Forty Things To Do This Year

January 19th, 2016 No comments

It’s been quiet around here. What can I say? Other projects pulled me away from the coop. That’s what happens when you’re a free-range hen. 🙂 The truth is I spent some time over the last couple years starting another blog, and learning the art of blogging. So, yeah, I didn’t return home to the nest very often. That’s about to change.

40 Photos of Me

This year, I’ll be spending more time blogging from my heart. Why? Well, it’s a milestone of a year for me. I’m turning forty this year. Yup, I’ll be standing at the top of that hill soon – precariously teetering between my youth and old age (at least that’s what they say). So, I’ve decided to spend the year trying new things and self-reflecting. Lucky you, I’ve also decided to share the whole thing here.

So, what’s in store this year? Lots. Probably more than I’ll be able to accomplish, but it’s good to set goals – even if they don’t always materialize when or how you envisioned. One thing I am excited about is attempting to redesign this blog on my own. I’ll be celebrating five years of blogging under the Black Chicken moniker this February, and I think it’s time to jazz up the site. My amazing husband has donated so much of his time and talents to me over the years, and I know he loves doing it, but it’s time for him to do more things for himself – and for me to do more things for myself. So, I’m going to give it a go.

I also plan on trying a whole list of new(ish) things this year – a list of forty things, in fact. No, this isn’t a bucket list. It’s just a list of stuff I’ve wanted to do (again) – or thought about doing (again), but I’ve never gotten around to doing (again). That’s it. It’s a pretty simple list. Some might even say it’s underwhelming. What can I say except that I’m a bit of a realist, and have many roles in my life that tend to derail my best intentions. I couldn’t make a grand list to accomplish this year, because I know that just wouldn’t happen with all the other stuff I have going on in my life. So, I made this list of random stuff that came to my mind over the last few days – stuff I’ve always thought, “Yeah, I’d like to do that someday” or “I really should finally do that” or “I’d like to do that, just to say I’d done it”. So, I made a list – a rather underwhelming list, but a list nonetheless.

In case you are wondering, yes, I’ll be telling you all about my experiences trying to accomplish all this stuff. The fun part is that it’s going to reconnect me to my roots and get me exploring my community more. I’m really looking forward to that. I returned to Belleville two years ago now, and I feel there is still so much I have to discover about the place I call home again. If you’re part of the Bay of Quinte community, you’ll want to stick around because I’ll be spending a lot of time exploring where I grew up and visiting old acquaintances who are doing some amazing things for Quinte and the County (that’s Prince Edward County for all you non-locals). So, that’s the plan. Wish me luck (I’m probably going to need it).

You might be surprised by some of these things, and you may be asking ‘why’? Of course, you’ll have to tune into future posts for the whole story.

Forty Things To Do This Year (Abridged Version):

  1. Paint a self-portrait.
  2. Visit a mosque.
  3. Attend a yoga class.
  4. Walk the Bay Bridge.
  5. Befriend a horse.
  6. Ride a horse.
  7. Go ‘mudding’.
  8. Fire a gun.
  9. Become pen pals with a senior.
  10. Become pen pals with a kid.
  11. Try sushi (again).
  12. Catch a big fish.
  13. Ask Facebook friends and fans to recommend books I should read; pick forty and read them.
  14. Attempt to get an A-list celebrity to wish me happy birthday and give me advice.
  15. Get a tattoo (???)
  16. Record a song with my husband.
  17. Go cross-country skiing.
  18. Go rock wall climbing.
  19. Go splunking.
  20. Play a round of golf (real golf, not mini golf).
  21. Learn how to say and write: ‘hello’ ‘good-bye’ ‘thank-you’ ‘please’ and ‘friend’ in forty different languages.
  22. Attend a live slam poetry night.
  23. Take a photo at the top of the Bay Bridge.
  24. Get my hearing tested.
  25. Track down an old friend’s address and send them a letter.
  26. Attend some local arts shows.
  27. Attend Sunday Jam.
  28. Invite a group of my former junior high school classmates out for drinks.
  29. Attend a country music concert.
  30. Attend a dance performance.
  31. Burn my diaries.
  32. Record a spoken word jam with the Kid.
  33. Take the telescope outside the city for an evening of stargazing.
  34. Take dance lessons.
  35. Visit museums in my hometown.
  36. Enroll in a creative writing course.
  37. Pay respect to deceased family and friends.
  38. Grow an amazing bell pepper plant.
  39. Have tea with my Gramma more often.
  40. Live mindfully every day.

M. xo

Categories: Personal Tags:

I am weary… and angry. But I’m not done yet.

November 22nd, 2015 No comments

I am weary… and sad. Weary because my mind is heavy with sadness. The inhumanity I’ve seen people – strangers, friends, family – express these days is heart-breaking.  Here’s the thing: my heartbreak is turning into downright anger these days. Anger that so many people speculate, postulate, and confabulate. The Internet truly is the Wild West these days – absolutely no pun intended.

Now I know that anger is not productive and it’s the product of frustration. And I totally get why my anger is increasing given the onslaught of inhumane assholes with armchair degrees in International Politics and Counter-Terrorism populating my social newsfeeds lately. It’s partly my fault too, though. I brought this on myself. If I’d just kept quiet, I could have just kept on scrolling past those posts, but no, I just had to pause and engage.

Talk_Politics_Save_MoneyI thought it was my responsibility to pause and converse with strangers, friends, and family who are scared and confused about the state of world affairs these days. I thought that because I had unique insight into these issues that maybe that knowledge might be help in calming those fears and confusion.

Instead of listening to reasoned arguments concerning religious violence – from a scholar of religion – these newly indoctrinated armchair experts relied on the ever-trustworthy mainstream media for their facts. Surely, some of you can see the issue with this.

Now I won’t reiterate the many arguments I have made over the last week. You can find those on my personal Facebook page, where I publicly engage in issues that are important to me.

The Internet provides us with vast amounts of information – some of it good, and some of it bad. The problem becomes when people continually share information that is just factually incorrect. It’s hard to counter sensationalist posts on social media. Particularly when people have a habit of indiscriminately sharing.  The other issue is that most people who could contribute to an online discussion in a meaningful way – don’t. I get it. People just don’t like making waves in their social circles.

imagesInstead, we end up with newsfeeds populated with sensationalist headlines, and poorly executed and factually-incorrect memes (because, hey, cute kitteh says no to refugees). And suddenly, people you’d never expect, have become bigoted jerks who have turned off their bullshit filters.

So, here I am. Weary and simmering with anger at so many of you. Yes, you. The ones who speculate, postulate, and confabulate. Some days I don’t think you’re worth my time (like today), but then I realize that these issues are far greater than just one armchair philosopher asshole. And then I feel sorry for all you assholes. I pity you because you have so much anger and fear in your heart that you can’t even think straight. I almost let you get to me. People with far less convictions than I surely turn to your dark side with less resistance. I won’t let you do that to me though. Instead I will shed a tear for you because you lost your humanity.

images (1)

I am weary… and angry. But I’m not done yet.


Categories: Society and Culture Tags:

Meet the Unfundamentalist Christians

May 4th, 2015 No comments

Awhile back, I published a post entitled, It’s Time We Take Back The Internet. It was a post about encouraging people to share more good news and positivity online. Its intent was to champion a new era of Internet content, one that drowns out the negativity and hate that is so pervasive online, particularly in the comment sections of many top social media networks.

Image courtesy of Unfundamentalist Christians via Facebook

Image courtesy of Unfundamentalist Christians via Facebook

It’s no surprise that I actively seek out online religious groups who promote acceptance, tolerance, and inter-faith dialogue. It is something I am deeply passionate about, despite the fact that I self-identify as non-religious. I just believe simply: to each their own. I also believe that it makes us a much more interesting species when we — you know — aren’t all the same.  So, I was delighted when I was introduced to Unfundamentalist Christians through one of their popular social media channels, Facebook. They were a very refreshing Christian group who seemed to be very open, progressive, and downright good. It didn’t take long for them to become one of my favourite Facebook pages. Yes, they do share a lot of Christian-centric messages, but these message resonate with anyone who cares about love and equality. They share not only thought-provoking messages, but also cleverly funny ones too. They aren’t afraid to challenge the ideas they oppose, and sometimes they do so with a little sarcastic humour.  The good folks over at Unfundamentalist Christians are awesome and a refreshing change from some of the more negative chatter online emanating from some religious (and to be fair, some irreligious) communities.

What makes them so awesome in my opinion? They are open, inclusive, and, I would argue, free-thinking Christians. Indeed, they are Christians that I believe are truly living the word of Christ through their actions and beliefs. They champion causes for the marginalized in our communities, and are very vocal about extending love and equality to all human beings. It’s not uncommon to see posts challenging fundamental religious ideas about LGBT rights, women’s rights, economic disadvantage and various other social issues. Indeed, this group of Christians has a fan-base comprising many secular, non-religious folks and people from other faiths.

Image courtesy of Unfundamentalist Christians via Facebook.

Image courtesy of Unfundamentalist Christians via Facebook.

I’ve really enjoyed interacting with this group on social media over that last year, and since I’m keen to flood the Internet with as much goodness and positivity as I can, I thought I’d reach out to this awesome group of religious folks to see if they might allow a spunky agnostic religion blogger (me!) to interview them.

It was no surprise that I received a quick and friendly response from the team at UC, but what did surprise me was that the founder, John Shore, replied to me personally. How cool is that? It just goes to show how down-to-earth these folks are. John connected me with, Dan Wilkinson who was kind enough to let me send him a list of questions to answer. Who better to tell you about their work and who they are then Unfundamentalist Christians, themselves?  Be sure to pay them a visit over at their blog and Facebook page.

I also highly recommend taking some time to read their “What we Believe” document. It is, in my opinion, awesome. It challenges some long held ideas about the faith that are poignantly relevant to people’s all over the world. It is refreshing. We need more good guys on the Internet, and these are some of them. Meet the Unfundamentalist Christians:

  1. What is your role with Unfundamentalist Christians?

Technically my title is Design Director and Managing Editor, but I do pretty much anything that needs doing to keep UC running smoothly, from making memes for the UC Facebook page, to moderating comments on the UC blog, to writing blog posts. We also have a great administrative team who help in myriad ways–especially our Social Media Director, Christy Caine, who basically runs the FB page. And our founder and intrepid leader, John Shore, keeps the ship sailing in the right direction.

  1. What led you to become involved with Unfundamentalist Christians?

Around the beginning of 2012 I ran across a mini-manifesto written by John Shore that outlined a set of beliefs about Christianity. They’re now posted on the What We Believe page on our blog. While I was in generally agreement with most of those tenets, it was the first one, regarding the divinity, death and resurrection of Christ that, to me, set these beliefs apart from a standard progressive/liberal approach to Christianity and convinced me that this was a group I wanted to be part of.

  1. Who are your members/audience?

Anyone one who appreciates a Christianity that is more about love, grace and acceptance rather than hate, judgement and exclusion.

  1. Is Unfundamentalist Christians a church or not-for-profit?

Neither. We’re simply a group of like-minded people who more-or-less agree on a set of tenets about Christianity (and we don’t even agree on all of those!)

  1. What kind of work/activism does Unfundamentalist Christians engage in?

We’re not an activist organization — we don’t lobby politicians or mobilize our followers to boycott businesses. Occasionally we’ll promote a cause we like: for example, we have a Kiva Lending Team. We also devoted a great deal of effort to the Not All Like That Christians Project, which involves videos of Christians proclaiming their belief in full LGBT equality. But, more than any single project, we simply seek to encourage and inform, and hopefully have a little fun along the way.

  1. I became acquainted with Unfundamentalist Christians through Facebook. I’ve noticed that there are many non-Christians and non-religious fans of the page. Why do you think Unfundamentalist Christians appeals to these groups?

We do have many non-Christians who are involved with us. I think it’s because they recognize that what we’re doing isn’t about building walls with religion, it’s about love and tolerance. Though we profess some explicitly Christian beliefs, we welcome anyone of any faith (or lack thereof) to participate with us in any way they feel comfortable.

  1. Do you ever encounter negativity and criticism about your beliefs and how do you generally respond?

Regularly! A day doesn’t go by when we don’t receive some sort of message or comment in opposition to what we’re doing. Thoughtful and coherent rebuttals to our positions are few and far between; most of the dissent we get takes the form of long lists of verses from the King James Bible followed by semi-coherent all-caps screeds about how we’re all destined to burn in Hell for being false teachers.

How to respond? If it seems like there’s room for productive dialogue, one of our team members with too much time on their hands will often seek to engender some degree of understanding.

  1. Unfundamentalist Christians appears to speak out regarding many social justice issues. Do you see this as an integral part of Christianity to take up such causes?

I think that, as Christians, we have no greater call than to do our best to address the pain, suffering and injustice in the world around us. We are called to advance the Kingdom of God on Earth and to exhibit Christ’s love to all people.

  1. What do you feel is the single most important issue facing the Christian community? Follow up: What do you feel is the single most important issue facing humanity?

The important issues facing Christians ARE the important issues facing humanity. At the forefront is how to negotiate a world that is both increasingly diverse and increasingly connected. Never before have so many beliefs and so many cultures been so intertwined. How do we remain true [to] our personal beliefs, cultures and traditions while still being part of a diverse global community? How do we learn to live with others whose views may be drastically different than our own? How do we relate our often overwhelming social and economic privilege with a world in which such benefits are in such scarce supply? These are the challenges and explorations that UC really helps us face and process every day.

  1. How can communities of different faiths, and the non-religious community, work together toward tolerance?

We can listen to each other. So much strife is caused be refusing to really listen. Listening doesn’t just mean hearing; it means seeking to understand. It takes patience and humility. And when we truly listen, we often find that we have more in common with one another than we first assumed.

  1. What does the future hold for Unfundamentalist Christians?

I hope we will continue to grow, both in numbers and influence, but honestly, if even one person finds their faith and life enriched by what we’re seeking to do, then it’s been worthwhile. That said, I do think that what John Shore wrote as the tenets of the group–our What We Believe document–is where the future of Christianity lies. I think that’s why the group continues to grow. John was, I believe, the first to articulate a Christianity that keeps Christ and rationally, point by point, jettisons everything in Christianity that is clearly antithetical to the message and purpose of Christ. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call it a groundbreaking document.

  1. How can people contact you or become involved with your work?

The best way to stay in touch with what we’re doing is to Like our Facebook Page, engage in the comments and dialogues that happen on our group blog, share posts from that blog, submit guest posts for it, let your like-minded friends know we’re out here—and write us to say hi every once in a while!=

A special thanks to John, Dan and the entire team over at Unfundamentalist Christians for this interview and for the amazing work they do!

M. xo

Categories: Religion Tags:

Why You Need To Stop Following THAT Facebook Friend

July 9th, 2014 No comments

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 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

Categories: Society and Culture Tags: ,

[VIDEO] Learn About World Religions Via Free Screencasts

June 27th, 2014 No comments

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


#TBT: Cast the Ballot (circa 1994)

June 12th, 2014 No comments

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 —
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

Categories: Personal Tags: ,

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

June 6th, 2014 No comments

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.


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


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


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

June 4th, 2014 No comments

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


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


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

June 3rd, 2014 No comments

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.  


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


Allport, G. (1966). The religious context of prejudice. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 5(3), 447-457. Retrieved from

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

Pew Research Center. (2012b). The global religious landscape. Retrieved from

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.



#TBT: The Great Surprise! (1987)

May 29th, 2014 No comments

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.


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.


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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