In the News: Conversations, Congratulations, and Collaborations

A round-up of recent religion news. Continue Reading →

In the News: Saints, Slavery, Celibacy, and more!

A round-up of the week’s religion news. Continue Reading →

In the News: Captain America, Serpents, Google’s Gods, and more!

A round-up of recent religion and media stories in the news. Continue Reading →

Making Alevism:Lawfare, Secularism and The Secular

A response to Markus Dressler’s essay, “Making Religion Through Secularist Legal Discourse: The Case of Turkish Alevism”

On a rather chill afternoon in March of 2005, I sat across from Ali Bey, the president of the Cem Foundation, one of the largest civil society institutions dedicated to Turkey’s Alevi community in all of Istanbul. After calling to the kitchen to request a fresh round of tea, Ali Bey proceeded with his monologue:

Think of two families, one Sunni, one Alevi. The Sunni woman is wearing a headscarf, the man has a long beard, they appear to have just arrived from the village. Then look at the Alevi family: the man is clean-shaven, the woman has fine hair, the children are clean and well-dressed.  Which of these two would you say is modern, secular? The Alevi family, of course.  And yet the (Turkish) state does not recognize us as a legitimate minority. True secularism does not exist here.

These were not unfamiliar or unsurprising sentiments for me to encounter. Throughout two years of research with Alevi NGOs in both Istanbul and Ankara, I frequently spoke with Alevis who drew a direct connection between the ‘modernity’ and ‘secularity’ characteristic of most Alevis and the failures of Turkish secularism, which they typically understand to be fatally skewed in favor of Turkey’s Sunni Muslims. This irony—the ostensible failure of Turkey’s political and legal system of secularism to recognize its most ‘secular’ subjects as a legitimate religious minority—is the crucible and dynamo of much Alevi political mobilization. Continue Reading →

The Birth of Religion

We used to think agriculture gave rise to cities and later to writing, art and religion.  Now the world’s oldest temple suggests the urge to worship sparked civilization.

by Charles C. Mann

Below is an exclusive excerpt from the June issue of the National Geographic magazine, on newsstands now and online here:

Anthropologists have assumed that organized religion began as a way of salving the tensions that inevitably arose when hunter-gatherers settled down, became farmers, and developed large societies. Compared to a nomadic band, the society of a village had longer term, more complex aims—storing grain and maintaining permanent homes. Villages would be more likely to accomplish those aims if their members were committed to the collective enterprise. Though primitive religious practices—burying the dead, creating cave art and figurines—had emerged tens of thousands of years earlier, organized religion arose, in this view, only when a common vision of a celestial order was needed to bind together these big, new, fragile groups of humankind. It could also have helped justify the social hierarchy that emerged in a more complex society: Those who rose to power were seen as having a special connection with the gods. Communities of the faithful, united in a common view of the world and their place in it, were more cohesive than ordinary clumps of quarreling people. Continue Reading →

The Book That Changed Europe

From BibliOdyssey, the below engraving, included in the 1723 – 1737 book by Bernard Picart, Cérémonies et Coutumes Religieuses de tous les Peuples du Monde (Religious Ceremonies and Customs of all the peoples of the world).”The Book came in seven weighty folio volumes with more than 3,000 pages and 250 plates of engravings covering all the religions known to Europeans in the early 1700s.

The Sufi Whirling Dervishes of Turkey. Continue Reading →