Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Exploring Our Matrix: Scholars Assembling Puzzles: Illustrating Differen...

A super apologia for scholarship

Exploring Our Matrix: Scholars Assembling Puzzles: Illustrating Differen...: "When scholars investigate a question - whether a question about historical events, or the interpretation of a text or other sort of data - t..."

Monday, December 6, 2010


The National Post newspaper has been running a debate... no, not a debate, no one debates anymore - one side screams at the other, and the one with the strongest lungs wins - over religion vs. atheism.

All I can say is, that 1:  there will always be people of faith whatever logic or faux logic atheists propose as faith is somehow intrinsic to much of humanity - in different degrees of course... and 2:  Attempting to explain faith to an atheist is tantamount to trying to describe 'green' to someone born blind.  You can natter on and on about wavelengths etc. etc. but never really come close to describing the experience of 'green'  -- it is next to impossible  getting those of us who are not colour blind to agree on green!


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Here is a link to an interesting project at Wheaton College in the U.S.   While I am not an evangelical Protestant, I have tremendous respect for the scholarly work done on religion at Wheaton College [sometimes called the Rome of evangelical Protestantism - though perhaps the American Geneva would be more apropos].

Evangelical protestantism has shaped much of American culture - not so much I think with the foundation of the Massachusetts Bay colony - Wikipedia!!!!!s, as with the preaching tours of George Whitefield in the 18th century - though this can be debated!

Anyway, look around the site by clicking on the title of this blog entry...


Monday, October 25, 2010

Integration and Dis-integration

This rather neat picture was produced for me by the Distance Ed department at the University of Guelph for my online course Religion & Society in the Modern World .  The term dis-integration came to me while teaching this class in, of all places, a classroom, and to real people in real time!   I was attempting to explain a process I am thinking about where religion gradually[in the Atlantic world, anyway] became a separate activity/function/belief from the lives of individuals, and societies.  This is all tentative as I am not entirely convinced by myself yet.... but my reading of historical change thus far sees a time when asking a person in the street 'what is your religion?'.... would be as difficult for that person to understand as an interviewer asking someone today, 'What is your physics?'  This is the point I have arrived at in my thinking based on historical evidence thus far.  This is also one of the three themes I thread through [integrate!] as I teach any history of religion course [I now teach three] - but it is not a settled subject - this is an essai  - in true Montesquian [hmmmm... not sure how to make his name into an English adjective] form - an intellectual effort to understand.. and being an historian, to understand a process .....

So, I have begun serious research into this issue with the goal of a 'big' book on the topic that will consider this theme... and the two others displayed in this picture [I am avoiding the use of the word graphic as it annoys me mightily].  Today I hope to return to note-taking on the revision of the revision of the English Reformation..... many miles to go before I sleep!

Friday, October 8, 2010

World Religions Conference!

Every year since 1981, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama ̀at  has sponsored a World Religions' Conference.  For the past many years it has been held at the University of Waterloo on a Saturday.  The conference is free, with free food!  It is a chance to hear speakers from several religious traditions speak about their beliefs in a passionate and friendly manner, and to experience snippets of worship from them.

This year's conference is on Saturday, October 16.  Browse around their site by clicking on the title of this entry above, and also look at their facebook page here:  WRC Facebook page

Also see past conferences on youtube here:  WRC Youtube

or follow it on twitter:    WRC twitter


Thursday, October 7, 2010

An Historian's Code - from the U.S. army of all places!

A Historian's Code (1)

1.      I will footnote (or endnote) all my sources (none of this MLA or
social science parenthetical business).
2.      If I do not reference my sources accurately, I will surely
perish in the fires of various real or metaphorical infernal regions and
I will completely deserve it.  I have been warned.
3.      I will respect the hard-won historical gains of those historians
in whose steps I walk and will share such knowledge as is mine with all
other historians (as they doubtless will cheerfully share it with me).
4.      I will not be ashamed to say "I do not know" or to change my
narrative of historical events when new sources point to my errors.
5.      I will never leave a fallen book behind.
6.      I will acknowledge that history is created by people and not by
impersonal cosmic forces or "isms."  An "ism" by itself never harmed or
helped anyone without human agency.
7.      I am not a sociologist, political scientist, international
relations-ist, or any other such "ist."  I am a historian and deal in
facts, not models.
8.      I know I have a special responsibility to the truth and will
seek, as fully as I can, to be thorough, objective, careful, and
balanced in my judgments, relying on primary source documents whenever
9.      Life may be short, but history is forever.  I am a servant of

(1)    Stewart, Richard, Ph.D., "Historians and a Historian's Code,"
ARMY HISTORY, No. 77 (Fall 2010), p. 46.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

From my web page

Religion & Society in the Atlantic World edit delete
Friday, August 06, 2010

This book is being created from the ground up as an interactive, multi-media ebook.  I see writing as concentric spheres, overlapping and separate at other points that readers will surf through to think and comprehend, rather than merely understand. 

The intellectual foundation for this book length essay is a study of three particular concentric circles:

1. The interactions of religion - both institutional and the beliefs of followers - with the institutional structures of societies in the Atlantic world and their cultures (anthropologically defined).

2. A concept I label 'dis-integration' - the change from an integration of religion into daily life and its apparent (though this will be debated in the work) removal, or dis-integration in the present day.

3. A consideration of the place of the 'other' in the societies under consideration.

I list these as discrete points here, which serves to emphasize my contention that this is an inadequate technique for analysis of religion and society - that the use of interactive multimedia technology in the writing process will allow me to show the nuances and points of integration among these themes by using the technique of concentric, spheres populated with points of reference in the Atlantic world.

The book is mapped out in three dimensional form with preliminary secondary reading done, and intensive secondary reading begun. 

I hope to  hit the archives soon!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Media and Religion and History

Last evening I caught bit and pieces of a story [I was going to say 'documentary', but as you will see, 'story', is a more accurate label] on CNN about the current Catholic Pope.  [To understand why I say 'Catholic Pope'  start with this link:  Coptic Pope ]

Journalism ideally is about presenting facts to the general public of a democracy so that citizens can then decide on issues of the day.  What journalism is in practice these days anyway is entertainment.  Journalists and their owners in television, radio, newspapers and the net present stories that will titillate, interest, entertain as many viewers as possible.  Fact and balance are employed only in the rare instances where these approaches might be entertaining, and usually with a superficial nod to balance by quick interviews with opposing viewpoints, buried far into the story, and passed over quickly.

As for history, this is usually omitted entirely, or utilised where it serves the purposes of increasing audience and thus advertising dollars.  The media, I might add parenthetically, is immune to the sorts of criticism it levels at others, because it will not train its guns on its own.

Why is it important to have an historical perspective on religion, as an issue?  Well, history provides depth - not just a three dimensional understanding of anything, but a four dimensional understanding.  I do not think it too egregious a claim to say that no concept, issue, event, thing in this world can be approached with any hope of a full and deep understanding without adding in history - that is, without showing how a concept, issue, event, thing came to be as they are in the present.

So, CNN.  Their report was, as is so sadly typical, a polemic and not a presentation of fact.  I will not go here into all the details that irritated, but alas, did not surprise me - but will note that any sense of  history was missing entirely from the report. The issue was presented as though the world had appeared roughly five minutes ago, fully formed as we see it now.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Wikipedia etc.

Earlier in this blog I posted an entry on the use of Wikipedia.. and in fact, all encyclopedias and dictionaries as sources for essays, and essay answers on exams..... I am going to repost it to the course sites for this term.  Wikipedia has a bad reputation among  most [but not all] scholars because it can be altered by anyone at any time.  But..... that does not mean it is unusable......


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Name Change and new members to be welcomed

I have decided to change the name of this blog as I will invite members from the other two history of religion courses I teach currently.  So, welcome to students in the Fall semester of Hist2260DE Religion & Society in the Modern World at the U of Guelph, and students in AHSS2360  Judaism, Christianity & Islam at the University of Guelph/Humber.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Final post for this Term

Ok!  the final exam is submitted and what will be, will be now..... Che sera sera in the words of the 1956 song by Doris Day....   and here I will break my own rule and give you the wikipedia reference!

Que sera sera

I hope that 20 years from now some of you..  and possibly each of you will have gained some understanding of religion from this term's work.

I haven't managed to post much on the blog.. it was an idea I had late in the term.  But I will continue posting here as I am intending to improve and re-work much of the coursework for Hist2070DE. Future students will have the dubious delight of seeing me in videos .....  Anyone who wishes to stay here .. or to join the facebook group  History of Religion at the U of Guelph
may do so freely.  I am in the early stages writing a book on the relationship between religion and society - though restricted to the Atlantic world -- and will also post comments on that project as I proceed.

Good luck for the future....


Sunday, July 4, 2010

wikipedia, dictionary, encyclopedia

We are all tempted to use encyclopedias, dictionaries...... and yes, quelle horreur!!! ...even wikipedia when writing essays or posting to a discussion group.

So I thought I would say a few words on these resources.  Unlike many instructors I do not entirely disparage wikipedia... but the caution I will post here applies to it as well as more usual encyclopedias and dictionaries.  

All three of the resources are useful ONLY to give a you quick background into a topic which is unfamiliar... but none of them should be used to prove a point in an essay or in a discussion.  The reason for this has nothing to do with how rigorously the facts in each type of source are checked and double-checked.   The basic problem with them as source is they are syntheses of the work of many scholars... and often will give you only one version on a debatable topic - and you may not be able to trace which part of each article was written by which scholar.  Wikipedia has additional problems in that it is rarely double and triple checked and is only rarely produced by scholars who are trained to think carefully and speak only when they have checked as many sources as possible.  Wikipedia does have the strength that often it lists scholarly sources at the bottom of the article....

So use wikipedia!  Use standard encyclopedias!  Use dictionaries!  

BUT  only to give yourself a quick overview of a topic  - then go to scholarly sources for your essay or discussion posting.


Architecture and Religion

In the discussion just finished, I asked  if social and cultural differences can be seen in architecture and then rephrased this to ask if you can tell anything about a society from its religious architecture.... 

One student said "No"  (well, actually his answer was a bit longer than this one word..but the essence was 'No').

This is a fair answer.. and has caused me to think about the  role of architecture, indeed of material culture in general  plays in society - is it intrinsic, is it an emanation, an outgrowth of particular cultures... or is it merely different as a result of practical considerations - material available, the state of engineering knowledge, labour supply , and so on....


Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I have decided to add a blog to the course site... where I will post comments and anyone in the class whether student or TA might post comments.  I may even comment on my own posts!