This blog is moving; please come with us

Greetings, loyal readers. Religion Bulletin is growing up! We are pleased to announce that we are moving to our permanent home on the webservers of Equinox Publishing, Inc. If I’ve done everything right — which is, as the saying goes, a big “if” — this shouldn’t affect you. All old links should simply redirect to the new address. However, if you’re reading this in a feed reader or via an email subscription, you should make sure you’re subscribed to From now on, if you want to pass on the site URL to your friends, colleagues, and students (and why wouldn’t you want to?), you can give them the eminently user-friendly address Thank you for reading!

Posted in Housekeeping, Nathan Rein | Leave a comment

Only With His Eye Lasers

From the Fail Blog:


Posted in Craig Martin, Humor | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Religious Essentialism

I spend a good bit of time in my courses trying to disrupt religious essentialism: the idea that all practitioners in a religious tradition share some essence, that such an essence determines their behavior, or that their beliefs are the essence that directly informs their behavior. Since I teach at school with a predominantly Catholic, homogeneous student body, I can use the following pedagogical exercise to interrupt religious essentialism.

I start by asking the students, “What does it say to do with idolaters in the Qur’an?” They may or may not know the answer; if they don’t, I tell them: “Kill them.”

Then I ask them, “How many of you identify as Christian or know someone who identifies as Christian? Raise your hand if you or those Christians you know believe in the Bible or hold it to be a sacred book.” Usually I get a lot of raised hands.

Then I go on: “What does it say to do with idolaters in the Bible?” They never know the answer to this one, so I have to tell them: “Kill them.” “So all of you who raised your hands want to kill idolaters, right? Or the Christians you know are lining up to kill idolaters?” They giggle.

I go on to point out that the relationship between stated “beliefs” and practitioners’ “behavior” is always complex. The “beliefs –> behavior” formula is absurd upon reflection. Just because someone says ze “believes” in the Qur’an doesn’t mean ze wants to kill idolaters, any more than my own students who “believe” in the Bible want to kill idolaters.

The idea that beliefs drive action is a popular theory of religion, but it’s a bad one. Something much more complicated is going on with talk about “beliefs,” and we would be wise not to take belief-talk at face value.

Posted in Craig Martin, Pedagogy | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Worst Book Cover in Religious Publishing Awards 2010

Religion Bulletin would like to open nominations for the The Worst Book Cover in Religious Publishing Awards 2010. This is the first year in which these awards have been run, and we sincerely hope it will become an annual fixture.

You have until December 31, 2010 to nominate the book you consider boasts the worst book cover in religious publishing in 2010. Nominations are open to all. You may either nominate a book for our supreme award, The Worst Book Cover in Religious Publishing, or for one of the specialist categories:

  • The Worst Book Cover in Academic Religious Publishing Award
  • The Intentionally Worst Book Cover in Religious Publishing Award
  • The “I Have No Idea What They Were Thinking” Award

As always, there is some stiff competition for hideous design when it come to religious books. Here are three of the nominations we have already received:

Brad Warner, Sex, Sin, and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between (New World Library, 2010).

This cover was, we understand, designed this badly on purpose. And although you wouldn’t know it by judging the book by its cover, the content is surprisingly quite good. But, man, what were you thinking with that cover? And “polyamory” – what is that? Some sort of weird parrot fetish?

However kitsch that was, bear in mind that the unsightly design of this next book was in fact due entirely to a complete lack of taste:

Arthur Goldberg, Light in the Closet: Torah, Homosexuality, and the Power to Change (Red Heifer Press, 2010).

This book cover is in deparate need of, like, a total makeover – a queer eye for the straight jacket.

Incidentally, the author of Light in the Closet is the “Co-Director” of JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality). Yes, really.

But my favorite worst book cover so far is this one:

Randolph Wright, Mikhail Gorbachev is Gog and Magog: The Biblical Antichrist (AuthorHouse, 2010).

Stunning. I have only awestruck questions. Gorbachev??!!! Are there really still crazed dispensationalists out there so stuck in the 1980s that they still think Gorby is a contender for the job of Antichrist? Or is it perhaps the case that the author has been working on this book ever since the 1980s? And you say Gorby is both Gog and Magog? What? … yet, on the other hand, that picture of the pink devil with his hand on Gorby’s shoulder certainly looks compelling.

Please make your own nominations in the comments section below!

Posted in Deane Galbraith, Pedagogy, Religion and Popular Culture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

November 2010 Biblical Studies Carnival – Call for Submissions

The Biblical Studies Carnival is a monthly blog carnival which has been running (albeit with a few interruptions) since April 2005. It collects and showcases a selection of posts on academic biblical studies, and is normally run by a different biblical studies blogger (“biblioblogger“) each month. It features biblical studies of all specializations, interests, and points of view, whether composed by academics, students, or keen amateurs. Following on from the Bulletin for the Study of Religion’s recent special edition on biblioblogging (which as Tim Bulkeley kindly pointed out, is available by subscription only), Religion Bulletin will be hosting the November 2010 Biblical Studies Carnival (LVII or נז) on December 1, 2010.

So – I’m calling for your submissions of blog posts on academic biblical studies during the month of November. You can make your submission at any time during the month by emailing it to deanegalbraith [at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] nz. Feel free to submit your own post or even somebody else’s, and submit as many posts as you like. Just remember to at least include the URL and the name of the individual blog post.

Currently, the Biblical Studies Carnivals are coordinated by Jim West (Zwinglius Redivivus). The latest Carnival (for October 2010) is available at ξἐνος (Xenos), and you can volunteer to host a future carnival by emailing Jim.

Posted in Deane Galbraith, Pedagogy, Religion and Popular Culture | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Standards and Censorship

The recent discussion in the blog-o-sphere about Roland Boer’s controversial SBL paper title (see Deane Galbraith’s recent Bulletin post for the details) raises important questions about what sort of professional standards scholars should strive towards. Standards are both necessary and stifling: how can we draw lines (e.g., between scholarship and stand-up comedy or propaganda) without needlessly advancing centrism or arbitrary social codes?

The specific reason I ask myself this question requires me to tell the following story. When I read Roland’s post I laughed out loud and thought to myself: “Oh man, what a mess! I can’t believe the SBL is trying to push him around!” However, not 24 hours later Deane sent me an email notifying me that he had written up a post for the Bulletin about the topic (I have to approve posts and schedule them for release). In the post’s title Deane used a rather provocative (and crude!) euphemism for a penis. At that point I cringed and thought to myself: “Deane, you’re killing me! Why are you putting me in a situation where I have to be responsible for posting this?!”

Since I was busy, I put off responding until I could draft a carefully worded email suggesting he might change it. But later that day (or early the next), I got another email from Deane prompting me to check out his post. So I went back and pulled it up again, noticing that the colorful euphemism had been removed. Without me saying a word, Deane had censored himself, apparently in anticipation of my response. [Deane has since explained that he did not censor himself, but that upon rereading the piece he decided the subtler approach worked better.]

So would I have been right or wrong to refuse it? Sometimes genitalia-related jokes are patriarchal or sexist, but this one wasn’t—so I couldn’t have refused it on those grounds. To what standard would I have appealed other than my own discomfort, especially when my discomfort reflects my social class of origin more than it reflects any standards of scholarship? Should we have a policy of “anything goes”?

Posted in Craig Martin | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Sausage” Blacklisted by the Society of Biblical Literature!

A controversy threatens to expand out of all proportion over an academic’s use of the term “sausage” in the title of his paper scheduled for the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in November.

The paper, by ballsy Australian biblical scholar Roland Boer, is provocatively entitled “Too Many Dicks at the Writing Desk, or, How to Organise a Prophetic Sausage-Fest.” SBL administrators apparently received complaints from inflamed members who considered the term “Sausage-Fest” to be “offensive.” Looking to cool a potentially explosive and sticky situation, the Manager of Programs, Charlie Haws sent an email to Boer, with the request that Boer excise his offending sausage.

This request by the SBL is a deplorable attempt to censor an academic paper, based on nothing more than the questionable sensibilities of certain unnamed members. In addition, the request comes very late – less than a month before Boer is due to deliver his paper on November 20, 2010. In fact, the paper’s title has already been printed in the SBL’s 2010 Session Guide, which was earlier sent out to all 8,500 SBL members.

The SBL’s attempt to censor Boer has been met with something of an outcry from less prudish biblical scholars. Discussion has been hot and heated on Boer’s blog (here and here), and throughout the blogosphere (see here, herehere and here). The controversy is yet to be resolved, but Boer is hopeful that he will be allowed to freely and openly display his “sausage” at the November 20 session.

Posted in Deane Galbraith, Pedagogy | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments