Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

[VIDEO] Learn About World Religions Via Free Screencasts

June 27th, 2014 No comments
Share

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

Share

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

June 6th, 2014 No comments
Share

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

Share

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

June 4th, 2014 No comments
Share

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

Share

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

June 3rd, 2014 No comments
Share

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.

 

Share

The National Church of Bey: Official Commercial and Indiegogo Campaign

May 28th, 2014 No comments
Share

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

 

Share

The Five Aggregates: Buddhism and the Human Personality

May 14th, 2014 No comments
Share

The Five Aggregates (khandhas)

According to Buddhist thought, in particular the Theravāda tradition, the human personality is composed of five aggregates (khandhas).  These constituents are often referred to as, ‘The five aggregates of clinging’.  The five aggregates, in addition to the chain of dependent origination (paṭiccasamuppāda), are believed to play an integral role in the formation of suffering (dukkha) or ‘clinging to the wheel of suffering’.  The existence of suffering is known as the first of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.  Attachment or clinging to any of the khandhas continues the wheel of suffering, through the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth (saṃsāra).  It is the eradication of these attachments and the realization of the self as impermanent that leads an individual to the path of eliminating dukkha.  Although no formal definition of the aggregates is found in Buddhist literature, they can be rudimentarily defined as: matter (rūpa); feeling (vedanā); perception (saññā); volition (saṅkhāra); consciousness (viññāna).

Rūpa-khandha

Defined as matter and form, rūpa is comprised of four primary elements: earth, water, fire and air.  In the context of the human being, these elements are linked to various physiological processes that reflect the nature of these forces.  The earth element emulates bodily elements which are solid such as teeth, nails and bone.  This element supports the others, much like the earth itself supports the various forms that inhabit its sphere.  Liquid bodily constituents such as blood and saliva are represented by the water element, which is further characterized for its liquidity and binding nature.  The heat produced to process foods is represented by the fire element and is indicative of the quality of temperature.  The last of the primary elements, air, is attributed to motion and mobility.  This element is represented in biological functions such as the various abdominal gases.  These four elements are interdependent – each relying on the existence of the others.  Further, they are believed to exist in equal quantities, yet varying intensities in all matter.  Rūpa is the only physical or material aggregate, while the remaining four are more aptly described as cognitive.  The realization of the impermanence of matter, including the physical self, is integral toward eradicating dukkha.

Vedanā-khandha

Vedanā, described as feeling, sensation or emotion, is typically categorized as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.  The experience or perception of vedanā occurs through the six sense organs.  Five of these sense organs are physical, including: eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body, while the sixth, mind, falls into the mental realm.  Despite vedanā being primarily based on the physical senses of the body, there is an integral mental aspect comprising them as well.  The eradication of vedanā, particularly craving arising from pleasurable sensations, is an important aspect for the annihilation of dukkha.  Emotions are a fundamental aspect of being human; however, it is the assessment, attachment and proliferation of these emotions that lead an individual toward a path of unhappiness or a path of the eradication of suffering.  While vedanā is an aspect of craving that leads to unsatisfactory states, it can also be attributed to states that are more wholesome and conducive toward annihilating dukkha.  This is primarily achieved by one who has mastered acknowledging and then ‘letting go’ of vedanā.  While vedanā can lead to detrimental states, such as craving, it is not the only contributory factor to these states.

Saññā-khandha

Craving can also arise from certain conditions of saññā, which is typically defined as perception; however, more accurately thought of as recognition.  Similar to vedanā, saññā is categorized by six sense areas: visual form, sound, smell, taste, touch, and mental form.  It is also further classified as wholesome, unwholesome or neutral.  Saññā is responsible for how an individual perceives feelings (vedanā), and may have both positive and negative effects on the eradication of dukkha.  Wholesome saññā leads to the recognition of the nature of certain liberating characteristics of existence, such as impermanence, selflessness, and pain.  In contrast, unwholesome saññā leads to the interpretation of reality that is not favourable toward liberation and the eradication of dukkha.  It is the propagation and attachment to obsessions that hinder spiritual progress.  In order for spiritual progression to occur, an individual must recognize notions of the permanent self as merely obstacles on the path of enlightenment where one recognizes the true nature of reality as impermanent and without self or ‘selfless’.

Saṅkhāra-khandha

The fourth aggregate, saṅkhāra, is the most difficult of which to formulate a concrete definition.  It is often associated with volition, will and disposition.  Saṅkhāra is also viewed as all conditioned phenomena encompassed within the entire universe.  Philosophically, this can be thought of as all things that cause and are caused.  The concept of karma (kamma) is also connected to saṅkhāra as seen through the association of volition viewed as any action which produces a result.  Saṅkhāra falls under the realm of mental formations that have an imminent influence on an individual’s situation.  There are 52 mental elements that constitute saṅkhāra and these can be further categorized as positive, negative or neutral.  The kind of saṅkhāra results from its interaction with the other aggregates and the subsequent influence this has on an individual’s kamma.  Particularly, this cognitive phenomenon plays an important role in the formation of the final aggregate; however, the interdependent nature of all five aggregates must be recognized as a fundamental aspect in binding an individual to dukkha.

Viññāṇa-khandha

The fifth and final aggregate, viññāṇa, is most often translated as consciousness; however, it is as difficult to define as saṅkhāra.  As with previous aggregates, viññāṇa can be divided into six categories of sense.  These six kinds of consciousness are visual (eyes and material forms), auditory (ears and sounds), olfactory (nose and smells), gustatory (tongue and tastes), corporeal (body and touching), mental (mind and cognitive states).  Viññāṇa is seen as displaying or manifesting the characteristics of the other four aggregates, that is all conditioned phenomenon.  These inseparable components arise together and create the formation of an abstract, intangible mental representation of the self.    It is the realization of the impermanent nature of the self that leads to the eradication of dukkha.

These five khandas are integral to the theory of dependent origination (paṭiccasamuppāda).  The relationship of each of these aggregates to each other, and to paṭiccasamuppāda, speaks to the conditioned causal nature of all things.  It is the conditioned arising of form, feeling, sensation, mental formation and consciousness that lead to ignorance, craving and clinging which bind an individual to the wheel of suffering.  As such, an individual will continue to experience dukkha through rebirth (saṃsāra).  Through meditation practices an individual may realize all that causes is caused, and the impermanent nature of reality and the self.  It is here where one finds enlightenment and freedom from the wheel of saṃsāra.  This freedom leads to the state of nirvana (nibbāna) which is the highest attainment of the Buddhist practitioner – namely, the transcendence of mind and matter.

M. xo

Further Readings:

Bodhi, Bhikku. (1976). Aggregates and Clinging Aggregates.  Pali Buddhist Review 1(2), 91-102, accessed March 14, 2012, http://www.ukabs.org.uk/ukabs/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/PBR-1.2-1976.pdf.

This article provides an explanation of the meaning of “clinging aggregates” as a whole concept, rather than breaking the aggregates down into their separate parts.  It further illustrates the relationship of the aggregates to the concept of dukkha.  Beginners will find this article difficult without established knowledge of the meaning of each of the aggregates.

Boisvert, Mathieu. (1995). The Five Aggregates: Understanding Theravada Psychology and Soteriology.

Boisvert provides a comprehensive overview of each of the aggregates and their relationship to the theory of dependent origination.  Overviews of many arguments and translations assist in understanding the complex nature of translating the ancient texts.  For beginners this book would be the most useful for providing more in-depth knowledge on the subject, particularly within the Theravāda tradition.

De Silva, Padmasiri. (2005). An Introduction to Buddhist Psychology, 4th Edition.

This easy-to-read book provides an overview of general concepts in Buddhism that relate to general psychological models.  Beginners will find this book as a straight-forward introduction to many Buddhist concepts that intersect with psychology, including discussion of the five aggregates.

Kalupahana, David J. (1987).  The Principles of Buddhist Psychology.

This complex and comprehensive book provides a comparison of Buddhist thought and psychological concepts.  A chapter entitled, “The Buddha’s Conception of Personhood” provides a discussion on each of the aggregates.  A good book for beginners who are interested in gaining knowledge of the aggregates and many other concepts of the notion of self and the mind in Buddhist thought.

Share
Categories: Psychology Tags: , ,

The 32 Marks of the Buddha

May 12th, 2014 No comments
Share

Have you ever noticed the many variations of Buddhas depicted in different pieces of artwork? Some of these differences can be attributed to tradition or cultural influences, while others are simply artistic liberty. Many artistic renditions  incorporate primary ‘Buddha’ traits described in the Pali Canon. Some Buddhist streams of thought believe another 80 secondary characteristics also exist. The 32 marks of the Buddha, also known as “The 32 Marks of a Great Man,” are physical characteristics believed to have been endowed by the Buddha.

What are the 32 marks of the Buddha and how have some of them been represented in artwork? 

THE 32 MARKS OF A GREAT MAN (OR THE BUDDHA):

  1. The soles of his feet are level.
  2. The soles of his feet (and palms of his hands) display discus or wheel patterns.
  3. His fingers are long and slender.
  4. His hands and feet are soft.
  5. He has finely netted (or webbed) hands and feet.
  6. He has projecting heels…
  7. … and arched insteps…
  8. … and thighs like a royal stag or antelope.
  9. When standing, the palms of his hands reach his knees
  10. His sexual organ is well-retracted/concealed (usually in a sheath).
  11. His body height equals that of his arm span.
  12. Every strand of hair grows from a single pore…
  13. and turns upward to the right forming small curls that never grey.
  14. His skin shimmers like gold…
  15. … and there is an subtle aura radiating from his skin so that dust and dirt never cling.
  16. His skin is soft and smooth.
  17. The soles, palms, shoulders, and crown of his head are well-rounded.
  18. The area below his armpits is well-filled or there is no hollow space between his shoulders.
  19. He has the body of a lion.
  20. He stands erect and upright…
  21. … with full, round shoulders.
  22. His forty teeth…
  23. …are white and spaced evenly .
  24. He has four pure white canine teeth…
  25. … and a jaw like a lion.
  26. His saliva improves the taste of all food he eats.
  27. His tongue is long and broad…
  28. … and his voice deep and resonant.
  29. He has eyes that are deep blue…
  30. … and eyelashes like a royal bull.
  31. ūrṇā curl releases light between his eyebrows.
  32. He has a fleshy protuberance on the crown of the head.

M. xo

Share
Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

Why Does Jesus Appear in Cheese? [VIDEO]

May 7th, 2014 No comments
Share

Cheesus. You may have heard of him. It’s the ‘cheesy’ name given for savior sightings à la fromage.  It’s not just cheese that Jesus is appearing in either. He’s making the rounds in baked goods, crumpled clothing, rocks, trees, and even ultrasounds.  The video compilation below shows just how much he gets around.  Sure, some of them display what appears to be a classic Jesus silhouette.  Others, well, you be the judge:

Sightings of Jesus is apparently not all that unsual.  More specifically, seeing images of famous mugs in common objects (known as face pareidolia) is a normal psychological function. Of course, how one interprets those images is entirely another matter. This phenomenon can be caused by our brain trying to interpret incomplete visual input. Our brains attempt to fill in missing bits with familiar images. Someone’s experiences and expectations will also pay a role in determining whether it’s Jesus, Mary, Beyonce, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster who appears.

For more information on face pareidolia research being conducted at the University of Toronto, check out this article.

M. xo

Share
Categories: Psychology Tags: ,

Pro Sports and Religion

May 6th, 2014 No comments
Share

I admit to being rather ignorant when it comes to the world of professional sports.  Unlike the millions of die-hard fans out there, any kind of engagement in professional sports for me is little more than a novelty.  So, it’s little wonder that I have minimal knowledge about the ways in which professional sports franchises address the issue of religion.

Some might ask, what has religion got to do with sports?  Well, apparently a lot more than just the shout-outs to God imparted on the podium.  A recent article in USA Today examines how religion unites and divides teams in the NBA.  One particularly revealing bit of information (for me, at least) was the mention of pregame chapel rooms which are provided at every NBA arena.  It’s a room where players can come together for a bit of pregame spiritual inspiration.

The sport of football even has its own ‘faith and football’ movement that boasts such events as family-oriented concerts and Super Bowl Gospel celebrations.  Of course, if you’re familiar with American football and the fierce loyalty of its fandom, then it probably isn’t all that surprising that faith (another area of fierce devotion for some Americans) and football seem to coalesce. Heck, there’s even been entire books written about the subject.

Early on in this blog, I wrote a piece called, ” Fore… the love of G-d,” that discussed sports as a metaphor for religion.  Whether mere metaphor, or real-life circumstance, the domain of sports and the realm of religion are more akin than one might imagine.

Check out the Youtube playlist below, dubbed:  Athletes Playing for God.  It’s a compilation of athletes speaking about faith – and what it means for the world of sports.

M. xo

Looking for more game day inspiration?  Check out these offerings:


 

Share
Categories: Religion Tags: ,

The National Church of Bey (That’s Beyonce, For the Unindoctrinated)

May 4th, 2014 No comments
Share

Whether serious or satire, this is certainly a curious piece of news circulating the religion feeds. It also highlights the complexities of defining religion (and perhaps, how not-for-profit religious organizations are granted such status).

Sometime last year, a group of about a dozen Beyonce Knowles fans in Atlanta (GA) formed a church dedicated to Her worship. Practicing what adherents dub, ‘Beyism,’ worshippers meet weekly; sing Her songs; seek spiritual meaning from Her lyrics; and generally worship Her (purportedly also seeking out transcendent assistance with the use of certain herbal aids, cleverly named: ‘Beyha’).

The Church is led by self-titled ‘Minister Diva,’ Pauline John Andrews and is reportedly a registered non-profit organization. A note posted to The National Church of Bey website last month responded to public criticism:

“We are very disappointed in the failure of the public to recognize the existence of a divine Deity walking among them. Deity’s often walk the Earth in their flesh form. Beyonce will transcend back to the spirit once her work here on Mother Earth has been completed.”

The statement goes on to address some misconceptions about the beliefs of ‘Beyists':

“As our congregation continues to swell, we ask that you consider what is more real; an invisible spirit on high, or a walking, talking, breathing Goddess who shows you her true form daily. Beyonce’s spirit is entrancing. We know that she was sent to this place to spread love, peace, and joy. While we do not believe Beyonce to be the Creator, we recognize that she still sits among the throne of Gods. There is a lot of false information being spread about our beliefs, but we will correct all of the vicious lie-tellers. As Beyonce spreads her gospel through song and dance, her message provides uplifting, loving, and many times real-life happenings. We humbly ask you to respect our beliefs, just as you want those to respect yours. Open your mind to new possibilities and you will see, just as we did, that Bey is a true higher power.”

Despite the limited amount of information available on the website regarding the Church’s beliefs, a recent posting suggests that Her divine word will be made available to the public shortly. The Church is organizing the production of a ‘Beyble’ (get it?).

One final note, it’s important to point out that Beyonce Knowles herself has not endorsed this newly minted Church. She may not even be aware of its existence. That doesn’t dissuade Church members from hoping that Queen ‘Bey’ herself might someday preach at one of their sermons.

Want more information on The National Church of Bey?  Check out their website and view their promotional video below.

M. xo

P.S. Please note, that I took liberties in capitalizing the word ‘Her’ when referencing the divine.

P.P.S. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the ‘Beyble’ for sale online.  If you’re looking for other ‘Bey’ inspired items, check out:

 

 

Share