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After Darwin

Morality in a Secular World

Jeff O’Connell and Michael Ruse

Abstract

In the second half of the nineteenth century, many people lost their faith in the Christian God. Nevertheless, they were eager to show that this move towards a secular world picture did not mean the end of morality and that it could continue as much before. In a Darwinian age this was not possible and the Christian cherishing of the virtue of meekness was replaced by a moral respect for vigor and effort directed both towards self-realization and to the well-being of society. We compare the British moves to those promoted by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. There are significant similarities but also differences that reflect the British industrialized notion of progress versus the German idealistic notion of progress.

Thomas J. Coleman III, Kenan Sevinç, Ralph W. Hood Jr. and Jonathan Jong

Abstract

In accordance with Terror Management Theory research, secular beliefs can serve an important role for mitigating existential concerns by providing atheists with a method to attain personal meaning and bolster self-esteem. Although much research has suggested that religious beliefs are powerful defense mechanisms, these effects are limited or reveal more nuanced effects when attempting to explain atheists’ (non)belief structures. The possibility of nonbelief that provides meaning in the “here and now” is reinforced by the importance placed on scientific discovery, education, and social activism by many atheists. Thus, these values and ideologies can, and do, allow for empirically testable claims within a Terror Management framework. Although religious individuals can and largely do use religion as a defense strategy against existential concerns, purely secular ideologies are more effective for atheists providing evidence for a hierarchical approach and individual differences within worldview defenses. Evidence for and implications of these arguments are discussed.

Media and Witchcraft Accusation in Northern Ghana

A Study of the Dagomba Community

Leo Igwe

Abstract

There has been a growing visibility of witchcraft beliefs in the African media. The dominant paradigm in the academic literature on witchcraft is that the media reinforce witchcraft beliefs by disseminating information and ideas that are related to witchcraft accusations and witch hunting. However, a careful examination shows that this is not always the case because the media serve other counter purposes. Using ethnographic data from the Dagomba area in Northern Ghana and the concept of forum shopping, this paper explores how accused persons in the Dagomba communities utilize the limited media coverage to enhance their responses to witchcraft accusations. Apart from disseminating information regarding the activities of assumed witches, the media publicize perspectives that reject witchcraft notions.

Anastasia E. Somerville-Wong

Abstract

This paper, by the founder of the UK based Secular Liturgies Network and Forum, explores the concept and purpose of secular liturgy, and the potential for liturgical events in modern secular societies. It examines the practice of writing secular liturgy, discusses potential contributions from atheists, agnostics, humanists and religious progressives, and considers the new pastoral roles that may evolve alongside a secular liturgies movement. The author argues that secular liturgies and liturgical events have the potential to enrich secular culture, nurture community, facilitate healthy social interaction, advance ethical thought, promote creative writing and other arts, and galvanise people in their efforts towards sustainability and the creation of cultures and environments of health.

Laura Rediehs

Abstract

Quakerism emerged in the seventeenth century, during a time when philosophical debates about the nature of knowledge led to the emergence of modern science. The Quakers, in some conversation with early modern philosophers, developed a distinctive epistemology rooted in their concept of the Light Within, which functioned as a special internal sense giving access to divine insight. The Light Within provided illumination both to properly understand the Bible and to ‘read’ the Book of Nature. This epistemology can be thought of as an expanded experiential empiricism that integrates our ethical and religious knowledge with our scientific knowledge. This epistemology has carried through in Quaker thought to the present day and can be helpful in the context of today’s epistemological crisis.

Samta P Pandya

This article reports a three-year repeated measures study on the effect of guru-led new religious movements’ (gnrm) customized Facebook yoga lessons on followers’ spiritual experiences and religious commitment. Participants comprised 3,488 followers across four gnrms. During the study period, each gnrm Facebook page had an average of 1,095 daily posts and 156 weekly yoga lessons. Results showed that at phase 2, scores of participants on spiritual experiences and religious commitment measures were significantly higher vis-à-vis the comparison group. Within the participant cohort, women, those with stable marital status, and those who performed a combination of devotional and social service activities at the gnrms scored higher. Disciplined Facebook usage influenced regular viewing of the customized yoga lessons, higher quiz scores, and regular self-practice. The strongest predictor of the phase 2 outcome measure scores was regular self-practice. With focused administering and usage, Facebook is an effective medium for intensifying spiritual experiences and religious commitment among gnrms’ fellowship.

John Dyer

Christians in general and American evangelicals in particular are increasingly using digital media to access Scripture, but it is unclear how this shift is influencing the behaviors they value most: regular reading and in-depth study. Using survey data, assessments of comprehension, and daily reading progress, this study examines how engagement with the Bible varies between print and screens. Results indicated that American evangelicals use a combination of print and digital forms of Scripture based on the kind of engagement they want to carry out (devotional reading, in-depth study, prayer, etc.). The data also suggest readers have lower comprehension when reading the Bible on screens compared to print. Readers using mobile devices are more likely to engage scripture daily than those using printed Bibles, and these effects are more pronounced in male readers than female readers.

Mia Lövheim and Stig Hjarvard

During the last decade the framework of mediatization theory has been introduced in the field of media, religion and culture as a parallel perspective to the “mediation of religion” approach, allowing new questions to be posed that align with religious change within Europe. This article provides a critical review of existing research applying mediatization of religion theory, focusing on key issues raised by its critics as well as how the theory have moved the research field forward. These issues concern the concept of religion, institution and social change, religious authority, and the application of mediatization theory outside the North-Western European context where it originated. The article argues that an institutional approach to mediatization is a relevant tool for analyzing change as a dynamic process in which the logics of particular forms of media influence practices, values and relations within particular manifestations of religion across various levels of analysis.