Special Issue "Religion and the Individual: Belief, Practice, and Identity"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 April 2016)

Printed Edition Available!
A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Douglas James Davies

Department of Theology and Religion, Durham University, Stockton Rd, Durham, County Durham DH1, UK
Website | E-Mail
Phone: 44 (0) 191 33 43943
Interests: death, ritual and belief; Mormon religion; sociology and anthropology of religion; emotions and religion
Guest Editor
Dr. Michael J. Thate

Center for the Study of Religion, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
Website | E-Mail
Phone: 507-848-5863
Interests: social theory; classics; early christianity; twentieth-century philosophy; jewish studies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue is both experimental and comparative. It appropriates diverse disciplinary idioms from the distinctive fields our authors inhabit to focus on the ever-recurrent theme of the individual and the study of religion. Here the familiar topics of "belief", "practice" and "identity" come into conversation with each other from scholars in anthropology, sociology, African-American history, Asian religions, philosophy, religious studies, critical theory, and ancient history. This unashamedly eclectic venture demonstrates both the remarkable diversity enacted by the signifier, “religious”, and the dynamic potential of conversation between interesting scholars working on remarkably interesting topics.

Prof. Dr. Douglas James Davies
Dr. Michael J. Thate
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Pentecostalism
  • Belief
  • Catholic-Jewish relations
  • Yoga
  • Money and Time
  • Capitalism
  • missionaries
  • east Asian religions
  • Jazz and African-American History
  • automation
  • wine and food

Published Papers (13 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial Monstrosities: Religion, Identity and Belief
Religions 2017, 8(6), 102; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8060102
Received: 17 May 2017 / Revised: 22 May 2017 / Accepted: 22 May 2017 / Published: 23 May 2017
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Abstract
In the summer of 1816, a young woman of nineteen eloped with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley to Geneva, Switzerland.[...] Full article

Research

Jump to: Editorial

Open AccessArticle Messianic Time and Monetary Value1
Religions 2016, 7(9), 112; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7090112
Received: 30 May 2016 / Revised: 18 July 2016 / Accepted: 9 August 2016 / Published: 27 August 2016
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Abstract
In this essay we return to Walter Benjamin’s notion of messianic time as outlined in his Theses on the Philosophy of History. Messianic time is read with Benjamin’s Sonnette as a “divestment” from historical time. That is, messianic time is a relinquishing [...] Read more.
In this essay we return to Walter Benjamin’s notion of messianic time as outlined in his Theses on the Philosophy of History. Messianic time is read with Benjamin’s Sonnette as a “divestment” from historical time. That is, messianic time is a relinquishing of historical time’s formation of identities within late capitalism. Messianism represents that opening which whispers the possibility of bringing asymmetrical accumulation and subjective formation to a standstill. The aim of the essay is thus to push a rereading of Benjamin’s notion of messianic time as subjective divestment from historical time which in turn breaks the uneven distribution of time, accumulation, and the monetary value of market time at work in our current world of global finance. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Performing, Representing, and Archiving Belief: Religious Expressions among Jazz Musicians
Religions 2016, 7(8), 108; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7080108
Received: 30 March 2016 / Revised: 10 August 2016 / Accepted: 12 August 2016 / Published: 19 August 2016
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Abstract
The archives of African American jazz musicians demonstrate rich sites for studying expressions of religious belief and daily religious practice in public and private arenas, in professional and personal capacities. Highlighting print material from the archives of Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (1899–1974) and [...] Read more.
The archives of African American jazz musicians demonstrate rich sites for studying expressions of religious belief and daily religious practice in public and private arenas, in professional and personal capacities. Highlighting print material from the archives of Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (1899–1974) and Mary Lou Williams (1910–1981), this article examines the ways that these musicians worked to articulate their beliefs in print and to make meaning of their routine practices. Ellington and Williams produced written records of their aspirations for non-clerical religious authority and leadership, novel notions of religious community, and conceptions of quotidian writing tasks as practices with devotional value in the middle decades of the twentieth century. In preparation for his Sacred Concert tours of American and Western European religious congregations, Ellington theologized about the nature of God and the proper language to address God through private hotel stationery. Following her conversion to Roman Catholicism, Williams managed a Harlem thrift shop and worked to create the Bel Canto Foundation for musicians struggling with substance abuse and unemployment. This study of the religious subjectivity of African Americans with status as race representatives employs archival historical methods in the effort to vividly approximate complex religious interiority. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle ‘It’s Not the Money but the Love of Money That Is the Root of All Evil’: Social Subjection, Machinic Enslavement and the Limits of Anglican Social Theology
Religions 2016, 7(8), 103; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7080103
Received: 18 March 2016 / Revised: 4 August 2016 / Accepted: 5 August 2016 / Published: 9 August 2016
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Abstract
Maurizio Lazzarato argues that contemporary capitalism functions through two central apparatuses: Social subjection and machinic enslavement. Social subjection equips individuals with a subjectivity, assigning them identities, sexes, bodies, professions, and other markers of identity, along with a sense of their own individual agency [...] Read more.
Maurizio Lazzarato argues that contemporary capitalism functions through two central apparatuses: Social subjection and machinic enslavement. Social subjection equips individuals with a subjectivity, assigning them identities, sexes, bodies, professions, and other markers of identity, along with a sense of their own individual agency within society. Machinic enslavement arises out of the growing reliance of capitalism on what Lazzarato calls “asignifying semiotics”—processes of production that function increasingly independently of human awareness or intention. Drawing on this analysis of the contemporary functioning of capitalism, this paper will explore the concepts of individuals and society at work in recent Anglican social theology. Focusing on two recent texts which attempt to give an overview of Anglican social thinking—Eve Poole’s The Church on Capitalism: Theology and the Market and Malcolm Brown’s Anglican Social Theology—it will suggest that, within the contemporary Church of England, mainstream attempts to reckon with political questions tend to understand the role of individual agency and ethical behaviour in ways which prop up existing social, political and economic structures rather than disrupting them. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle The Dilemmas of Monogamy: Pleasure, Discipline and the Pentecostal Moral Self in the Republic of Benin
Religions 2016, 7(8), 102; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7080102
Received: 4 May 2016 / Revised: 28 July 2016 / Accepted: 2 August 2016 / Published: 8 August 2016
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Abstract
Based on ethnographic research in the Republic of Benin, this article explores how Pentecostal teachings on marriage and the management of sexual pleasure contribute to shaping converts’ moral selves. For Pentecostals, fidelity towards God, when single and fidelity between partners, once married, is [...] Read more.
Based on ethnographic research in the Republic of Benin, this article explores how Pentecostal teachings on marriage and the management of sexual pleasure contribute to shaping converts’ moral selves. For Pentecostals, fidelity towards God, when single and fidelity between partners, once married, is presented as the ideal model of partnership to which every “Born-Again” should aspire. In the context where polygamous unions are socially accepted, Pentecostal pastors teach that a satisfactory sexual life restricted to marriage is the means of building successful monogamous unions. However, sexual satisfaction might not always guarantee marital success, especially when people face problems of infertility. The author suggests that the disciplinary regimes that these teachings promote contribute to shaping new modes of intimacy, which are compatible with societal changes but often contradict the extant social norms and ideals of reproduction. Moral dilemmas arising from this tension are the key to understanding how Pentecostal Christianity shapes the moral self. The article addresses how Pentecostals in Benin navigate and negotiate cultural continuities and discontinuities in relation to church authority and family life. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Mothers and Spirits: Religious Identity, Alcohol, and Death
Religions 2016, 7(7), 94; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7070094
Received: 17 April 2016 / Revised: 14 June 2016 / Accepted: 6 July 2016 / Published: 19 July 2016
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Abstract
Mothers and Spirits examines the intersection of women, alcohol, and death through a comparative analysis. Offering a brief history of the study of drinking, followed by a short analysis of drinking in European and Chinese cultures, Cann examines two religious texts central to [...] Read more.
Mothers and Spirits examines the intersection of women, alcohol, and death through a comparative analysis. Offering a brief history of the study of drinking, followed by a short analysis of drinking in European and Chinese cultures, Cann examines two religious texts central to the roles of women and alcohol in Chinese religious thought and Christianity. Finally, Cann utilizes the historical and textual background to contextualize her ethnographic study of women, alcohol, and death in Mexican Catholicism, Chinese religions, and American Southern Baptist Christianity. Cann argues that both alcohol and temperance are used as a way to forge, cement, and create gender identity, constructing alternate discourses of power and inclusivity. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle The Enlightened Self: Identity and Aspiration in Two Communities of Practice
Religions 2016, 7(7), 92; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7070092
Received: 8 April 2016 / Revised: 10 June 2016 / Accepted: 12 July 2016 / Published: 15 July 2016
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Abstract
Existing research on religious identity, especially from a narrative perspective, has tended to focus either on accounts of the past (especially occasions of religious change) or on conceptions of religious identity in the present. Religious communities, however, not only provide a sense of [...] Read more.
Existing research on religious identity, especially from a narrative perspective, has tended to focus either on accounts of the past (especially occasions of religious change) or on conceptions of religious identity in the present. Religious communities, however, not only provide a sense of identity and belonging in the present—as a “Catholic” or “Buddhist,” for example—they also promote a particular vision of the religious ideal: The way of being-in-the-world that all adherents are (or ought to be) striving to achieve. Drawing on fieldwork and interviews, this paper describes and analyzes the identity and lifestyle goals of participants in two communities of practice: An Integral Yoga studio and a Catholic prayer house. I find that the ideal spiritual self in both communities is defined by three key characteristics: A sacred gaze, a simultaneous sense of presence and detachment, and a holistic style of identity management. I suggest that in constructing and transmitting a shared vision of the “enlightened self,” these organizations offer practitioners a highly desirable but ever-elusive aspirational identity. This study calls attention to religious organizations as important suppliers of possible identities—the identities, either desired and feared, we think we could or might become in the future—and reveals the situated and contextual nature of adherents’ religious aspirations. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Towards an Existential Archeology of Capitalist Spirituality
Religions 2016, 7(7), 85; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7070085
Received: 3 April 2016 / Revised: 21 June 2016 / Accepted: 24 June 2016 / Published: 29 June 2016
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Abstract
Throughout his career, Michel Foucault sustained a trenchant critique of Jean-Paul Sartre, whom he accused of arguing that the subject “dispenses (all) significations”. In contrast to existentialism’s interests in subjective consciousness, Foucault pursues an archaeological method which he later develops into a genealogical [...] Read more.
Throughout his career, Michel Foucault sustained a trenchant critique of Jean-Paul Sartre, whom he accused of arguing that the subject “dispenses (all) significations”. In contrast to existentialism’s interests in subjective consciousness, Foucault pursues an archaeological method which he later develops into a genealogical approach to discourse that emphasizes the institutional practices and forms of knowledge/power that undergird historical epistemes. Taking contemporary networked Capitalism, the discourse of “workplace spirituality”, and the life history of one management reformer as its case studies, this paper turns to the cognitive linguistics of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in an effort to historicize experiences of neoliberal “spirituality”, as an archaeology of knowledge might, while also attempting to account for intentionality and biography, as existential approaches would. Turning to work in contemporary critical theory, which associates strident anti-humanism in social theory with the rise of neoliberal discourse, I argue that sustained attention to the ways in which personal and social history always entail one another and are mutually arising makes not only for better phenomenology but makes for better critical scholarship as well. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Believing Selves and Cognitive Dissonance: Connecting Individual and Society via “Belief”
Religions 2016, 7(7), 86; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7070086
Received: 12 April 2016 / Revised: 24 May 2016 / Accepted: 13 June 2016 / Published: 28 June 2016
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Abstract
“Belief” as an analytical tool and critical category of investigation for the study of religion has been a resurging topic of interest. This article discusses the problems of language and practice in the discussion of “belief” and proceeds to map a few of [...] Read more.
“Belief” as an analytical tool and critical category of investigation for the study of religion has been a resurging topic of interest. This article discusses the problems of language and practice in the discussion of “belief” and proceeds to map a few of the emergent frameworks, proposed within the past decade, for investigating “belief”. The issue of inconsistency, however, continues to remain a perennial issue that has not been adequately explained. This article argues for the utility and value of the “believing selves” framework, in conjunction with revisionist theories of cognitive dissonance, to advance the claim that beliefs are representations, as well as functions, of cultural history which bind individual and society. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle “Show Us Your God”: Marilla Baker Ingalls and the Power of Religious Objects in Nineteenth-Century Burma
Religions 2016, 7(7), 81; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7070081
Received: 16 April 2016 / Revised: 26 May 2016 / Accepted: 30 May 2016 / Published: 23 June 2016
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Abstract
This essay examines the unusual evangelical work of Marilla Baker Ingalls, an American Baptist missionary to Burma from 1851–1902. By the time of her death in Burma at the age of 75, Ingalls was known as one of the most successful Baptist evangelists [...] Read more.
This essay examines the unusual evangelical work of Marilla Baker Ingalls, an American Baptist missionary to Burma from 1851–1902. By the time of her death in Burma at the age of 75, Ingalls was known as one of the most successful Baptist evangelists among Burmese Buddhists. To understand the extraordinary dynamic of Ingalls’ expanding Christian community, this essay focuses on two prominent objects at the Baptist mission: A life-sized dog statue that Ingalls kept chained at the edge of her property and a massive banyan tree covered with biblical illustrations and revered by locals as an abode of divine beings. This essay argues that these objects transformed Ingalls’ American Baptist Christianity into a kind of Burmese religion that revolved around revered objects. Through an examination of the particular shrine practices that pulled people into the Baptist mission, this essay reflects on the larger context of religious encounter, conflict, and representation in modernizing Burma. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Speculating the Subject of Money: Georg Simmel on Human Value
Religions 2016, 7(7), 80; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7070080
Received: 17 April 2016 / Revised: 14 June 2016 / Accepted: 14 June 2016 / Published: 23 June 2016
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Abstract
This article initiates an inquiry into the sources and frameworks of value used to denote human subjects in modernity. In particular, I consider the conflation of monetary, legal, and theological registers employed to demarcate human worth. Drawing on Simmel’s speculative genealogy of the [...] Read more.
This article initiates an inquiry into the sources and frameworks of value used to denote human subjects in modernity. In particular, I consider the conflation of monetary, legal, and theological registers employed to demarcate human worth. Drawing on Simmel’s speculative genealogy of the money equivalent of human values, I consider the spectrum of ascriptions from specifically quantified to infinite human value. I suggest that predications of infinite human value require and imply quantified—and specifically monetary-economic—human value. Cost and worth, economically and legally defined, provide a foundation for subsequent eternal projections in a theological imaginary. This calls into question the interventionist potential of claims to infinite or unquantifiable human value as resistance to the contemporary financialization of human life and society. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Abraham Joshua Heschel and Nostra Aetate: Shaping the Catholic Reconsideration of Judaism during Vatican II
Religions 2016, 7(6), 70; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7060070
Received: 6 March 2016 / Revised: 2 May 2016 / Accepted: 30 May 2016 / Published: 8 June 2016
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Abstract
Although Nostra Aetate is only comprised of five short paragraphs, this document represents a turning point, not just for Catholic-Jewish relations, but also sketches the fundamental aims of embodying the Christian faith in a pluralistic age. There is a complex but important narrative [...] Read more.
Although Nostra Aetate is only comprised of five short paragraphs, this document represents a turning point, not just for Catholic-Jewish relations, but also sketches the fundamental aims of embodying the Christian faith in a pluralistic age. There is a complex but important narrative that needs to be revisited so that we do not forget the ways in which Catholic learning has developed, and how this development has often been prompted by non-Catholics. In this article, I will re-examine some crucial details in the back-story of the formulation of Nostra Aetate and offer some observations about the potential consequences of omitting these details. My argument is that some recent events and scholarship suffer from a form of amnesia about the role that Jewish people have played in the development of Catholic learning—a form of amnesia that manifests in explicit proselytizing tendencies. In particular, I want to highlight the role that Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel played during the Second Vatican Council as an instructive example for Catholic-Jewish dialogue today. Full article
Open AccessArticle The Apparatus of Belief: Prayer, Technology, and Ritual Gesture
Religions 2016, 7(6), 69; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7060069
Received: 19 April 2016 / Revised: 25 May 2016 / Accepted: 31 May 2016 / Published: 7 June 2016
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Abstract
Through a focus on the early history of a mass mediated ritual practice, this essay describes the “apparatus of belief,” or the specific ways in which individual religious belief has become intimately related to tele-technologies such as the radio. More specifically, this paper [...] Read more.
Through a focus on the early history of a mass mediated ritual practice, this essay describes the “apparatus of belief,” or the specific ways in which individual religious belief has become intimately related to tele-technologies such as the radio. More specifically, this paper examines prayers that were performed during the immensely popular Healing Waters Broadcast by Oral Roberts, a famous charismatic faith healer. An analysis of these healing prayers reveals the ways in which the old charismatic Christian gesture of manual imposition, or laying on of hands, took on new somatic registers and sensorial attunements when mediated, or transduced, through technologies such as the radio loudspeaker. Emerging from these mid-twentieth century radio broadcasts, this technique of healing prayer popularized by Roberts has now become a key ritual practice and theological motif within the global charismatic Christian healing movement. Critiquing established conceptions of prayer in the disciplines of anthropology and religious studies, this essay describes “belief” as a particular structure of intimacy between sensory capacity, media technology, and pious gesture. Full article
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