Thursday, April 27, 2006

Return of the Religi

Hello all once again. Now that school's done for the summer and I haven't started working days yet, I have nothing better to do in the hours between 10pm and 4pm than clean my suite and prepare for the move. To take a break from the monotony of cleanliness, I've decided to post the last installment of my apology. I see no comments as of yet, though I'm hardly surprised as it is quite long and perhaps a little boring. At any rate, in the interest of completion, here's the final chapter:

Joining and Finishing

The interaction between the business world and religions brings me to the second major area of interest for me within Religious Studies. As I have examined religions over the course of my studies both here at the University of Alberta and even while at the University of Saskatchewan I have been struck by the ways in which different religions, often with radically different conceptions of the world, incorporate aspects of each other in to their own systems of practice. What, at this point at least, seems to be a syncretic tendency inherent in most (if not all) religions of the world has both perplexed and fascinated me in my studies.

Unlike the relationship between business and religion (and vice versa), even at this early point in my career I have done some research into syncreticism ‘on the ground’ as it were. As I researched the interaction between Jesuit missionaries in New France in the 16th and 17th centuries and the aboriginal people they encountered, I was surprised at the extent to which the Jesuit missionaries were willing to incorporate Aboriginal religious ideas in to their Christian discourse. This may be one are where I would like to consider further research as well.

My interest in religious syncreticism has also been shaped by early experiences, though not in the same way as my interest in the Economics of Religion. While I in my ‘Apologetic’ phase, one of the books I found very interesting was entitled Eternity in Their Hearts[1]. This missiological work, authored by one Don Richardson, exhorts Christians to seek out aspects of other cultures that are similar to Christianity in order to more effectively convert them to Christianity. Where I once read this book for guidance as a person of faith, as I approach it with the new eyes of a scholar, it has become another artefact of religious experience to be analysed, interpreted, and discussed. As an example of syncreticism at work in the ‘Modern’ world, Richardson’s work is worthy of serious consideration.

As I seek to examine the nature of religious syncreticism, as well as the nature of religion and religious practices as a whole, an understanding of the theories at work within discourses in Religious Studies will have a tremendous impact on my work. As I mentioned earlier, McCutcheon’s criticism of discourses within religious studies will be a powerful ally, particularly as I venture into areas that may not previously been considered to be within the purview of Religious Studies. The freedom gained from rejecting a sui-generis character of religion will allow me to explore these areas in great depth.

In addition to the freedom granted by McCutcheon’s work, I believe I will find Daniel Gold’s work, Aesthetics and Analysis in Writing on Religion, to be particularly helpful in my scholarly endeavours. In particular, his commentary on, “The Religiohistorical Sublime” will, I think, guide me in my studies. Where I am tempted to pursue above all else the arid, reasoned, ‘objective’ aspect of research into religions, Gold’s commentary points towards the necessity for imagination in scholarship, in order to achieve deeper levels of understanding. Likewise, where imagination takes over and runs wild, the brake of reason applied to imaginative discourse allows for a more balanced and appropriate analysis of religion.

Where in the earliest, most foundational stages of my interest in religion my thinking could be described as Fides Quarens Intellectum, currently, I believe that the motto of the University of Alberta is much more appropriate: Quaecumque Vera, “Whatsoever things are true.” Though this may seem like empty sentimentalism, as we learned from Magnolia, “nothing happens by accident.”

I have here presented the two major areas of my interest in Religious Studies, but I am far from set in my ways. With many more years of study ahead of me, in all likelihood, my interests in the study of religion will change. What will not change is my desire to seek truth in all things, wherever it may be found. Though some may not believe it to exist, it is my contention that truth can be found and I wish to be a part of its discovery.

[1] Don Richardson. Eternity in Their Hearts. (Ventura, California: Regal Books, 1981).

Friday, April 21, 2006

Second Apology

As I'm sure you're all waiting anxiously for the second installment of my paper, I now give you part II

What Business is Religion?

While I would like to think that as an enlightened scholar I can be completely rational and objective about my research, I know that I am peculiarly shaped by my past experiences in education and otherwise. Having been thoroughly immersed in the discourses of Economics and Business while working towards my first undergraduate degree, I find that this has profoundly affected the way that I perceive religions and religious phenomena. This brings me to my first are of interest within Religious Studies: the Economics of Religion, especially as it relates to Christianity (or Christianities, if you prefer).

When I studied Commerce at the University of Saskatchewan, I was often struck by the quasi-religious character of the discourse of business. I am inclined to think that if one were to replace the words, “Mission Statement,” with “Confession of Faith” and “Chief Executive Officer” with “High Priest,” one would be hard pressed to distinguish between the practices of many companies and the practices of religions. Indeed, with their corporate anthems[1] and chants, businesses could be said to have a religious character all their own. This, I think, presents a fruitful area of study within Religious Studies, albeit one that is likely not to be terribly popular with other scholars of religion.

In examining religion, I find Russell McCutcheon’s ideas about the nature of scholarly discourses on religion to particularly comforting. If religion, as McCutcheon says, is a construction of scholarly discourse, I think I am perfectly justified in examining the ‘corporate world’ using the techniques of Religious Studies. That is, if there is no sui-generis nature of religion, why can’t business be examined as if it were a religious discourse?

Another aspect of the Economics of Religion which I find interesting is the way that religions often take on aspects of the ‘corporate world’ which they, as part of modern society, are unavoidable immersed. That is, I would like to examine the ways in which organized religion, particularly modern, evangelical Christianity takes something of a commercial approach to what an outsider might think was a purely transcendent phenomenon. Here again I must confess that my interest has been shaped by my experiences within organized religion. Having observed many Christians speak about their faith in terms that wouldn’t be out of place in a boardroom, I have questioned how much modern commerce and modern Christianity have influenced each other.

[1] These do, in fact, exist. For a listing, please see http://insight.zdnet.co.uk/business/0,39020481,2122414,00.htm

Well, that's the end of Part II, coming soon, the final installment

i love and hate the bottle

I love and hate the bottle
typing on autopilot words spill from my fingers
i'm numb and raw and feeling

i'm not me and i am me
but hidden in my stupor

you know who you are
i love you
but why can't it go away?
what does it make me

love you
why me?

tears and hope and pain and love and good

raw nerves tingle and are alive
restraint and love
raw love sets me aflame
i could go on
i'll stop now

Monday, April 17, 2006

My Apology

When they hear that I'm a Religious Studies major, people often ask me things like, "Why religious studies?;" "So are you Catholic?;" and, "So what exactly do you DO in religious studies?" While I often give rather off-the-cuff answers, I think that a more in-depth answer would be more satisfactory. With that in mind, and in order to preclude some of these kinds of questions in favour of provoking deeper discussions, I'm going to post an essay about some of the why's, what's, and how's of my academic interests. I wrote this essay as a final paper for my RELIG 475: Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion seminar, so you aren't going to be the first to readers. In order to keep the length of my posts reasonable, I'm going to post in several parts.

Apology and Interest: Part I

Much of my interest in religious studies stems from the experiences I have had from childhood through my early teen years. My first experience with any sort of religious activity was as a small child attending Sunday school classes and church services with my parents. While in my early teens and throughout the time that I attended secondary school, I engaged in a flirtation with the more fundamentalist and charismatic aspects of Christianity. At this point, my interests in studying religion were limited to examining Christianity apologetically; I wanted to prove the veracity of my chosen religion to others and, perhaps more importantly, to myself.

After entering the University of Saskatchewan as a student in the College of Commerce, I continued to have an interest in studying religion, although still in an apologetic mode. With the goal of personal edification, I took several courses in religious studies as electives while working towards my Bachelor of Commerce degree. Although I did not realize it at the time, in hindsight I have realized that my interest in religion was slowly turning away from understanding religion solely as an insider, to examining the larger phenomena of religions in the world. Even so, I think the motto of the scholastics sums up the early stages of my interest in religious studies quite well, Fides Quaerens Intellectum: Faith seeks understanding.

As I progressed through my studies at the University of Saskatchewan, I found my interest in Business as an object of study to be waning. More and more, I was intrigued by the questions presented to me in my Religious Studies electives: Why are rituals important to people? How is it that the same phenomenon, religion, can motivate both acts of great compassion and acts of great hate?; and so on. I also came to realize the huge effect that religions and religious people have had on the world history. This also greatly increased my interest in studying religion; how could I let such an important phenomenon go unexamined, if only that I might understand the world better?

Having completed my studies at the University of Saskatchewan, I made the decision to commit myself to the full time study of religion, at least for the time that it would take me to earn a second Bachelor’s degree. As such, I applied as was accepted to the program in Religious Studies at the University of Alberta. This brings me to the present in my academic career, having nearly completed the first of 2.5 years studying religion at the University of Alberta. Having only begun seriously studying religion 8 months ago, I am still somewhat in the dark as to where my exact interests in the field lie, though there two major areas which I find to be particularly fascinating.

End Part I

Thanks for reading, I welcome your comments!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The End of The Affair

This morning when I checked my email, I had 93 new messages from the aforementioned Listserv fiasco. While I was hoping it would continue for some days and provide me with more fodder for posts, sadly, the problem seems to have been fixed. I'm sure something will come up again in the next while which will again demonstrate the herd mentality and stupidity of Arts students.

Students At the University of Alberta: 30,000

Students in the Faculty of Arts : 10,000

Number of Students to spark a firestorm of Stupidity: 1

Ability to think logically: Priceless

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Multiplication of Stupidity

I know it's rare that I post twice in any 24 hour period, but this is too good of an opportunity to pass up.

When I first thought about coming to the University of Alberta, I thought that, being one of the premier institutions in Canada, the students here would have a certain amount of intelligence. Unfortunately, it seems that the majority of students in the Faculty of Arts are mentally deficient and that a single moment of stupidity is sufficient to illuminate the stupidity within the faculty. What prompted this mini-rant you ask? Well, the story thus far is as follows:

At the University of Alberta, there has been a listserv group set up so that students in the faculty of Arts can send out announcements to all of the other students in the faculty with announcements and all that sort of thing. At the end of every email which goes out from the listserv, a link is provided for those who wish to unsubscribe from the list. Unfortunately, the email address of the listerv is also provided as the sender of the message and, as such, anyone who replies to a message from the listserv sends a message to everyone on the list (all 10000 of us).

Apparently, what has happened is one dumbass, while trying to unsubscribe from the list, replied to the message he (or she) received rather than clicking on the appropriate link contained in the body of the email. After replying to the email, 10 of the people who received the email attempted to reply back with something along the lines of "Why are you emailing me, I don't know what's going on?" After everyone received their replies, 10 people replied to each of their messages, and so on and so on and so on. As such, one idiot's failure to read an email carefully has resulted in a firestorm of stupidity, and me getting approximately 100 emails within the last hour.

Further highlighting the stupidity of Arts students: instead of simply deleting the emails they recieve, people are replying asking "How do I stop getting these emails?" and thus compounding the problem. One really must wonder how the human race has got this far.

The more intelligent people out there have used the newly discovered technology to send out various messages to the entire arts community. Some highlights include:

From h*******@ualberta.ca:

I am appalled at how an innocent request of asking how to unsubscribe(that was misdirected)has turned into students inviting other students to start sending hate mail. Our tuition pays people to keep us informed of what goes on at University.

Are you really university students or just yo yo's hiding in university because you don't have the interpersonal skills to hold a job in the real world?

I appreciate the university emails I get - even when they don't apply to me. And I would like to continue receiving all of them and continue being the judge of whether they apply to me or not. Even when they don't apply - they inform of all the other aspects of university that go on.

It takes less then 10 seconds to scan and decide whether to keep an email or click the "delete" button. Is that so hard??

From l******@ualberta.ca
Single White Male seeks female of age 18-24 for fun and intelligent conversation, preferably single. Interests include biking, cooking, movies, and classical music. Is good listener and compasionate.

And many just like. Fortunately for computer literate people like me, every email has [arts-students-town-crier] in the subject line, which makes filtering all of these messages into my trash so much simpler.

Well, that's about all from out west for tonight, watch this space for updates on the Firestorm of Studidity.

March Movies

I know I'm a little later than I should be with this post, but what with final papers, exams, and work, I've hardly had time to breath, much less blog in the last while. At any rate, here is my movie journal for March:

March 3

I Want To Live!

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

March 10

Sean of the Dead

The Life Aquatic

Mar. 23

Die Hard: With a Vengeance

Mar. 24

Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale

Mar. 25

Walk The Line

March 31

Everything is Illuminated

That's all for now, but now that I've got more time on my hands, expect more posts in the near future. Also, for the Saskatoon crowd, I'm going to be in town this Thursday until next Monday, so give me a call!


Sunday, April 09, 2006

My How the Mighty have Fallen

Right now, I feel intoxicated from 1 beer. This is terribly unfortunate.