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John H. Gillespie

This article examines the main references to the Death of God in Sartre’s work (in ‘Un nouveau mystique’, Cahiers pour une morale, Le Diable et le bon Dieu, and Mallarmé : la lucidité et sa face d’ombre), and examines how his use of the term reveals his understanding of the development and progress of atheism in the modern world, contextualises his belief in the purity and correctness of his own version of atheism, and illustrates the persistence of his focus on God in his writing.

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Afterword

Glimpses of Alternatives—The Uma Lulik of East Timor

David Hicks

A ritual artifact found throughout East Timor in the Southeast Asian Archipelago is a sacred house, ritual house, or cult house, known locally as the uma lulik. This artifact illuminates certain of the different perspectives on the term 'belief' offered by a number of contributors to this issue. By identifying four categories of Timorese 'believer' and 'nonbeliever', the present article attempts to support recent findings in the field of material culture that suggest artifacts may not be passive recipients of values invested in them by their creators. Instead, they might be more usefully regarded as objects engaged in continuous, dialectic interconnections with the human beings whom they serve.

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African and Afrikaner 'ways of knowing'

Truth and the problems of superstition and 'blood knowledge'

Kai Horsthemke

The approbation, in the last few decades, of 'African ways of knowing' and, more recently, the critical emphasis on 'knowledge in the blood'—which refers to 'deeply entrenched' and 'received knowledge', notably of (white) Afrikaners—give rise to all kinds of questions and concerns. What makes certain ways of knowing and kinds of knowledge 'African' and 'Afrikaner', respectively? What do these ideas cover and include, and what falls outside their respective ambits? What functions are served by appealing to these notions? Amongst other things, the idea of 'African ways of knowing' constitutes part of a challenge to occidental belief systems, science, education and ethics. Theorists who single out certain ways of knowing as distinctly and uniquely 'African' or characteristically 'Afrikaner', respectively, not only emphasise their significance in post-colonialist and antiracist discourse but also maintain that the study of these is of profound relevance to educational and socio-political transformation. In this paper, I examine the notions in question, by seeking to understand how those who employ them might see them as plausible, before referring them to a particular epistemological framework. Problems that need to be addressed include relativism about knowledge and truth, as well as elevation of all kinds of beliefs—notably superstitions and racial prejudices—to the status of knowledge, for any real and sustainable transformation to occur.

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Awraham Soetendorp

This article details some memories of early encounters with Lionel Blue, which impacted my life. They include a 1957 visit by Lionel to Amsterdam, to consult my father Jacob who was Rabbi of the Progressive Jewish community there. Lionel, the first student at the just-established Leo Baeck College, had serious doubts about continuing his studies. The visit not only helped Lionel to stay at the college, but also set me on my path to the Rabbinate. How Lionel resolved my vehement opposition to having the first post-war Jewish youth conference in Berlin, through his startling invitation to become its chair, which paved the long road towards reconciliation. His ability to discover hidden talents in others, as exemplified by his sudden invitation to me to say the closing prayers at a fundraising meeting fully unprepared. How we arrived at a compromise theme, 'Belief and Action', for the Youth Section conference at Keele University.

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Social Protest and Its Discontents

A System Justification Perspective

Vivienne Badaan, John T. Jost, Danny Osborne, Chris G. Sibley, Joaquín Ungaretti, Edgardo Etchezahar and Erin P. Hennes

Psychological factors that encourage—as well as discourage— participation in social protest are often overlooked in the social sciences. In this article, we draw together recent contributions to the understanding of the social and psychological bases of political action and inaction from the perspective of system justification theory. This perspective, which builds on theory and research on the “belief in a just world,” contends that—because of underlying epistemic, existential, and relational needs to reduce uncertainty, threat, and social discord—people are motivated (to varying degrees, as a function of personality and context) to defend, bolster, and justify the legitimacy of the social, political, and economic systems on which they depend. We review evidence that, alongside political conservatism and religiosity, system justification helps to explain resistance and acquiescence to the status quo in sociopolitical contexts as diverse as Lebanon, New Zealand, Argentina, and the United States.

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Samuel Awuah-Nyamekye

The rate of depletion of plants and animal species in Ghana has assumed an alarming dimension, and the government is finding it difficult to control the process. Several factors account for this. A major one is the neglect of the traditional ecological knowledge prevalent in the culture of Ghana. Sasa is the Akan word for the spirit believed to be found in some plants and animals. This paper examines the role of sasa in flora and fauna conservation in Ghana. Traditional Ghanaians have a strong belief that some plants and animals have special spirits, which when cut (as in the case with plants) or killed (animals) can bring serious harm to the person. Thus, such plants and animals are not eliminated. This paper argues that sasa as an Akan indigenous conservation tool can complement the modern means of nature conservation in Ghana.

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Faith beyond Belief

Evangelical Protestant Conceptions of Faith and the Resonance of Anti-humanism

Omri Elisha

This article explores the cultural significance of faith among US evangelical Protestants. It is argued that evangelical conceptions of faith provide an idiom for expressing religiosity that transcends conventional notions of belief, which alone do not account for the ideals of evangelical subjectivity. Through an analysis of group rituals in a Tennessee megachurch, along with a discussion of the historical roots of evangelical theology and the growing influence of charismatic Christianity, the article highlights an emphasis on radical intersubjectivity that calls upon the faithful to submit to the totalizing authority of divine agency. It is further argued that evangelical conceptions of faith feature a strand of anti-humanism that resonates with the increasingly authoritarian politics of the post-welfare era, which are explored in relation to the growing phenomenon of altruistic faith-based activism.

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Aestheticised Rituals and (Non-)Engagement with Norms in Contemporary Turkey

A Contribution to Discussions on Piety and Ethics

Erol Saglam

Drawing on an ethnographic research in some rural communities of Trabzon, Turkey, this article provides insights about the diversity of Islamic pieties and their relations to religious norms. An exploration of everyday Islamic practices in the area demonstrates how piety can take peculiar forms within which norms are both publicly and socially upheld and yet also hollowed out. Among Muslim men of ‘the Valley’ in Trabzon, piety emerges as an aggregate of reiterative practices exterior to the pious self. Highlighting the aestheticised and ritualised state of these engagements with Islam in the Turkish context allows discussion of the relationships among practices of piety, pious subjectivities, and ethics.

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Experience beyond Belief

The 'Strangeness Curve' and Integral Transformative Practice

Mira Z. Amiras

This article explores the experimental work of Michael Murphy, co-founder of the Esalen Institute, and George Leonard, who is on the Board of Directors of Esalen. Leonard was the first to coin the term 'human potential movement', using it to describe the work that Esalen promoted beginning in the 1960s. In the 1990s, Murphy and Leonard devised an experiment in what they called Integral Transformative Practice (ITP): methods of achieving the extraordinary through meticulous body/mind practices not tied to a specific spiritual path. A key question raised by participants during the experiment was whether it was necessary to believe in order to achieve. This article explores what did and did not correlate to 'success' both within the original experiment and in the past 10 years of subsequent experimentation.

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Around Abby Day’s Believing in Belonging

Belief and Social Identity in the Modern World

Christopher R. Cotter, Grace Davie, James A. Beckford, Saliha Chattoo, Mia Lövheim, Manuel A. Vásquez and Abby Day

I first had the pleasure of meeting the force of nature that is Abby Day back in 2010 at the Non-religion and Secularity Research Network’s “Qualitative Methods Workshop” at the University of Cambridge (Cotter 2011). Back then I was working toward my Master’s degree in Religious Studies and had little idea that in the coming years we would end up co-editing a book with Giselle Vincett (Day et al. 2013) or that I would find myself reviewing Believing in Belonging (see Cotter 2013) and collaborating on projects such as the one appearing in this journal. Given that the essays that follow this editorial introduction—from Grace Davie, James A. Beckford, Saliha Chattoo, Mia Lövheim, Manuel A. Vásquez, and Abby Day herself—engage extensively and thought-provokingly with Abby’s work, I am going to restrict my comments to two brief points. The first concerns the connections that I can see between Believing in Belonging and the growing body of research into ‘non-religion’. The second includes some reflections on the place of Abby’s work in the critical academic study of ‘religion’ more broadly.