” in America: A zero-sum proposition? Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 41(2), 289-300. doi:10.1111/1468-5906.00117

Saucier, G., & Skrzypinska, K. (2006). Spiritual but not religious? Evidence for two independent dispositions. Journal of Personality, 74(5), 1257-1292. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2006.00409.x

Zinnbauer, B. J., Pargament, K. I., Cole, B., Rye, M. S., Butter, E. M, Belavich, T. G., . . . Kadar, J. L. (1997). Religion and spirituality: Unfuzzying the fuzzy. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 36(4), 549-564.

Hyman, C., & Handal, P. J. (2006). Definitions and evaluation of religion and spirituality items by religious professionals: A pilot study. Journal of Religion and Health, 45(2), 264-282. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27512927

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Beyond Allport’s Paradox: The Religion and Prejudice Equation: Part Two

June 4th, 2014 No comments
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In the second installment of my blog series entitled, Beyond Allport’s Paradox, I review some studies on religious prejudice and follow-up with a brief analysis and critique .  Read Part One here.

Literature Review and Meta-Analyses


Summary: Allport and Ross (1967)

In Allport and Ross’s 1967 study, they examined religiosity as a factor in prejudice using the Intrinsic/Extrinsic Orientation scale. Applying it to religion, they surmised that intrinsically motivated individuals live their religion, while extrinsically motivated people use their religion. Their sample of religious individuals consisted of six American Christian groups who were identified as church goers. One of their hypotheses was that the intrinsically oriented are much less prejudiced than the extrinsically oriented. The conclusion of their study aptly demonstrates the inconsistencies in such research. An analysis of the subsamples indicates that for at least two of the groups, the extrinsically orientated were less prejudiced than the intrinsically oriented. The researchers suggest that local social factors may have contributed to this disparity, particularly due to the fact that these groups showed higher levels of prejudice to one of the three target groups, African Americans. In addition, one of these subsamples showed the reverse trend across all three target groups compared to the other five subsamples.

Analysis: Allport and Ross (1967)

This brief example highlights two of the fundamental problems previously identified. Despite the sample seemingly identified as a homogenous group of Christian church-goers, there were differences. Closer examination shows that each subsample was denominationally different. Perhaps, this played a role in the inconsistent results. In addition, the researchers attempted to reduce religion to a sample of individuals who attended church regularly. The narrow definition of religion used in this study would not be adequate to apply to the SBNR group or other religious groups who reject institutional worship. Given the trends previously indicated, whereby more and more religious people are moving away from institutions, this research fails to hold up across time. Finally, as the authors indicated, there may have been socio-political factors contributing to these disparities. This becomes more salient when noting that this study was conducted during a period in American history that was experiencing some highly contentious racial issues, specifically directed toward African Americans.


Summary: Hasnain and Abidi (2007)

A study originating in India by Hasnain and Abidi (2007) explored the role of religiosity in prejudice and ethnocentrism. Muslims and Hindus were identified as either religious or non-religious based on the frequency of prayer offered. Researchers hypothesized that prejudice and ethnocentrism would differ between the religious and non-religious groups. The results showed that religious people – regardless of their religion – showed higher prejudice and ethnocentrism than nonreligious people, suggesting that religions do not teach intolerance, but that some other factor may be responsible.

Analysis: Hasnain and Abidi (2007)

Two items are particularly interesting to note in this study. For these researchers, the terms Muslim and Hindu may carry more of a cultural label rather than a religious label. In the review of the literature for this paper, there was no research originating from Western countries that defined these groups as anything other than religious. Thus, it would be difficult to replicate this study in countries outside of India. Given the heated nature of some Muslim-Hindu relations in India, it is also possible that results of this study were confounded by local socio-political factors. In addition, religion was defined in very narrow terms, specifically if the participants regularly offered prayer. This reductionist approach negates other factors that contribute to the richness of the religion spectrum. Further, it cannot be adequately applied across populations. Many individuals self-identify as religious regardless of the number of times they may pray. Prayer is also just one of many rituals encompassed within religious practices.


Summary: Ysseldyk, Haslam, Matheson, and Anisman (2011)

This research study examined differences in feelings of Atheists and religious individuals toward (ir)religious groups under group-based threat. Researchers hypothesized that both religious and irreligious people would report more ingroup favouritism and outgroup derogation when the ingroup was threatened. There were some particularly curious findings in this research that suggest further challenges to definitions of religious identification. The first was that self-identified Jewish participants displayed more positive feelings toward Atheists than toward all other religious groups. Atheists were consistently rated most negatively by the other religious groups. Secondly, both Jews and Muslims felt colder to each other than they did toward Christians.

Analysis: Ysseldyk, Haslam, Matheson, and Anisman (2011)

The aforementioned results give ample demonstration of how cultural influences of a given time can influence religious labels. Closer examination of the religious group that defied expected results may suggest that re-evaluations of defining such a group is in order. Jewish participants were drawn from a Canadian sample. Most often these individuals identify with the Reform tradition of Judaism, a very liberal, Americanized denomination of the faith. Thus, this branch of Judaism may be viewed as more modern and progressive than traditional forms of the faith. It may also carry more of a cultural symbolism, rather than religious. This socio-cultural phenomenon may help to explain the differences. In addition, ongoing socio-political hostilities in traditional Middle Eastern homelands of both Muslims and Jews may also contribute to explaining the negative feelings shared between these two groups. Again, the role of culture and politics appears to be confounding research results and limiting application of the examination to time and place.


Summary: Hewstone, Newheiser, and Voci (2011)

This investigation explored the strength of religious attitudes, social dominance orientation (SDO), intergroup contact, and mortality salience on attitudes towards Muslims. It revealed some conflicting conclusions pertaining to the role of religious strength in prejudice. The researchers intended to show that religiosity was a greater predictor of prejudice. In this study, the researchers statistically controlled for individual differences in order to assess the role of religious strength in prejudice. Self-report methods assessing religiosity, SDO, and intergroup contact were completed by both groups. Religious individuals were identified by those indicating a religious affiliation, while non-religious participants were those indicating Atheist, Agnostic, secular, or no response. A reformulation of the data on religious attitude responses yielded three factors (certainty, personal relevance, ambivalence). Paradoxically, the results of this study suggest that individuals who indicated high certainty – or ambivalence – toward religion showed decreased negativity.

Analysis: Hewstone, Newheiser, and Voci (2011)

The authors’ own discussion indicates the potential confounding influences to the contradictory conclusions in this research. They suggest that strength of social and political ideologies may be related to the religion-prejudice relationship. This seems particularly relevant given that the target group of this study was Muslim, and the fact that this study was conducted post 9/11. In addition, the participants were exclusively from a Western society. Also, the manner in which the researchers identified religious and non-religious individuals is not particularly useful for assessing what it is about religion that may influence prejudicial attitudes. Self-identified religious affiliation is a label that can carry subjective meanings. As previously indicated, within a faith tradition there can be vast differences between individuals. This study is also a good example of how incorporating numerous variables and religious measurement scales does not necessarily lead to more consistent research findings. Perhaps then, the issue of finding an appropriate definition of religiousness first, remains a concern that ought to be seriously addressed.


Summary: Rowatt, LaBouff, Johnson, Froese, and Tsang (2009)

This research examined associations between general religiousness and tolerance toward disadvantaged social groups. Three separate hypotheses were tested, and included: 1) general religiousness promotes acceptance, 2) mainstream religion is associated with selective prejudice and, 3) extraneous (or confounding) variables explain associations between religiousness and prejudice. Examining data from the 2007 Baylor Religion Survey (BRS), a mixed mode method (telephone and self-administered mail-in), a sample of 1588 U.S. citizens was used in which responses were converted to z-scores. Using correlational and multiple regression analyses, the results indicated that general religiousness was positively associated with intolerance toward homosexuals and slightly negatively associated with racial prejudice when controlling for other variables. This demonstrated support for an association between general religiousness and selective intolerance, while virtually no corroboration was found for the extraneous variable hypothesis. Some results indicated that certain demographics appear to be associated with attitudes and prejudice.

Analysis: Rowatt, LaBouff, Johnson, Froese, and Tsang (2009)

Religiousness was measured by a four-item assessment that gaged degree of religiosity and commitment to certain activities such as prayer and attendance at services. In addition, approximately 75% of participants self-identified with a Judeo-Christian affiliation. While such activities may fit well within the practices of many of these participants, they are not representative of traditions outside the mainstream Western establishment. Further, given increases in the SBNR group, it is doubtful that this method of defining religiousness would be particularly relevant for this religious group. Finally, the link between prejudice toward homosexuals and religiousness in this study may be confounded by socio-political factors, given the antagonistic climate toward same-sex marriage occurring in the United States at the time this research was undertaken. The authors’ concede that the findings in this study may not be applicable across cultures and times. The role of culture, politics, and, other social factors seems particularly poignant in this investigation. In addition, the methods used to define religion also provide more evidence for the issues of applying such definitions across religious identifications.


Summary: Gervais (2011)

This paper explored the relationship between perceived prevalence of Atheists and prejudice. Contrary to other studies that suggest outgroup size is positively correlated with increased prejudice, the main hypothesis was that decreases in prejudice would occur where increases in presence of Atheism was found. Four studies were implemented to examine the researcher’s hypothesis. Study 1 explored the global association between prejudice toward Atheists and Atheist demographic representation by examining data from the World Values Survey (WVS). Study 2 examined 104 individuals’ responses from a web-based questionnaire assessing anti-Atheist prejudice, perceived Atheist prevalence, belief in God, and belief in a dangerous world. Study 3 and 4 extended the findings in the previous studies by experimentally manipulating perceived prevalence of Atheists and assessing the relationship with anti-Atheist prejudice. Generally, beliefs about the prevalence of Atheists decreased prejudice towards them. In Study 3, however, distrust of Atheists was reduced, but not general prejudice.

Analysis: Gervais (2011)

The results of this study are mixed and may be confounded by the method in which the researcher chose to define Atheism. This problem is particularly salient in Study 1, which captured Atheist prevalence with a single item that asked whether participants believed in God. This implicitly implies a monotheistic, patriarchal worldview of the divine – or a very Judeo-Christian centric worldview. Given that this item was extracted from a worldwide survey, it is particularly problematic as it does not assess the religiosity of groups that may hold alternate theological worldviews, including polytheistic or feminine-centered views of the divine. Further, it does not account for religions that may be considered atheistic, such as Buddhism. By the author’s own admission, a trust-biased single item was used to assess anti-Atheist prejudice in a political context. This cannot be adequately applied to more general measures of prejudice, particularly given the traditionally strong ties between politics and religion in many countries around the world. These limitations suggest, again, that researchers must reassess their definitions of religion. They must be mindful of any inherent biases they may bring into their study, particularly as it pertains to the superimposition of their own religious worldviews onto a global context.


*** Stay tuned for Part Three of Beyond Allport’s Paradox ***

M. xo

References

Allport, G. W., & Ross, J. M. (1967). Personal religious orientation and prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 5(4), 432-443. doi:10.1037/h0021212

Gervais, W. M. (2011). Finding the faithless: Perceived atheist prevalence reduces anti-atheist prejudice. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(4), 543-556. doi:10.1177/0146167211399583

Hasnain, N., & Abidi, K. (2007). Does religiousness promote prejudice and ethnocentrism? Psychological Studies, 52(2), 123-125.

Hewstone, M., Clare, A., Newheiser, A-K., & Voci, A. (2011). Individual and situational predictors of religious prejudice: Impact of religion, social dominance orientation, intergroup contact, and mortality salience. Testing, Psychometrics, Methodology in Applied Psychology, 18(3), 143-155.

Rowatt, W. C., LaBouff, J., Johnson, M., Forese, P., & Tsang, J. (2009). Associations among religiousness, social attitudes, and prejudice in a national random sample of American adults. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 1(1), 14-24. doi:10.1037/a0014989

Ysseldyk, R., Haslam, S. A., Matheson, K., & Anisman, H. (2011). Love thine enemy? Evidence that (ir)religious identification can promote outgroup tolerance under threat. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 15(1), 105-117.  doi:10.1177/1368430211410996

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Beyond Allport’s Paradox: The Religion and Prejudice Equation: Part One

June 3rd, 2014 No comments
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The following is adapted from an essay submitted to the Department of Psychology, Carleton University, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the B.A. with Honours degree.  

Abstract

Psychologist Gordon Allport posited that religion was paradoxically linked with prejudice.  It has the ability to produce or protect from prejudice.  Ironically, social scientific investigations of religion and prejudice are also paradoxical.  The following literature review and meta-analyses will explore how religion is defined in social scientific literature, the impact of time and culture on religious prejudice, and the influence of religious trends, such as the ‘spiritual, but not religious’ groups.  This paper suggests that research into the link between religion and prejudice is confounded by inconsistent definitions of religiosity that cannot be applied across time and cultures. Concluding statements suggest future considerations for researchers, including more studies of the meaning of religiousness to diverse groups of individuals and adaptability to fluid social and political factors that may confound research results.  

Beyond Allport’s Paradox: The Religion and Prejudice Equation

Psychologist Gordon W. Allport is famous in part for his studies that attempted to understand what he called the paradox of religion.  He suggested that religion can give rise to or diminish prejudice (Allport, 1966).  The following research intends to explore beyond Allport’s thesis by demonstrating that not only is the object of study (religious prejudice) paradoxical, but that the method of study holds this quality as well.

Psychological research into the religion-prejudice equation lacks a cohesive methodology and is inherently confounded by a host of individual and socio-political variables.  Two issues will be highlighted.  The first is that simply defining religiosity as a measurement is vastly different across the studies reviewed.  Second, the application of this measurement across cultures and times fails to provide the robustness that one would expect from such investigations.  Most noteworthy is the lack of applicability of religiosity as a measurement that is relevant between samples and across populations.  The scope of this paper posits that research into the link between religion and prejudice is confounded by inconsistent definitions of religiosity that cannot be applied across time and cultures.

The relevancy of continuing such research might be questioned given the methodological issues identified.  A review of recent headlines demonstrates that religious prejudice is becoming more, and not less, salient. Thus, solutions to this issue are urgently needed. In 2012, an anti-Islamic video posted to social media site YouTube set off a series of violent protests in the Middle East that resulted in numerous deaths.    In August of that year, a gunman went on a mass killing spree at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.  For a number of years, there have been reports about the systematic suppression and persecution in China of various religious groups, most notably, Falun Gong practitioners.  A North American study released by the University of British Columbia’s department of psychology revealed that Atheists were considered less trustful than all other religious groups, and comparably as distrusted as rapists (Gervais, Shariff, & Norenzayan, 2011).  Most recently, it was reported that the Boy Scouts of America had finally overturned a ban on homosexuals being permitted membership to their organization, yet have maintained the prohibition on Agnostics and Atheists.  Indeed, a comprehensive study by the Pew Research Center (2012a) shows a marked increase in social hostilities, government restrictions, and harassment of various religious groups around the world.

The following will begin with an overview of research approaches in social scientific investigations of religion and discussion surrounding new religious classifications. Next, summaries of psychological research examining the link between religion and prejudice with accompanying analyses of the aforementioned issues of defining religiosity, generalizing across populations, and the confounding influences of socio-cultural/political factors will be presented.  Finally, social scientific scholarship will be reviewed that addresses these challenges in empirical investigations, specifically with a focus on the emergence of the rapidly growing spiritual, but not religious (SBNR) affiliation.

The Social Scientific Study of Religion

 Traditionally, social scientific research has approached the study of religion using broad concepts to classify religiosity under either the functional or substantive perspectives.  The former focusing on the role of religion in one’s life, while the latter encompassing one’s beliefs, actions, emotions, and connections relative to the sacred (Pargament, 1999; Zinnabauer, Paragament, & Scott, 1999; Zinnabauer et al., 1997).  These approaches have generated a bewildering array of religious variables, with just as many meanings attached to those variables.

Complicating this matter further is the fluid nature of religion itself.  In the last several decades, traditional religiosity has been replaced or complimented by the concept of spirituality.   More and more people are turning away from institutional religion toward an individualized spirituality (Zinnabauer et al., 1999).  An analysis of global religious trends by The Pew Research Center (2012b) shows that 16% of the world’s population identifies as religiously unaffiliated with many proclaiming the SBNR classification.  For social scientists researching religious phenomenon, this group is one that must be seriously considered – particularly now that it is the third largest religious group worldwide, ahead of two major world religions: Buddhism and Hinduism (The Pew Research Center, 2012b).  Yet, more recent research shows how defining religion as a construct has become even more complex with the inclusion of SBNR.  Consequently, modern perspectives have taken a more reductionist approach by attempting to narrowly define the construct.  Particularly, there has been a movement to view spirituality as functional, individual, and positive.  In contrast, religion is relegated to the substantive, institutional, and negative (Pargament, 1999; Zinnabauer et al., 1999).  The recent movement to polarize and ultimately reduce these definitions has not led to more consistent research findings.

*** Read part 2 of Beyond’s Allport’s Paradox here***

M. xo

References

Allport, G. (1966). The religious context of prejudice. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 5(3), 447-457. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1384172

Gervais, W. M., Shariff, A. F., & Norenzayan, A. N. (2011). Do you believe in atheists? Distrust is central to anti-atheist prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(6), 1189-1206. doi:10.1037/a0025882

Pargament, K. I. (1999). The psychology of religion and spirituality? Yes and no. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 9(1), 3-16. doi:10.1207/s15327582ijpr0901_2

Pew Research Center. (2012a) Rising tide of restrictions on religion. Retrieved from http://www.pewforum.org/Government/Rising-Tide-of-Restrictions-on-Religion-findings.aspx

Pew Research Center. (2012b). The global religious landscape. Retrieved from http://www.pewforum.org/global-religious-landscape.aspx

Zinnbauer, B. J., Pargament, K. I., & Scott, A. B. (1999).  The emerging meanings of religiousness and spirituality: Problems and prospects. Journal of Personality, 67(6), 889-919.

Zinnbauer, B. J., Pargament, K. I., Cole, B., Rye, M. S., Butter, E. M, Belavich, T. G., . . . Kadar, J. L. (1997). Religion and spirituality: Unfuzzying the fuzzy. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 36(4), 549-564.

 

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#TBT: The Great Surprise! (1987)

May 29th, 2014 No comments
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I’m finally getting around to posting the second chapter to a story that I shared for a previous #TBT. The Great Surprise! is my follow up to The Great Gooa short story I wrote when I was ten years old. Yet again, my art seems to reflect my life in this story. The exact date that I wrote this story was five days before my birthday. I was turning eleven years old. I’m guessing that I was really excited. Happy reading!

 

The Great Surprise!

 

It was Bright Eyes’ birthday. She was sixteen. When you are sixteen in the sea lion world you are considered an adult. Bright Eyes walked down the hall to her bear friend, Cuddles. Cuddles was reading a book.

“Hi Cuddles. What are you doing?”

“I’m reading a great book called Ghosts. It’s all about this bear who murders a human and then the human comes back and haunts the bear!”

“Sounds scary,” Bright Eyes said as a shiver ran down her spine.

Bright Eyes walked on down to her bedroom. She had decorated her room herself. The windows, mirror and bed were laced in silky white satin. She even had a door that led out onto the deck of the swimming pool.

KNOCK! KNOCK!

Someone was at her door. Bright Eyes waddled over to the door. It was Wobbles. He was wobbling back and forth.  Bright Eyes had found Wobbles on her vacation in South Africa. She had to rebuild all the rooms because Wobbles couldn’t fit through the doors. After all, he was an elephant.

“Hi Bright Eyes,” Wobbles said glumly.

“What’s the matter, Wobbles?”

“Oh, I was just hoping I could go to the park today, but everyone is busy.”

“Well… uh… um… I’ll come with you,” Bright Eyes said.

“Ok! Let’s go, Bright Eyes.”

What had Bright Eyes gotten herself into now? Every time Wobbles went to the park he never came back for hours. Bright Eyes kept thinking about how no one remembered her birthday. Wobbles dragged Bright Eyes all the way to the park.

“Wobbles, I just wanted to tell you it’s my … um… it’s my birthday,” but Wobbles wasn’t listening. “How come everyone is acting weird?” Bright Eyes thought.

Six hours later, Wobbles decided to leave the park. When they arrived home all the lights were out. Bright Eyes walked in. The lights flicked on and tigers, bears and gibbons jumped out from all corners yelling, “Surprise!”

“Happy Birthday, Bright Eyes!” a fat tiger shouted from behind the couch. t was Tubby, the fattest tiger in all the land. The table that Bright Eyes stood before was stacked with presents galore. This was going to be a birthday Bright Eyes would never forget.

- THE END -

M. xo

Author’s comments: Interested in exploring other stories and poems I wrote in my youth? Here’s all my #TBT posts. Cheers!

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Categories: #TBT, Art, Fiction, Personal Tags: , ,

The National Church of Bey: Official Commercial and Indiegogo Campaign

May 28th, 2014 No comments
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A few weeks ago I posted about an Atlanta area church purportedly worshipping music superstar Beyonce Knowles. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, and this appears to be one of those times. Or is it? This morning I followed up with the Church’s activities on social media feeds and was delighted to find some new video additions to their portfolio.

Firstly, the official commercial:

I’m still at a loss to explain how the Church is able to use her likeness and brand.  By all accounts Beyonce hasn’t endorsed the Church. The next video, however, has me questioning whether this isn’t some sort of publicity stunt.

At the very least, it’s made the Church of Bey lose any shred of legitimacy it had as a religion, IMO anyway.

Yeah, I know. You’re probably asking yourself ‘how could she even consider The Church of Bey a religious organization?!’ Truth is, I am rather liberal in what I can reasonably accept as a legitimate religion.  Religion is far too complex for rigid definitions. I didn’t feel comfortable suggesting that they shouldn’t be considered a legitimate religion, particularly with the scant information I had available to me. Who am I to judge what another person deems sacred and worthy of worship?

Having said that, the fact that they have managed to start an Indiegogo Campaign to raise funds for a ‘Goddess’ clothing line suggests, to me, that their intentions fall far from divine. I’m not sure how buying t-shirts and bags emblazoned with a giant ‘B’ is going to ‘make a difference.’ There is the idea of religion as commodity, but this seems almost the reverse phenomenon: commodity as religion, perhaps? At any rate, I’m still waiting for the Beyble to be offered to the public.  Now THAT I would be interested in buying. Something tells me though, that it’s going to be full of copyrighted material, and hence will probably never get off the ground.

Bottom line is that I’ve crossed The Church of Bey off as a legitimate religious organization. I’m still not sure if this is a publicity stunt, satirical commentary, or a money-making scheme. I honestly don’t know, but if they are receiving taxpayer funding as a not-for-profit/religious organization, I hope some good citizen takes up the investigation to determine whether that really is a good use of public funds.

M. xo

 

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Afghanistan: Beyond the Headlines [Video]

May 27th, 2014 4 comments
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Afghanistan. If you’re like me, most of what you may have learned about this remote region has come from media headlines that have largely shown a country in turmoil. Images of barren desert landscapes seem to dominate. Of course, any reasonable person would deduce that there probably is a lot more to Afghanistan than what news outlets are showing. Fortunately, I happened upon this video that shows a remarkably different Afghanistan than I’ve ever seen. Student videographers Mikai and Armen Karl, have crafted an elegant and stunning visual journey of a country deeply misunderstood by its fellow global citizens. Truthfully, while I was watching it I kept waiting for some sort of tourism slogan to pop up on the screen.  Yep, the video actually made me forget about all the war-themed headlines.

Check it out for yourself:

M. xo

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Once You Become Parents We Still Want To Hang Out With You

May 19th, 2014 No comments
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Recently, I read yet another ‘open letter’ from a parent explaining to their childless friends why they don’t have time for them in their lives anymore. Sigh. Seriously, parents – these letters are getting old, particularly to some of us childless friends you are directing them too.

Last week, a post on Huffington entitled, Once We Become Parents We Don’t Want to Hang Out With You Anymore (But Not for the Reasons You Think), made the rounds on social news feeds.  I have to admit, I was offended. This isn’t the first time I’ve been offended by posts such as this one.  Perhaps what I find most insulting are people who have kids assuming that those without kids could never imagine how much life changes. Well, yeah, we can. You know why?  Because at every turn our friends with children remind us.

Here’s the other thing, parents. We know that you’re going to be busy and that life for at least the first five years of your child’s life is going to be completely consumed by them. It comes with the territory.  We also know that you won’t have the same time available to commit to our friendship. We get it. We’re not idiots.

Guess what else? We also know that you’re going to start making new friends. You know, friends with kids. That’s cool. We’re happy for you, because we’re your friends too. Sometimes we know it’s just easier for you to hang out with people who have kids.  We get it. We’re not idiots.

Yes, we know that you’re tired, have less money and time now. We know that life has new priorities – tiny, but infinitely important priorities. We also know that we have moved down on your priority list. We get it. We’re not idiots.

Stop assuming that you, your kids, and your wonderfully complicated and busy life can’t somehow still be a part of ours.

Stop assuming that your childless friends can’t try to empathize. Of course, we don’t know, but we can try to understand.

Stop assuming that we won’t try to accommodate you and your family so that we might see each other more often.  We will because you are our friends and any child of yours gets an automatic ‘in’ to the friendship circle.

Stop assuming that we just wouldn’t want to hang out with your kids. For some of us, it’ll be our first taste of what parenting will be like, and for others it may be the only opportunity we have to spend time with children.  Besides, you’re awesome which means your kid is going to be even more awesome.

And remember, the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, we consider ourselves part of your village and part of your resources in raising your child. It’s your choice how you wish to utilize our skills and wisdom in your child’s development. We are not idiots and we may be able to actually contribute to the positive development of your child.

So in response to all those letters addressed to childless friends, such as myself (read more about why I don’t have children here), stop apologizing for being a parent. We’re not idiots. We get it. 

M. xo

P.S. 7 am for breakfast sounds lovely.

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Categories: Random Rants, Society Tags: ,