Tuesday, August 27, 2013

For good or ill

The new academic year is definitely underway! I was involved in orientation last week, but the actual first day of classes was yesterday, and my first class was this morning - an old friend, "Theorizing Religion." Nineteen interesting and interested students showed up, more than we've had in this required LREL course for years! The only problem, which turned out not to be much of a problem, was that the activity I'd again planned for this first session, BeliefNet's "Belief-O-Matic," was down. This was mystifying, since I'd tested to make sure it was operational just an hour before class! Happily I had my result to show the class. I just hope I offended noone in reporting (which was true) that I'd just put down random answers and was deemed a Unitarian!
What a beautifully absurd poem - or prayer - you are offered here: 

Quaker Jain Taoist Scientology
Mahayana New Age Christ Scientist New Thought
Liberal Protestant Theravada Reform Judaism
Sikh Baha'i Secular Humanist Hindu...

The Belief-O-Matic remains a great way to show a certain part of American culture's understanding of religion - so many kinds, but comparable, delightfully various but fundamentally overlapping. It also makes clearer, by contrast, what academic reflection on religion and religious studies is. I showed them BeliefNet's plug to advertisers. (It was acquired by NewsCorp a few years ago, and now hosts ads for loans, self-help products, Bible-based get rich schemes, etc.) I assured them we aim for different outcomes: feel good they might well not!

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