Posts Tagged ‘Volume 35 No. 4’

Americans embracing the alternatives of spiritual secularity and secular religiosity?

In recent years, it has not been unusual for secular and cultural movements and trends to be portrayed as religious, spiritual, or at least quasi-religious. Most often, the activity in question may be interpreted as religious in nature even if they are accompanied by beliefs that are considered religious. Such a case can be seen in an article in the conservative magazine First Things (March 2020) on the emergence of “secular monks” – a segment of middle-aged, highly successful American men who lead a secular lifestyle in a religious way.

Modern art’s esoteric roots rediscovered, spurring new spiritual artwork

“Where it once it was embarrassing to mention art and spirit in the same sentence, today it could not be more au courant,” says art gallery curator Maurice Tuchman in the magazine Art World (January 6, 2020). Tuchman had attempted to curate an exhibit on spiritual themes in modern art in the 1986, featuring more than 100 artists exploring spiritual themes, but it “landed like a thud,” writes Eleanor Hartley.

Orthodox in Appalachia—seeking a holy enclave

Religious and political factors make Russian Orthodoxy attractive for some people in the Appalachian region of the U.S., according to a recent study. Former evangelical Christians who convert to Russian Orthodoxy may not only find an answer to their religious longing, but also “a politically conservative ideological haven,” writes anthropologist Sarah Riccardi-Swartz (New York University), whose PhD field research focuses on communities of converts to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in the Appalachian Mountains.


Religious affiliation, or the lack of it, is one factor driving the Democratic primary vote, according to recent surveys. A study from the Pew Research Center finds that Joe Biden remains the first choice for Protestants and Catholics while Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are drawing the unaffiliated. No candidate was found to have majority support from any of the large religious groups, and many voters still say they are undecided.

Religious minority plays majority role in Romania

Even as other Eastern and Central European countries are making less room for religious minorities, Romania has encouraged its ethnic and religious minorities and their communities, “opening up new forms of cultural expression,” writes Ovidiu Oltean in the online journal Occasional Papers on Religion in Eastern Europe (39:7). Citing the major example of ethnic German Lutherans, Oltean writes that they have diminished in numbers yet their religious institutions, language, and German schools are reviving.

New churches in Nigeria serve as haven from anti-gay society without embracing LGBTQ identity

The restrictions and penalties against homosexuality in Nigerian culture is often reflected in the preaching and teaching of the burgeoning Pentecostal churches in that country, but a new breed of congregations are providing a refuge from these strict attitudes, even if they don’t directly challenge the anti-gay laws or embrace LGBTQ identities, writes Nelson C.J., in The New York Times (January 26, 2020).

When Salafists loot cultural assets, religious norms are also at stake

The looting of antiquities has proven to be an attractive source of income for radical Islamic groups in a country with a long and rich cultural legacy such as Syria, as it had been for some civilian, military and government actors earlier. These groups’ religious views also influence how they deal with objects belonging to Pagan and Christian cultures, writes historian Olivier Moos (Religioscope Institute) in a newly released report on Salafists and antiquities trafficking
in Syria by Religioscope (February 2020). The report focuses on Idleb Governorate (North-West Syria), where the Salafist armed group Hayat Tahrir as-Sham (HTS) has been heavily involved in the looting of cultural assets.

Hindu nationalism joining forces with European nationalists

There are “growing ties between the far right in India and Europe, a connection that is rooted primarily in a shared hostility toward immigrants and Muslims, and couched in similar overarching nationalistic visions,” writes Eviane Ledig in Foreign (January 21, 2020). The article notes that these links have predated the rise of Europe’s nationalist wave when Hindu nationalists collaborated with fascists in Italy and Nazi Germany, with Hindu right pioneer V.D. Savarkar seeing the Nazi’s solution in dealing with the “Jewish problem” as a model for India’s approach with its “Muslim problem.”

Findings & Footnotes

Australia shares with other Western countries the conflicting realities of a secularizing population alongside the growing public presence and diversity of religions. A special issue of the online journal Religions looks at this trend, especially concerning how the Australian government and other public institutions manage the new diversity. The introductory article notes that increasing proportions […]