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Women protesting veil ban

Legislative Catharsis, Part Two: A Primer on Québec’s Veil Bans for Europeans

Date:29 May 2019
Author:Muhammad Velji
The Canadian province of Québec is currently debating Bill 21, “an Act respecting the laicity [secularity] of the State," which would ban certain public officials from performing their duties while wearing religious symbols. Although it has been widely criticized as an attack on Québec's Muslim population, the Bill retains significant public support. In the second of this two-part primer, philosopher Muhammad Velji explains how the rationale behind such a ban switched from the logic of “civic-pluralism” to a more reactionary “romantic-conservatism.”
Young women wearing the fleur de lys, a symbol of Quebec. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz.

Legislative Catharsis, Part One: A Primer on Québec’s Veil Bans for Europeans

Date:22 May 2019
Author:Muhammad Velji
The Canadian province of Québec is currently debating Bill 21, “an Act respecting the laicity [secularity] of the State," which would ban certain public officials from performing their duties while wearing religious symbols (and would require those seeking public services to do so with their faces "uncovered.") Although it has been widely criticized as an attack on Québec's Muslim population, the Bill retains significant public support. In this two-part primer, philosopher Muhammad Velji explains how such "veil bans" came to be thinkable in contemporary Canada, starting with the "Quiet Revolution" of the 1960s.
Chemistry undergraduates at Stanford University sampling jiu, a fermented beverage made from sorghum, rice, or millet. © Kurk Hickman

Drunk History (of Chinese Religions)

Date:24 April 2019
Author:Tim Swanger
What can efforts to translate “alcoholic drink” (jiu 酒) from Chinese to English teach us about the category of religion? A surprising amount, argues Tim Swanger. 
#exMuslimBecause

#exMuslimBecause: Popular Terminology Among Islam’s Non-Believers

Date:01 March 2019
Author:Maria Vliek
What is at stake in the terminology of (non)belief? Drawing on recent fieldwork with former Muslims in the Netherlands and Great Britain, Maria Vliek reflects on the politics of declaring oneself 'ex-Muslim.' 
Sermon at Bethel Chapel

Sanctuary and Public Space: Church Asylum and Kinderpardon in the Netherlands

Date:08 February 2019
Author:Christoph Grüll
What does a 97 day church service have to do with the power of the state? Christoph Grüll reflects on compassion, justice, and the meaning of sanctuary.
DNA puzzle

Settler Similarity and the Science of Difference

Date:07 January 2019
Author:Tyler Tully
What can DNA tell us about our "identity," and - more significantly - what can't it? In our first blog post of 2019, Tyler M. Tully reflects on the relationship between DNA testing, settler-colonial norms, and racial apartheid in the United States and beyond.
Centre for the New Age

When is a Psychic or a Witch a Fraud?

Date:03 December 2018
Author:Susannah Crockford
Does witchcraft, fortune-telling, or psychic healing constitute fraud, and (when) should the law step in to regulate these practices? Drawing on fieldwork with psychics in Sedona, Arizona, Dr Susannah Crockford considers recent witchcraft cases in Canada and the United States to argue against the framing of certain religious practice as inherently fraudulent.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Shadow of Colonialism: Indigenous Rights in a Human Rights Framework

Date:12 November 2018
Author:Januschka Schmidt
This December, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights celebrates its 70th anniversary. Despite its achievements, we must not forget that the concept of human rights still has limitations. One aspect that needs further discussion is the protection of the rights of Indigenous peoples within its framework. In today’s post Janushcka Schmidt wants to argue that, to make human rights genuinely inclusive, we must not only protect rights by law (de jure) but also safeguard their application in practice (de facto).
Khrishna

Does Prayer Really “Count” for Anything?

Date:08 October 2018
Author:Anishka Gheewala-Lohiya
What counts as ‘prayer,’ and is it a category with cross-cultural utility? In this blog post, Anishka Gheewala-Lohiya reflects on her fieldwork with Pushtimarg Hindus in India and the UK to argue for an expanded understanding of the concept among devotees of the baby Krishna.
statue forgiveness

The Politics of Apology: Zimbabwe After the 2018 Elections

Date:10 September 2018
Author:Joram Tarusarira
Dr Joram Tarusarira, Director of the Centre for Religion, Conflict and Globalisation and Assistant Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding, reflects on politics in Zimbabwe after the 2018 elections, cautioning against simplistic calls for apologies and forgiveness.
Picture taken by F. Pool during fieldwork

Do Muslims in the Netherlands Fail to Secularise? Reflecting on the SCP Report from an Indian Perspective

Date:25 June 2018
Author:Fernande Pool
Does piety threaten secularism? In this post, Fernande Pool examines the recent Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP) report on Islam in the Netherlands, challenging the implicit bias contained within its use of ‘religion’ and ‘secularity’.
Maria statue at Rennes-le-Chateaux

Is the French State Really ‘Secular’? Some Reflections on Municipal Laïcité

Date:18 June 2018
Author:Dr. Julia Martínez-Ariño
How is laïcité – official state secularism – practiced in contemporary France? In this post, the Centre for Religion, Conflict and Globalisation’s Dr. Julia Martínez-Ariño discusses recent research in the cities of Rennes, Bordeaux and Toulouse to suggest that laïcité takes many forms in French municipalities – including the recognition and support of ‘religious’ actors and institutions.
Abortion law protester in Ireland

Abortion in Northern Ireland – A ‘Religious’ Problem?

Date:01 June 2018
Author:Januschka Schmidt
Is membership of a ‘religious’ community a good predictor of one’s views on abortion? In light of last week’s referendum on abortion in the Republic of Ireland, Januschka Schmidt reflects on the situation north of the border, where official church teaching and local attitudes appear increasingly out of step.

No More “Harmful Traditional Practices”! Gender Activism and Faith Leaders in International Development

Date:02 May 2018
Author:Religion Factor
Researchers from the University of Groningen and the University of Stellenbosch recently concluded a one-year study on the role of faith leaders in challenging gender-based violence and gender inequality. The study, “Working effectively with faith leaders to challenge harmful traditional practices,” explores faith leaders’ roles in challenging gender-based violence and made recommendations for how the faith dimensions in development work can be taken seriously (rather than merely instrumentalised).
Icelandic Flag

Circumscribing the Body Politic: Circumcision, Religious Freedom and Identity in Europe

Date:29 March 2018
Author:Méadhbh McIvor
In February 2018, Icelandic Member of Parliament Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir made international news by proposing a bill that would criminalise the circumcision of male children for non-medical reasons. The bill, which is supported by the ruling Progressive Party and Left-Green coalition, has sparked heated debates within Iceland (and beyond): while its supporters argue that circumcision is akin to child abuse, and ought, therefore, to be subject to the penalties of criminal law, its opponents point to the particular burden the law would place on Jewish and Muslim families seeking to parent within their respective religious traditions.

The Power to Call for ‘Inclusion Riders’: Violence and Innocence in Gender Activism

Date:08 March 2018
Author:Dr Brenda Bartelink
In a post to mark International Women’s Day, Dr Brenda Bartelink problematizes the selective language of ‘harmful cultural practices’, challenging the development sector to confront its ongoing colonial biases as it seeks to improve the lives of women and girls.

Saints of the Shaking Earth

Date:10 January 2018
Author:Dr. Alanna Cant
We start the new year with a post by Dr Alanna Cant. Drawing on recent fieldwork in Oaxaca, Mexico, Cant explores church-state relations through the lens of church restoration, religious ‘heritage’, and popular devotion to the saints.

The Lived Religion Project

Date:18 December 2017
Author:Drs Fernande Pool and Timothy Stacey
Drs Fernande Pool and Timothy Stacey (see bio’s at end of this post) have recently launched the Lived Religion Project (http://livedreligionproject.com/), a story project focusing on the ‘religious’ lives of ordinary people.

Why Justice Requires More than a Verdict: Religion and Reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Date:15 December 2017
Author:Sanne Hupkes
In today’s post, Sanne Hupkes reflects on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia's (ICTY) trial of Ratko Mladic. Sanne is a PhD student whose research focuses on the role of (power-sharing) democracy in peace operations. She is concerned with the place of (religious) collective identities within democracy in post-conflict societies. Bosnia-Herzegovina is one of the sites of her research.

The Necessary Complexity of Freedom of Religion or Belief

Date:27 November 2017
Author:Gary McLelland
How does the law shape the category of (free) religion, and by which mechanisms does this shaping occur? Building on conversations started at the Centre for Religion, Conflict and Globalisation’s recent conference, ‘Reimagining Difference: Being, Thinking and Practicing Beyond Essentialism’, this collaborative Religion Factor and Religion: Going Public blog series explores law’s approach to – and creation of – religion and religious liberty. In our final post, Gary McLelland of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) mounts a defence of the necessary complexity of freedom of religion or belief from the perspective of a human rights practitioner.

Silent Borders

Date:20 November 2017
Author:Lourdes Peroni
How does the law shape the category of (free) religion, and by which mechanisms does this shaping occur? Building on conversations started at the Centre for Religion, Conflict and Globalisation’s recent conference, ‘Reimagining Difference: Being, Thinking and Practicing Beyond Essentialism’, this collaborative Religion Factor and Religion: Going Public blog series explores law’s approach to – and creation of – religion and religious liberty. In this post, ​Lourdes Peroni examines the enforcement of unspoken normative borders by administrative bodies and lower courts.

The Agency of Agencies: Bureaucracy and the Politics of Religious Freedom

Date:13 November 2017
Author:​Richard Amesbury
How does the law shape the category of (free) religion, and by which mechanisms does this shaping occur? Building on conversations started at the Centre for Religion, Conflict and Globalisation’s recent conference, ‘Reimagining Difference: Being, Thinking and Practicing Beyond Essentialism’, this collaborative Religion Factor and Religion: Going Public blog series explores law’s approach to – and creation of – religion and religious rights. In this post, Professor ​Richard Amesbury examines bureaucracy’s politics of depoliticisation.

Boredom in the Court

Date:06 November 2017
Author:Dr Méadhbh McIvor
How does the law shape the category of (free) religion, and by which mechanisms does this shaping occur? Building on conversations started at the Centre for Religion, Conflict and Globalisation’s recent conference, ‘Reimagining Difference: Being, Thinking and Practicing Beyond Essentialism’, this collaborative Religion Factor and Religion: Going Public blog series explores law’s approach to – and creation of – religion and religious rights. In this post, the Centre's Dr Méadhbh McIvor responds to Helge Årsheim by reflecting on sex, politics, and legal tedium.

Deus in Machina: How Bureaucrats Determine Religious Freedom

Date:30 October 2017
Author:Roos Feringa
How does the law shape the category of (free) religion, and by which mechanisms does this shaping occur? Building on conversations started at theCentre for Religion, Conflict and Globalisation‘s recent conference, ‘Reimagining Difference: Being, Thinking and Practicing Beyond Essentialism’, this blog series explores law’s approach to – and creation of – religion and religious rights. Helge Årsheim opens our exchange by asking: How should scholars of religion understand the ‘fine print’ that determines the limits of religious freedom?

Beyond religious freedom: the Rohingya and the politics of religious rights in Myanmar

Date:24 August 2017
Author:Roos Feringa
In today’s blogpost the key note speaker of our Jubilee Conference, Elizabeth Shakman Hurdexplores the politics of religious difference and the problems and challenges raised by religious freedom in the protection of minorities through a case study of the Rohingya in Myanmar. Prof Hurd will be speaking on the topic of ‘Thinking Differently about religion, politics and power’ on 13 September. Today’s post is a brief introduction to themes she will explore in greater depth in her talk.

A story of oppression: freedom of expression, minorities, sexual harassment law and offence

Date:15 July 2017
Author:Aukje Muller
Numerous events in the European public sphere, from the Danish cartoons affair to the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and their aftermath, have provoked a significant debate about the notion of offence in relation to religious sensibilities, as well as on the potential limitations of freedom of expression. Yet, it is not just in relation to religious minorities and religious sensibilities that the issue of offence is important. The nature of offence, and the right to be offended are also crucial components of responses to sexual harassment. In this blog post, Aukje Muller explores what, if anything, we might learn by considering approaches to offence within sexual harassment law that could help us navigate the tricky terrain of religious minority rights, freedom of expression and offence in contemporary European politics.

The vanishing option of not being political about religion: Reflections on “Ahok”

Date:26 May 2017
Author:Religion Factor
The Ahok case in Indonesia has sent ripples through the international community, raising concerns about human rights and freedom of religion or belief in the Indonesian context. In today’s post, Christoph Gruell draws on his research experiences in Cirebon, Java, to unpack what is going on in the Ahok case and the dangers that arise when it becomes increasingly impossible not to be political about your religious identity.

Did the Netherlands halt populism? Political pluralism, religious diversity and the spirit of accommodation in 21st century Dutch politics

Date:24 March 2017
Author:Sanne Hupkes
Today’s post is the second article on the Dutch elections that were held last week written by Sanne Hupkes, this time a reaction to the results of the elections and the conclusions drawn from those by some Dutch politicians. Has populism actually been ‘halted’, as some claim? And is there something like ‘the wrong kind of populism’?

Sexual equality and post-truth: making distinctions

Date:20 March 2017
Author:Roos Feringa
On 7 March 2017, the eve of International Women’s Day, the Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain, in collaboration with the Centre for Gender Studies, hosted a panel discussion evening on ‘Gender and Sexual Equality in a Post-Truth Age’. Four panellists contributed to the conversation and over the next few weeks we will be publishing some of their remarks here on The Religion Factor. Today we have the first instalment from Frederik Boven, coordinator of the workgroup LGBT and religion of the Groningen and Drenthe chapter of the Dutch LGBT organisation COC Netherlands.

The quarter finals against populism: national identity in the Dutch elections

Date:15 March 2017
Author:Roos Feringa
Renée van der Harst – Wagenvoorde has written an analysis of the campaigning period and how it differs from previous years of the Dutch parliamental elections that will take place on the 15th of March. Renée is a postdoctoral research fellow and the funding officer of the Centre of Religion and the Public Domain.

The ‘religion or secularism’ debate on women’s equality obscures the real problem: patriarchy

Date:08 March 2017
Author:Roos Feringa
Is ‘religion’ patriarchal, antithetical to gender equality? This was a question posed last night during the Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain #IWD2017 panel discussion on ‘Gender and Sexual Equality in a Post-Truth Age’. On International Women’s Day 2017, Erin K. Wilson explores this question, arguing that actually, this is the wrong question to be asking.
Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the USA.

The insidious inequality of contemporary democracy

Date:27 January 2017
Author:Roos Feringa
Despite pledging that ‘a new national pride will heal our divisions’, Trump’s first week in office has been conspicuous by its lack of conciliation towards those who did not support him in his run for the White House and in the actions he has taken to further marginalize women, Muslims, immigrants, Native Americans and all those who identify with and support these groups.

Waarom Nederlanders geen taboes rondom seksualiteit moeten willen doorbreken

Date:26 January 2017
Author:Roos Feringa
In de afgelopen zes jaar zijn Seksuele Gezondheid en Rechten (SRGR) een speerpunt geweest in het ontwikkelingsbeleid. Zo noemde Minister PloumenNederland een voortrekker in het doorbreken van taboes rondom seksualiteit en gender. Deze week nog nam Minister Ploumen stelling in tegen het besluit van President Trump om de Global Gag Rule opnieuw in werking te laten treden.
A nativity scene at St Antony of Padua Church, Istanbul, decorated with objects found in shipwrecks of refugees on the Turkish coast. Christmas 15/16. Photographer: Pedro J. Pacheco. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

The ‘refugee crisis’, religion, and encounters with the divine through the human at Christmas

Date:24 December 2016
Author:Religion Factor
Whether you see it as truth, myth or folklore, the Christmas story is a powerful narrative in contemporary politics in multiple contexts. In the midst of fraught politics around refugees and immigration, refugee advocates often highlight that ‘Jesus was a refugee’, his family being forced to flee to Egypt shortly after his birth to escape King Herod. Yet as well-meaning as this argument is, does this emphasis on Jesus as a ‘refugee’ help to inspire compassion, or does it retain an emphasis on labels and categories that prevent us from seeing fellow human beings? In today’s post Erin K. Wilson and Luca Mavelli explore this and other dimensions of how the Christmas story speaks to the current crisis of humanity that is often referred to as the ‘refugee crisis’. Whatever your beliefs, we wish all our readers a safe, peaceful and joyous holiday season.

Can Religion Promote Reconciliation in Zimbabwe?

Date:21 December 2016
Author:Roos Feringa

Zimbabwe still struggles to cope in the aftermath of the economic and political violence of the early to mid-2000s. To many observers, Zimbabwe remains a divided and undemocratic ‘failed state’. In today’s post, Gladys Ganiel reviews a new book by Joram Ta...

Review ‘Reconciliation and Religio-political Non-conformism in Zimbabwe’

Date:21 December 2016
Author:Roos Feringa
The day before Christmas we will conclude our series on Joram Tarusarira’s new book ‘Reconciliation and Religio-political Non-conformism in Zimbabwe’ (read the previous review here) with yet another review written by Vlado Kmec. Vlado currently works at the University of Cambridge and is a fellow of the CRCPD. He offers expertise to the Centre in religion and migration; religion in conflict and peacebuilding; ethnic and religious conflicts; religion and international relations; mediation and negotiation; the United Nations peacekeeping and peacebuilding, and the EU Common Security and Defence Policy.

Reflections on a ‘horror campaign’ to draw attention to the global impact of HIV and AIDS (Netherlands)

Date:20 December 2016
Author:Religion Factor
On International Human Solidarity Day 2016 a blog post by Brenda Bartelink. Recently, the Dutch Aidsfonds stopped a confrontational campaign on the rise of HIV-infections and deaths worldwide after a complaint by a prominent Dutch lawyer that this campaign unduly stigmatized people living with HIV and AIDS. In today’s post Brenda Bartelink argues that there is more at stake than the stigmatization of people living with HIV in the Netherlands. To broaden the discussion, she compares the Aidsfonds campaign to a campaign that was developed by religious leaders in Sub Saharan Africa -now implemented worldwide- as an example of how the usual dilemma’s surrounding such campaigns can be overcome.

Reconciliation and Religio-political non-conformism in Zimbabwe

Date:20 December 2016
Author:Roos Feringa
Earlier this year, Joram Tarusarira published his important book that analyses religious actors and identifies a specific form of engagement that they display in contexts of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. Joram Tarisarira is a lecturer in Religion and Conflict and Deputy Director of the Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Groningen.In today’s post, the author provides a summary of the main insights from the book.
Peace in Colombia

Peace in Colombia: An ambitious project finally starts

Date:15 December 2016
Author:Religion Factor
Two weeks ago, Colombia’s congress ratified the peace agreement that has been painstakingly negotiated, voted on and renegotatied in the last months. In today’s post, dr. Sandra Rios analyses some of the key factors, including the role of religious actors, at stake in the journey to peace in Colombia.

CRCPD’s public lecture by Prof. John Paul Lederach – ‘Mobilizing the moral imagination’

Date:30 November 2016
Author:Religion Factor
Tomorrow, 1st of December, Professor John Paul Lederach will, in a lecture organised by The Centre of Religion and Conflict in the Public Domain, talk about ‘Mobilizing the moral imagination: Religion in the landscape of fragmentation’. Join us for the lecture and the discussion with great panel of expert respondents: dr. Michelle Parlevliet, specialist in Conflict Resolution and Governance at UVA, Fulco van Deventer, director at the Human Security Collective in the Hague and Simone Filippini, previous CEO and current advisor at Cordaid.

Varieties of Religious Engagement with Climate Change

Date:27 September 2016
Author:Religion Factor
Next week, the Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain, together with Studium Generale Groningen, will host Professor Mike Hulmefrom King’s College London, speaking on Religion’s Role in Climate Change. In today’s post, Professor Hulme provides a taste of some of the issues and themes he will address in greater detail as part of his talk on Wednesday 5 October.
The Lottery of Indecency – @LaSauvageJaune

The scandal of women’s bodies in secular Europe

Date:25 August 2016
Author:Religion Factor
On Tuesday this week, images of a woman on a beach in Nice being forced by armed police to remove portions of her swimwear began circulating on the internet. The so-called ‘burkini ban’ has sparked outrage and controversy, not least because it is yet another variation of an age-old problem – the control over women’s bodies in public. In today’s post, Kim Knibbe vents her frustrations and reflects on the complex array of factors that contribute to women’s bodies continuing to be objects for the exercise of power. 

The secular dead body: feeling awkward about organ donorship

Date:17 July 2016
Author:Religion Factor
Organ donorship is a sensitive and at times controversial topic in numerous political contexts. In today’s post, Ton Groeneweg picks up recent failed efforts to introduce Active Donor Registration in The Netherlands to explore the relationship between these debates and evolving dynamics around religion and secularism.
A line of Syrian refugees crossing the border of Hungary and Austria on their way to Germany. Hungary, Central Europe, 6 September 2015. Source: Mstyslav Chernov Used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Religious identity and the Refugee Crisis

Date:20 June 2016
Author:Religion Factor
Today, 20 June, is World Refugee Day. The UNHCR released its annual Global Trends Report. For the first time in the organisation’s history, global displacement has crossed the 60 million threshold, with a total of 65.3 million people displaced in 2015. That’s 24 people every minute, or 1 in every 113 people.

The Problem is Religion – but not in the way we think

Date:23 March 2016
Author:Religion Factor
The terror attacks in Brussels on Tuesday have once again raised questions about the relationship between religion and violence. In today’s post, Erin Wilsonreflects on these issues, exploring key arguments made by Prof William Cavanaugh during his recent lecture in Groningen and book The Myth of Religious Violence. 

West, East, and Bureaucratic Torture

Date:18 February 2016
Author:Religion Factor
Next Tuesday 23.2.2016, at 11:00-13:00 Prof. Smadar Lavie will give a lecture in Groningen as part of a tour promoting her book “Wrapped in the Flag of Israel” – Mizrahi Single Mothers and Bureaucratic Torture. The lecture will take place in the Zittingszaal, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, Oude Boteringestraat 38, Groningen. In today’s post, Ronit Nikolsky provides a brief overview of the content of Prof. Lavie’s book and the questions and issues she will explore further during this lecture.
A street memorial in Paris following the November attacks. Source: Wikimedia. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Inviting our future: liberal de-culturalization and the Paris attacks – Part two

Date:16 February 2016
Author:Religion Factor
In today’s post Ton Groeneweg continues his analysis of liberal de-culturalization as a deeper trend exposed by the responses to the attacks in Paris. In this second part of his blog, he focuses on how this process of de-culturalization has sincere consequences for our existence in liberal societies, and how the experienced threats to our liberal existence might offer some opportunities as well.
A street memorial in Paris following the November attacks. Source: Wikimedia. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Inviting our future: liberal de-culturalization and the Paris attacks – Part One

Date:11 February 2016
Author:Religion Factor
After a brief hiatus, today we continue our series of reflections on the broader meaning and consequences of events such as the attacks in Paris in November late last year. In today’s post, which is the first of a two-part blog, Ton Groeneweg reflects on the structures that create and sustain the image of superiority of liberal values and positions, supposedly under threat by the attacks in Paris. This image appears to be caught in a self-blinding mechanism that, in refusing to see its own specific cultural biases, threatens to further alienate and exclude those who do not conform to its implicit norms. In the second part of the blog, he will also briefly respond to the earlier contributions of Erin Wilson and Joram Tarusarira to this series.
Two elephants fighting. Source: Benh LIEU SONG from Torcy, France, via Wikimedia Commons. Used under Creative Commons License 2.0

Continuing reflections after Paris, Beirut and Iraq attacks

Date:17 December 2015
Author:Joram Tarusarira
Today’s post continues our series of reflections on the attacks in Paris, Beirut and Iraq. Joram Tarusarira responds to Erin Wilson’s call to accept ambiguities, posing a few problems and questions with this approach

Whose religion? Whose Tolerance? A Response to Jonathan Israel

Date:15 December 2015
Author:Erin Wilson
In yesterday’s post, Aukje Muller and Roos Feringa provided a summary of a public lecture delivered by Prof Jonathan Israel at the University of Groningen. CRCPD Director Erin Wilson was one of three scholars asked to give a response to Prof Israel’s talk. These remarks are published in today’s post.

Toleration in the Dutch Republic – A changing picture?

Date:14 December 2015
Author:Aukje Muller, Roos Feringa
On Wednesday 4 November 2015, Jonathan Israel gave a University Colloquium lecture in Groningen, organised by Studium Generale. In his talk, Israel focused on the still very relevant notion of tolerance in the Dutch Republic, from the early Enlightenment period onwards. In today’s post, Aukje Muller and Roos Feringa summarise and review Prof Israel’s lecture.

Terrorism, climate change and the politics of ‘radicalization’

Date:11 December 2015
Author:Religion Factor
Radicalization’ is becoming an increasingly common word in contemporary politics and public discourse. Yet it crops up in seemingly unrelated contexts, most recently in Paris, in relation to both terrorism and climate change. This raises a number of questions about what or who radicalization actually refers to. Erin Wilson reflects on these ambivalent dimensions of ‘radicalization’ in today’s post.
Community members in Lupane ADP, Zimbabwe. Image: Brenda Bartelink

Towards a broader research agenda in religion and development

Date:10 December 2015
Author:Religion Factor
In our previous post, Erin Wilson and Brenda Bartelink shared a summary and preliminary insights from a pilot study on spirituality and development transformation. In addition to the project specific findings, their research has also highlighted additional areas of focus for research on religion and development more broadly. In today’s post, they discuss these additional insights, developing suggestions for a broader research agenda on religion and development.
A mother and her baby at one of the health clinics in Lupane ADP, Zimbabwe. Photo: Brenda Bartelink

The spiritual is political: Blurring boundaries and challenging assumptions in religion and development

Date:09 December 2015
Author:Religion Factor
Researchers at the CRCPD recently concluded a one-year NWO-funded pilot project exploring the entanglement of personal religious and spiritual transformation with broader processes of social transformation in developing contexts. The project was a collaboration with the Knowledge Centre Religion and Development and World Vision International and included field research amongst communities and World Vision staff in Zimbabwe, and a workshop with academics and practitioners in The Hague in June of this year. In this post, Erin Wilson and Brenda Bartelink provide a summary overview of the project and its preliminary findings.
“Born-again atheist badge, c.1987” by Unknown – Personal collection. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Conflationary Consequences in Contemporary Atheisms

Date:26 November 2015
In today’s post, Terrell Carver reflects on our atheisms series, noting the ways in which conflation occurs across different concepts in public atheist discourses and the risks, challenges and strategies this raises for analysing as well as engaging with atheisms in contemporary global politics and public life.
This image was being shared by IS supporters on the day after the Paris attacks. One of them commented: “How the French Kuffar are feeling this morning. Streets deserted, everyone in fear and terror struck in their hearts”

Paris through the eyes of IS supporters

Date:24 November 2015
The attacks in Paris have led to huge debates about the perpetrators and their backgrounds, the strategies of the Islamic State, security policies in Europe, the role of Islam in the West, the possible risks of refugees and the most effective measures to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Less attention has been paid to how the supporters of the Islamic State have perceived the attacks

How global are atheisms?

Date:23 November 2015
In the past two weeks, The Religion Factor has published a series of posts on the topic of diversity within contemporary atheist movements, leading up to a seminar on ‘Atheisms around the globe’ organized by the CRCPD. In today’s post, Jeroen Weggen reflects back on the seminar and the series, offering some thoughts on which directions future research on atheisms might take.
Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) confronted by Bob Ewell (James Anderson), the father of the white girl allegedly raped by a black man, in a scene from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (1962)

Accepting Ambiguity: Being Content with Uncertainties amidst the Urge for Security

Date:17 November 2015
Since the events in Iraq, Beirut and Paris last week, we have all been trying to make sense of what has happened and how to respond. Over the coming weeks, The Religion Factor will be publishing reflections from staff and fellows of the Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain on these events from a number of different perspectives. Today’s post, from CRCPD Director Erin Wilson, suggests that becoming more comfortable with ambiguity may be the most difficult response, but is perhaps one of the few ways to deal with the inconsistencies and uncertainties that such events inevitably raise.

Atheism and Nonreligion: Theory and Comparison beyond the North-Atlantic World

Date:16 November 2015
Last Friday, Teemu Taira compared and contrasted the rates of atheism of Finland and Sweden and tried to explain this in terms of differing national histories. In today’s contribution, Johannes Quack will draw on his fieldwork with rationalist organizations in India to consider which directions the study of atheism, and more broadly nonreligion, should take.

Do National Histories Matter? Explaining the Diversity of Atheism

Date:13 November 2015
In Wednesday’s post by Stephen LeDrew, the focus was on diversity within American atheism. Today we make the jump from American atheism to European atheism. Teemu Taira will explore the differences between atheism in Finland and atheism in Sweden and relate them to the national histories of these Scandinavian countries and the role that the media has played in making people aware of atheism.

Diversity in American Atheism

Date:11 November 2015
Yesterday’s post introduced the phenomenon of the new publicity of atheism and atheist organizations, as well as the issue of diversity. In today’s post, Stephen LeDrew discusses the particular case of atheism in America and the diversity that can be found in the American atheist movement, arguing that this diversity is directly related to the history of atheist and secularist organizations and the role that the internet has played in the development of contemporary atheist movement(s).

Atheism(s) in the public sphere

Date:10 November 2015
In more and more parts of the world, atheism is becoming publicly visible, yet the ways in which this occurs are many and varied, related to differences in politics, culture, histories of secularism and secularization and a host of other factors

Integration following the Big Five of Citizenship

Date:05 November 2015
Author:Tim Swanger
Newcomers are increasingly expected to adapt to Dutch culture. This narrow interpretation of citizenship is exclusive by nature. By focusing on tolerance and social engagement instead, a shared national identity will evolve by itself.

Is Reconciliation Possible after Violent Conflict? Analysing Christian Peacebuilders and their Promotion of Reconciliation

Date:23 October 2015
Author:Religion Factor
Last week, Dr Gladys Ganiel delivered a lecture at the Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain, University of Groningen as part of the seminar series. The lecture explored possibilities for reconciliation, the weaknesses of approaches to reconciliation as well as its strengths.
A rally in support of the “No” Vote in the Greek referendum against the austerity reforms being demanded by the EU, Syntagma Square, Athens, 3 July 2015. Source: Ggia, Wikimedia Commons, Shared Under Creative Commons License 4.0

No Time for Despair: Neoliberalism, Democracy and (the absence of) Religion in Wendy Brown’s “Undoing the Demos”

Date:16 July 2015
Author:Religion Factor
The present crisis unfolding around Greece is, among many other things, a clash between political imaginaries. On the one hand, there is the vision of a democratic politics, represented (in a historical irony of sorts) by its presumed birthplace in Greece and the anti-austerity protesters taking to the streets of Athens. On the other, there is the depoliticized matrix of economic pragmatics, as represented by the Eurozone.
A soldier from the RAF Regiment on patrol near Basrah Air Base, Iraq. Photo: Harland Quarrington, MOD. Licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0

It’s not all about Islam: misreading secular politics in the Middle East

Date:07 May 2015
Author:Religion Factor
Western policymakers once understood the dynamics of secular politics in the Middle East, but this knowledge has been subsumed under a fixation on Islam’s supposed threat to western security interests, writes today´s guest contributor Dr Stacey Gutkowski.

Religion and Conflict: Beyond Clichés and Stereotypes

Date:02 April 2015
Author:Religion Factor
Religion and conflict seem to be more prevalent than ever in contemporary global politics and society. So often in public debate we hear that religion is either violent or it is peaceful, that it is oppressive or it promotes justice. But are these the only two ways of thinking about religion and conflict? In today’s post, Marjo Buitelaar, Kim Knibbe and Erin Wilson consider some possible alternatives and invite you to join them to explore these issues further in a free online course.
Je suis Ahmed

What was worse, Charlie Hebdo or Boko Haram? Religion, violence and clicktivism.

Date:16 February 2015
Author:Religion Factor
The fallout from the Charlie Hebdo attacks around the tensions between “religion” and “freedom of speech” continue to feature prominently in public debate across Europe, particularly in the aftermath of the Copenhagen cafe shooting over the weekend.
All religions are equal

‘All religions are equal, but some religions are more equal than others’ Part Two

Date:11 February 2015
Author:Religion Factor
In the first part of this blog, Ton Groeneweg sketched out three existing problems with the notion of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), and how it is being used and promoted in the context of international platforms arising in its defence.
Freedom of Religion or Belief

‘All religions are equal, but some religions are more equal than others’ Part One

Date:09 February 2015
Author:Religion Factor
This phrase catches a key problem with the concept of ‘Freedom of Religion or Belief’, and how it is practiced and promoted in the world today. Just as in Animal Farm, George Orwell’s famous animal utopia, it suggests that power may cloak itself in the language of equality, and create, in fact, entirely the opposite.

Living together well: secularism, liberal democracy and uncertainty in the wake of Charlie Hebdo

Date:20 January 2015
Author:Religion Factor
The Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris have raised many questions about free speech, liberal democracy, freedom of religion and how to live together in multicultural, multi faith, multi political societies. In today’s post, Erin Wilson explores some of these questions and encourages us, rather than seeking for definitive answers, to see the conversation and debate these questions inspire as an answer in themselves.

Resilience and religion during crisis – What humanitarian aid can learn from the personal stories of Ebola survivors

Date:26 November 2014
Author:Religion Factor
In humanitarian aid there is often a strong focus on the biomedical angle of disease, as we can see right now in the Ebola crisis in West Africa. However, the role of religion should not be underestimated...

Is it really “inconceivable”? Reimagining the role of religion in promoting gender equality

Date:20 November 2014
Author:Religion Factor
Gender and feminism seem to be gaining attention again in the broader global public sphere. Religion – as a concept and as representative of broad traditions of belief and theology – has frequently had a problematic relationship with both of these concepts and frameworks.

Faith and the Asylum Crisis: The role of religion in responding to displacement

Date:17 November 2014
Author:Religion Factor
Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, the DRC. In each of these contexts, and numerous others, complex dynamics around politics, resources, religion and power are contributing to the creation of a global crisis of displacement of unprecedented scale, with a record number of 51.2 million people displaced in 2013.

Religion and Disaster Risk Reduction: A Review of the World Disasters Report 2014

Date:03 November 2014
Author:Religion Factor
The 2014 edition of the International Federation of the Red Cross’ (IFRC) World Disasters Report (WDR 2014) focuses on risk and culture.[1] The intersection of these two areas represents a response to the current trend for disaster risk reduction (DRR) research, policy, and programming in the humanitarian sector and the introduction of culture as a potentially important cross-cutting issue.

Is there a secular humanitarian faith?

Date:24 September 2014
Author:Religion Factor
There’s been much discussion recently about faith-based and secular responses to humanitarian emergencies that has attempted to highlight the normative assumptions present in both.

Levelling the playing field: Development, religion and the entanglement of social and personal transformation

Date:17 September 2014
Author:Religion Factor
Stories of transformation in development contexts tend to be separated into secular narratives of social transformation, and religious narratives of personal transformation.

Secularism, Security and the Limits of the State: The Displacement Crisis and the Role of Religion Part Two

Date:03 September 2014
Author:Religion Factor
Rethinking “security”, the role of the state, the secularist biases that exist in policy and practice around displacement and religion’s potential to address these problems are crucial issues to consider in terms of religion’s intersection with the global crisis of displacement.

Secularism, Security and the Limits of the State: The Displacement Crisis and the Role of Religion Part One

Date:01 September 2014
Author:Religion Factor
Rethinking “security”, the role of the state, the secularist biases that exist in policy and practice around displacement and religion’s potential to address these problems are crucial issues to consider in terms of religion’s intersection with the global crisis of displacement.

Let’s do away with the religion/secular divide

Date:31 July 2014
Author:Religion Factor
In the third and final piece in our series on “Religion, Secularism and Multiple Modernities in Europe”, Professor of Secularization Studies, Herman Paul, argues that the religious/secular divide is unhelpful for thinking about the realities of human existence and should be done away with.

Consolation—A prism for analysing modernity

Date:29 July 2014
Author:Religion Factor
In the second instalment for our series reflecting on Religion, Secularism and Multiple Modernities in Europe, Christoph Jedan considers what our practices of grief and consolation, considered in historical context, can reveal about the nature of modernity. 

How “Modern” are We? Religion, Secularism, and Multiple Modernities in Europe

Date:28 July 2014
Author:Religion Factor
On 13 June 2014, esteemed sociologist of religion Professor Jose Casanova received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Groningen. During his visit, the Faculty hosted a roundtable discussion on conceptions of religion, secularism and modernity in contemporary European identity, raising questions over exactly what it means to be “modern”, “secular”, “religious” and “European”.

The Human Face of Climate Change

Date:21 July 2014
Author:Religion Factor
Climate change continues to be one of the most controversial global issues of our time, with debates ranging from the best ways to respond to the challenges of climate change, especially for those who are most vulnerable to its effects, to whether it is even happening at all and who is responsible.

ISIS’ Caliphate and Intra-jihadist Struggles for Authority

Date:08 July 2014
Author:Religion Factor
On Sunday 29 June, the first day of Ramadan 2014, ISIS announced the restoration of the caliphate. From now on, its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is “the caliph for Muslims everywhere”, the message states, adding that the name of the organisation, The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, becomes simply The Islamic State.

The Religious/Secular Divide and the Global Displacement Crisis

Date:20 June 2014
Author:Religion Factor
Today is World Refugee Day and if the numbers released by the UNHCR today tell us anything, more action and new approaches are urgently needed to address the needs of the rapidly growing globally displaced population.

Ways of Life and Freedom of Religion

Date:11 June 2014
Author:Religion Factor
Religious Freedom is rapidly becoming a high priority issue in the EU and elsewhere. In today’s post, Frank Ubachs explores some of these developments, particularly in relation to the Netherlands...

A Matter of Conscience? Abortion Access and Conscientious Objection in the European Union

Date:20 May 2014
Author:Religion Factor
Religious freedom is becoming an increasingly significant issue in the European Union. Last year saw the adoption of the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and governments such as the Netherlands, the UK, France and Germany are placing renewed emphasis on religious freedom in their foreign policy.

The UN Refugee Convention 60 Years On – Time to Rethink Approaches to Protection?

Date:25 April 2014
Author:Religion Factor
This week marks the 60thanniversary of the coming into force of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Much has changed since the Convention was initially drafted, signed and ratified by states.

Believing and Belonging

Date:23 April 2014
Author:Religion Factor
Next week, Professor Simon Glendinning from the London School of Economics will give a talk on “Derrida and the Question of Religion Today” as part of the Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain Seminar Series.

‘The Passion’: RTL Boulevard-versie van het lijdensverhaal

Date:18 April 2014
Author:Religion Factor
Door de straten in Groningen trekt vanavond een lichtend wit kruis, en de binnenstad verandert even in Jeruzalem. The Passion is neergestreken in de stad. Wat heeft het nog te maken met het Bijbelse lijdensverhaal van Christus? Van Justin Kroesen & Birgit van der Lans.

“Culture” or “religion”? Understanding the popularity of the Passion

Date:17 April 2014
Author:Religion Factor
The Passion comes to Groningen in 2014. A hugely popular event, it raises many questions at the same time. Is it a form of religion reasserting itself in the public sphere? Is it a purely cultural event, as some commentators suggest?

Understanding Evil, Encouraging Forgiveness: Lessons from Rwanda 20 years on

Date:07 April 2014
Author:Religion Factor

Today marks the 20thanniversary of the beginning of the Rwandan genocide. Both then and now, the international community had many unanswered questions about how the genocide occurred and how the evil that was perpetrated could have happened. In today’s p...

The ‘Religion Factor’ and 21st Century Terrorism

Date:05 April 2014
Author:Religion Factor
Research and policy on terrorism in the 21st century seems to assume a strong link to religion and that this somehow makes 21st century terrorism unique in comparison to terrorism from previous historical periods. But is this really the case? Christian Frank explores these issues in today’s post.

Religion and the Ukraine Crisis: Four Key Questions

Date:06 March 2014
Author:Religion Factor
As the eyes of the world continue to focus on the crisis unfolding in the Ukraine, images are emerging from the conflict of religious leaders providing inspiration and blessing to participants from all sides of the conflict.

The struggle for justice of Dutch young Muslims in Syria

Date:06 January 2014
Author:S Klein Schaarsberg
“I am powerless. (…) Please do something. Do not forsake me and all the other mothers”. 18-year-old Robin converted to Islam one and a half years ago.

Travel Plans: Understanding Religion in Mali

Date:20 December 2013
Author:Christoph Grüll

Over the past few days, the planned UN peace mission to Mali has been covered in the news extensively. In this post Martijn van Loon analyzes the motivation for the Dutch government to participate in this mission, based upon the ‘artikel 100-brief’ discussed...

Race and the study of religion: ’West’ and ‘East’, or White and non-White?

Date:18 December 2013
Author:Religion Factor

The Religion Factor post on 28 November 2013 – Religion and International Relations (IR) Theory  -posed a challenge to IR scholars to be more self-reflexive in their understanding of religion and secularism. Such self-reflexive thought challenges dominant categories...

Humanity in Action: Religion, Human Rights and the Question of Neutrality

Date:13 December 2013
Author:Religion Factor

In today’s blog post,Brenda Bartelink reflects on aid in humanitarian emergency and disaster situations, drawing attention to how religion and human rights are lived out and practiced amidst the multiple moral frameworks that influence humanitarian practice...

The Neoliberalization of Youth Peacebuilding

Date:12 December 2013
Author:Christoph Grüll

As part of our series on human rights for Human Rights Week, in today’s post Erik Meinemainvestigates how the neoliberal context in which NGOs and peacebuilding organizations operate influence their capacity to protect and promote human rights through contributing...

Religion and Human Rights: The challenges of universalism and cultural particularism

Date:10 December 2013
Author:Religion Factor

Tuesday 10 December 2013 is World Human Rights Day, marking the 65th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly vote to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In recognition of this milestone, this week The Religion Factor features a series...

A secular saint? The Life and Legacy of Nelson Mandela

Date:09 December 2013
Author:Religion Factor

The inevitable moment of Nelson “Madiba” Mandela’s departure from this world came last Thursday evening, 5 December. Given that he had been so frail for some time, his death was not unexpected, yet that does not lessen the impact of his loss. As South Africa...

Religion and International Relations Theory

Date:28 November 2013
Author:Religion Factor

On Tuesday 26 November 2013, NGIZ Noord and the Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies in Groningen co-hosted an evening devoted to a discussion of dominant approaches to religion in the study of...

Sinterklaas, Zwarte Piet and the Ethics of Public Debate

Date:15 November 2013
Author:Religion Factor

Sinterklaas and his somewhat controversial helper Zwarte Piet arrive in the Netherlands tomorrow, marking the start of the festive season. In today’s post, Erik Meinema and Erin Wilson offer thoughts from both Dutch and non-Dutch perspectives on various dimensions...

Globalization, Religion and Humanity Beyond the Nation-State

Date:05 November 2013
Author:Religion Factor

Recent tragic drownings on migration routes to both Europe and Australia highlight more than ever the paradoxes of globalization – more open borders when it comes to trade and finance, tighter restrictions when it comes to people; immense wealth, privilege...

Dr James Noyes and the Politics of Iconoclasm

Date:16 October 2013
Author:Christoph Grüll

On the 17th of November, Dr James Noyes visited the Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain at the University of Groningen to give a lecture on his new book ‘Politics of Iconoclasm’, in which he examines the destruction of images of the sacred across...

The Return of Religion in Contemporary Art

Date:20 September 2013
Author:Religion Factor

Religion has been out of fashion in many areas of public life, including the arts. However, this has not always been the case and indeed, with exhibitions such as Makoto Fujimura’s “The Four Holy Gospels” and Enrique Martinez Celaya’s exhibitions “The Wanderer”...

Tunisia's religious opposition

Date:11 September 2013
Author:Religion Factor
Recent events in Egypt have once again raised questions about the relationship between religion and politics in the Middle East. These events are significantly impacting other countries in the region, including Tunisia where the political situation is changing rapidly. In this post Frank Ubachs comments on the binary opposition between a religious and a secular camp that media coverage of the revolts in both countries now routinely postulates as an explanation in itself of the dynamics of change. Such sweeping dichotomies gloss over important nuances. If we are to really understand what is driving the situation, we must speak with the actors themselves.

Is the ‘new’ religious engagement really all that new? The need for reflection on the underlying values and assumptions in the engagement with religion

Date:19 August 2013
Author:Religion Factor

In this post, Brenda Bartelink draws on her research on faith based development organisations in the Netherlands and Uganda, and Dutch initiatives to engage with religion to raise some critical points for reflection on the new US Office for Faith-Based Community...

What does “engaging religion” mean for religion?

Date:14 August 2013
Author:Religion Factor

Last week, the US State Department made the much-anticipated announcement that it is establishing a new “Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives” whose mission, Secretary of State John Kerry said, is “to engage more closely with faith communities around...

Dead Sea scrolls on exhibition in Assen

Date:16 July 2013
Author:Religion Factor

Recently, a unique exhibition on the dead sea scrolls has opened in the Drents Museum in Assen, the Netherlands. The exhibition is curated by prof. Dr. Mladen Popovic, director of the Qumran institute in Groningen.

Humanities: down to business?

Date:05 July 2013
Author:Religion Factor

In this post, Elske Kroondijk and Erik Meinema consider the increasing influence of market discourses on academic practice, and reflect on the question how scholars and students in the Humanities can engage with this development. 

Koran & Bijbel weg uit de Tweede Kamer? De misvattingen rondom de Scheiding tussen Kerk en Staat uitgelicht.

Date:04 July 2013
Author:Religion Factor

Naar aanleiding van de ophef omtrent het verzoek van Tweede Kamer voorzitter Van Miltenburg om de Heilige Geschriften uit de Kamer te laten verwijderen, licht Carine Nijenhuis enkele misvattingen uit rondom de Scheiding tussen Kerk en Staat.

Allergic Reaction to “The Religious Other” or just a Neurobiological Fact?

Date:25 June 2013
Author:Religion Factor

Neurobiology, Social influence and its impact on our capacity to empathize.

Religion and Gay Marriage Opposition in France

Date:24 May 2013
Author:Religion Factor

This week, French President Francois Hollande signed into law legislation that allows for same sex marriage and child adoption by gay couples. With this act, France became the 14th country in the world recognizing these rights.  Yet, the process has been all...

Saving lives – but which ones? Life, belonging and postsecular possibilities in contemporary asylum politics

Date:23 May 2013
Author:Religion Factor

In today’s post, Erin Wilson reflects on the recent decision by the Australian parliament to excise its territory from its migration zone, what this means for how we value life, how we belong and how both religious and secular perspectives can help us rethink...

Dwars Herdenken

Date:03 May 2013

Ter gelegenheid van de herdenking van de salchtoffers van de Tweede Wereldoorlog morgen, schrijft Tsila Rädecker over de controversiële Joodse historicus uit Groningen, Jaap Meijer.

Bij gratie Gods: zal onze nieuwe Koning straks regeren met goddelijke zegen?

Date:23 April 2013

Over precies een week zal Koningin Beatrix haar ambt neerleggen om te worden opgevolgd door haar zoon, Prins Willem Alexander. De inhuldiging is overal onderwerp van discussie; moet het koningslied blijven of niet? Wat zal Máxima aan doen? Eén aspect blijft...

Spring cleaning religiously: From blessing your home to unf*cking your habitat

Date:18 April 2013

Spring seems to have finally arrived in Europe and naturally many people’s thoughts turn to the need to “spring clean”. But these days it’s not just about spring cleaning your house, but spring cleaning your life. Kim Knibbe explores all the ways in which religion...

Order, justice and extremism: Martin Luther King, Jr and “Letter from Birmingham Jail” 50 years on

Date:16 April 2013

Fifty years ago today, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. penned his now famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. On this anniversary, Erin Wilson reflects on what this important document can still teach us today.

Religion: a threat to science?

Date:05 April 2013

Over the last few weeks there has been a  heated debate on medical science professor Onno van Schayck, who claimed in an interview that he once witnessed a miracle. In this post, Erik Meinema reflects on the discussion.

Authority and Religion in Myanmar

Date:04 April 2013

In today’s post, Arnout Couperus contributes to recent discussions on the democratisation of Myanmar. He argues that the role of Buddhism should not be underestimated in the analysis of the current situation.

The Passion: Encroaching religion, cultural heritage or signs of postsecularism?

Date:03 April 2013

Last Thursday evening, Nederland Een broadcast the live performance of The Passion from The Hague. Erin Wilsonprovides an outsider’s perspective on this emerging ritual in Dutch public life.

Understanding Concepts of Conversion in Their Context

Date:01 April 2013

In today’s post, Albertina Oegema reflects on the conversion of former Partij voor de Vrijheid member Arnoud van Doorn to Islam, based on her research on the thoughts of Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria on conversion.

Turkey and Religion; included or excluded in the EU?

Date:30 March 2013

Today’s post shows Ella Sebamalai’s reflection on Turkey’s accession to the EU. On the one hand she reflects on religion and  secularism as part of the public debate, on the other hand she also illustrates the consequences of specific perceptions.

Antisemitisme Nederlandse Moslimjongeren; Sociaal Probleem

Date:28 March 2013

In de post van vandaag bespreekt dr. Marjo Buitelaar het sociale probleem van antisemitisime onder Nederlandse Moslimjongeren. Daarin bespreekt zij zogenaamde oorzaken en de misperceptie daarvan door, onder andere, de media.

Manuel A. Vasquez’s response to: “The Homo Economicus”.

Date:26 March 2013

In today’s post, prof. Manuel A. Vasquezsuggests an alternative view to the ‘Homo Economicus’ in his response to Ella Sebamalai’s post on transnational religious networks and faith-based organizations. Rather then calculated rationality, Vasquez argues in favor...

Reflections on Pope Francis I

Date:24 March 2013

Following Pope Francis I’s celebration of his first Palm Sunday mass, commencing the most important week in the Catholic liturgy, we share a recent interview with Dr Mathilde van Dijk from the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Groningen...

The Homo Economicus and transnational religious networks in a post-secular society

Date:21 March 2013

Last week,  Prof. Manuel A. Vasquez gave a guest lecture on “Conceptualizing domination and resistance in transnational religious networks” at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies in Groningen. Here Ella Sebamalaiengages with the ideas he raised and...

Multiple Secularities: How Culture Matters in Religious-Secular Relations

Date:19 March 2013

Next Tuesday Prof Monika Wohlrab-Sahr will give a seminar in Groningen on her research into the impact of different secularities in various cultural and political contexts. Today she gives Religion Factor readers a sneak preview.

Religious authority and new media culture

Date:13 March 2013

The internet holds great potential for communication and creativity within religious communities, but brings with it new challenges for religious authorities. This was the central theme of a guest lecture given by Dr. Heidi Campbell,  at the Faculty of Theology...

Securitizing Religious Violence: the Cases of Mali and Syria – Part Two

Date:11 March 2013

Suzanne Klein Schaarsberg  continues her exploration of the securitization of religion in the conflicts in Mali and Syria.

Securitizing Religious Violence: the Cases of Mali and Syria – Part One

Date:07 March 2013

Yesterday French President Francois Hollande announced that French troops will begin withdrawing from Mali in April, instead of March, as originally planned.  Suzanne Klein Schaarsberg  explores how religion, particularly religious violence, has been labelled...

“More than Belief” – Exploring the sensory side of religion

Date:04 March 2013

Alexandra Grieser discusses new research approaches in the aesthetics of religion, being showcased at a conference held in Groningen later this week.

Stories about HIV/AIDS and Religion

Date:26 February 2013
Author:Kim Knibbe
Is HIV/AIDS mainly a medical problem, a spiritual problem, a political problem or all of the above? The answer to this question determines to a very large extent how people and organizations deal with HIV/AIDS.

Religious or political? Or both? Religious rituals as political activism

Date:19 February 2013
Author:Religion Factor
Today’s post from Erin Wilson continues some reflections on fasting from last week, asking whether fasting is just religious or political or if in fact sometimes it can be both.

De groene daden van paus Benedictus XVI

Date:13 February 2013
Author:Maria Vliek
Paus Benedictus XVI is in veel kringen niet populair vanwege zijn conservatieve standpunten over bijvoorbeeld homoseksualiteit. Maar Benedictus werd ook wel de “groene paus” genoemd. Zowel in woord als daad deed hij verschillende groene dingen.

Het nieuwe vasten: 40 dagen zonder vlees

Date:13 February 2013
Author:Maria Vliek
Vandaag begint officieel de Vastentijd, de periode van 40 dagen voor Pasen waarin christenen het lijden van Jezus Christus herdenken. Het is een sobere periode, waarin veel christenen vasten: ze eten geen snoep en andere lekkernijen of eten minder. Maar de vastentijd krijgt tegenwoordig een andere, meer seculiere invulling.

Catharijneconvent niet alleen van een object, maar ook van een verhaal beroofd

Date:12 February 2013
Author:Religion Factor
Amper drie maanden na de spraakmakende verdwijning van zeven kostbare schilderijen uit de Rotterdamse Kunsthal berichtten de media opnieuw over een omvangrijke roof uit een Nederlands museum.

Youth Peacebuilding in contexts of religious violence

Date:04 February 2013
Author:Religion Factor
Religion and the contributions of youth are two topics that tend to be neglected when we think about peacebuilding. In this post, Erik Meinema reflects on his experiences conducting research on these important issues.

De Islam bestempelen als ideologie is niet onschuldig

Date:28 January 2013
Author:Tim Swanger
In deze bijdrage gaat Simon Polinder in op de politiek achter de definities van religie en ideologie, die in verschillende contexten gebruikt worden. Geert Wilders wordt vaak omschreven als een tovenaarsleerling. Maar wiens leerling is hij?

Trouw loopt achter?

Date:25 January 2013
Author:Kim Knibbe
Afgelopen week verscheen er een artikel in Trouw (helaas niet publiek toegankelijk, hier een samenvatting van het bericht), waar de journaliste claimt dat de religiewetenschap een belangrijk onderzoeksveld laat liggen: de opkomst van nieuwe spiritualiteit.

Be Welcome: Lessons in Hospitality from Victor Hugo and Monseigneur Bienvenu Part Two

Date:24 January 2013
Author:Religion Factor
Following on from Tuesday’s post, Erin Wilson writes more on how the faithful hospitality of Victor Hugo’s character Monseigneur Bienvenu from Les Miserables can contribute to contemporary political issues, in particular statelessness and migration.

Be Welcome: Lessons in Hospitality from Victor Hugo and Monseigneur Bienvenu Part One

Date:22 January 2013
Author:Religion Factor
Erin Wilson reflects on the religious themes present within Les Miserables and how they speak to contemporary political issues. My husband and I went to see the latest film adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables over the weekend.

Islam and the Arab uprising

Date:07 January 2013
Author:Religion Factor
Guest contributor Prof Jeffrey Haynes from London Metropolitan University reflects on recent events in the Middle East and Northern Africa and their implications for how we understand the role of religion in public life.

On the Political and the Personal. Or, How to Retain a Sense of “Humanity” in Egypt? Part 2

Date:11 December 2012
Author:Religion Factor
Dr Vivienne Matthies-Boon is currently in Cairo. In this continuation of her previous post, she shares with us some of her experiences and reflections on the ongoing conflict between pro-democracy campaigners and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.

On the Personal and the Political. Or, How to Retain a Sense of ‘Humanity’ in Egypt? Part 1

Date:08 December 2012
Author:Religion Factor
Dr Vivienne Matthies-Boon is currently in Cairo. In today’s post, she shares with us some of her experiences and reflections on the ongoing conflict between pro-democracy campaigners and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Religion and the Public Domain

Date:06 December 2012
Author:Maria Vliek
Continuing our series on the Master Programs at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies in Groningen, today Jon Elbert shares his experiences from the Master in Religion and the Public Domain.

Voor theologie en godsdienstwetenschap is Groningen de topkeuze

Date:04 December 2012
Author:Maria Vliek

Volgens de nieuwste versie van de Keuzegids Universiteiten is Groningen de beste keuze als je theologie of godsdienstwetenschappen wilt studeren. De opleiding van de RUG komt als beste uit de bus voor de studie godsdienstwetenschappen en bezet de tweede plaats...

Religion, AIDS and Africa

Date:01 December 2012
Author:Kim Knibbe
December 12th, AIDS activist and religious leader rev canon Gideon Byamugisha will give a public lecture in Groningen, starting off the conference “Biographies in Times of Crisis:Exploring Religious Narratives of AIDS in Africa and the African Diaspora”.

Moving Beyond Reason vs Faith: Part Two

Date:30 November 2012
Author:Religion Factor

Today’s post features the second instalment from Erin Wilson on the place of religion in the climate change debate. 

Moving Beyond Reason vs Faith: Part One

Date:29 November 2012
Author:Religion Factor
Following on from Lea Schulte-Droesch’s piece on the interconnections between culture and environment at the local level, Erin Wilson offers some reflections on the role of religion in the global climate change discussions and suggests that maybe we need to stop seeing science and faith as diametrically opposed.

On similarities and differences in cultural perceptions of the environment

Date:27 November 2012
Author:Tim Swanger
This week, The Religion Factor holds a theme week on Religion and Climate Change, to pay attention to the 18th conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Doha, Qatar. Today’s contribution is by Lea Schulte-Droesch.

Religion, Conflict and Globalisation

Date:26 November 2012
Author:Tyler Tully

This week, The Religion Factor will offer some attention to the Master Programs in Religious Studies that are offered at our faculty. After Eemera Matthews’ reflection on the Concealed Knowledge programme, today Carmen Fleurke addresses the Religion, Conflict...

Change the language, change the story? Part Two

Date:23 November 2012
Author:Religion Factor
In today’s post, Erin Wilson continues her reflections on shifting the way we think and talk about conflict and peace. In part one, I outlined some ways in which contemporary discussion on peace and conflict analysis is affected and arguably limited by thinking in narrow either/or terms and the language we use to talk about conflict. Here I want to offer a few possibilities for rethinking some of these issues.

Change the language, change the story? Part One

Date:22 November 2012
Author:Religion Factor
Following last night’s ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Erin Wilson considers whether the chances for lasting peace might be increased by changing how we think and talk about conflict and peace.

Concealed Knowledge: Gnosticism, Esoterism, Mysticism

Date:20 November 2012
Author:Tyler Tully
This week, The Religion Factor will offer some attention to the Master Programs in Religious Studies that are offered at our faculty. The Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies in Groningen offers six unique Master’s degree programmes that concentrate on the dynamic interrelationship between religion and culture. Emeera Matthews, from the United States, is the first to share her experiences with us.

Where is the line between atheism and secularism?

Date:13 November 2012
Author:Religion Factor
In the lead-up to his seminar at the University of Groningen next week, guest contributor Terrell Carver from the University of Bristol explores the tensions between atheism, secularism and religious freedom. Until recently atheism seemed to be a relatively lonely, unprovocative and unorganised ‘private’ activity.

Gay Rights, the Devil and the End Times: Part Two

Date:11 November 2012
Author:Tim Swanger

In Part One of this post, Adriaan van Klinken described the Zambian case of how Ban Ki-moon’s recent call to recognise the human rights of homosexuals was interpreted according to a millennialist worldview, characteristic for Zambian Christianity. In this second...

Gay Rights, the Devil and the End Times: Part One

Date:09 November 2012
Author:Tim Swanger
Homosexuality is one of the major political issues in our contemporary world. Especially African countries are getting known for their massive public and political rejection of same-sex relationships and “gay rights”. Frequently in the media we hear, for example, about new, stricter legislation on same-sex practices, about people arrested and jailed because of homosexuality-related offences and about the murder of gay-right activists.

Religie en Burgerschap: een ambivalente relatie

Date:05 November 2012
Author:Tim Swanger
“Burgerschap bestaat in de identificatie met het typisch Nederlandse van onze samenleving.” (1) Met dit citaat uit de integratienota 2007-2011 laat de overheid zien dat ze verwacht dat nieuwkomers zich op sociaal-cultureel vlak aanpassen. Maar waaraan?

Religious authority and social media: old wine in new bags?

Date:31 October 2012
Author:Maria Vliek
The Protestant Church in the Netherlands recently added a ‘social media guide for ministers and pastoral workers’ to its professional code. The guide encourages the use of social media like Facebook and Twitter as a communication channel, acknowledging its potential to reach new audiences. But it also highlights certain risks – in particular, the difficulty of maintaining an online identity that supports a church official’s professional credibility and authority.

Faith of Obama shifts “good Christians are right-wing” frame

Date:26 October 2012
Author:Maria Vliek
CNN has an excellent piece on the faith of Barack Obama. The author, John Blake, argues that Obama is a religious pioneer that challenges the dominant frame where a good Christian is equated with a right-wing conservative. According to Blake, Obama brings back the social gospel tradition which was dominant at the start of the 20th century. And his source of inspiration is the Black Church.

Church and Rural Society: Just Stories of Decline?

Date:24 October 2012
Author:Maria Vliek
A contribution by Jacobine Gelderloos. Regularly I come across voices who express doubts about the relevance of the church for society, both inside and outside the church. People who say that the church is ‘out of touch’ with society, that the church is outdated because it has not been able to keep up with developments in society – the church seems to speak another language than the rest of our daily world.

Over de secularisering van het alledaagse en sacralisering van de politiek

Date:22 October 2012
Author:Tim Swanger
De gedachte dat religie niet aan het verdwijnen is, is inmiddels gemeengoed. Wat dat betreft is de rol van religie nog het best te vergelijken met een bal die je probeert onder water te duwen. Als je de bal op de ene plaats onder water duwt, weet je nooit precies zeker waar de bal weer op zal duiken. Zo is het ook met religie.

Transnational faith based development and the post secular experiment

Date:18 October 2012
Author:Religion Factor
In her blog-post on the Religion Factor, Cecelia Lynch discusses FBOs in the context of the neoliberal competition on the ‘market’ of international development. In my work on and with development FBOs in the Netherlands I see this illustrated.

God Bless America: US Civil Religion and the President as Prophet, Priest and Martyr of the Nation

Date:15 October 2012
Author:Religion Factor
God Bless America: US Civil Religion and the President as Prophet, Priest and Martyr of the Nation. Ever noticed how nearly every time a US president makes a speech, it ends with “God Bless America”?

The Puzzle of Religion in US Presidential Politics

Date:11 October 2012
Author:Religion Factor
With the count down on till the USA votes for its next President, The Religion Factor reflects on the role of religion in this important process. Foreign observers of the 2012 US presidential campaign may be forgiven for being puzzled by the role of religion in American politics.

The Religion Factor: A missing link in Migration Studies? Part two

Date:08 October 2012
Author:Tyler Tully

In the previous post  Geertje den Oudsten shared with us her experience at a Summer School on Migration in Greek this summer and challenged the idea that religion can only be used as a classifactory concept in Migration Studies. Today part two.

The Religion Factor: A missing link in Migration Studies? Part One

Date:04 October 2012
Author:Tyler Tully
This summer I was very happy to be able to attend a Summer School named ‘Cultures, Migrations, Borders’ on the Greek island of Lesvos. The programme aimed at MA students and PhDs from different fields, and although there were no lecturers nor any other students with a Religious Studies background, I assumed the subject of religion would have a place in the programme.

A Fragment of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife? Part Two

Date:01 October 2012
Author:Kim Knibbe
The previous post discussed the current state of affairs with regard to the finding of the fragment of papyrus in which Jesus seems to refer to his wife. The papyrus has been shown to date from the fourth century, the ink is still undergoing testing. Before the definitive results are published, however, polemics have already begun. Numerous web reactions on various grounds claim that the fragment is a forgery.

A Fragment of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife? Part One

Date:28 September 2012
Author:Kim Knibbe
Last week, Karen King, Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard University, presented a papyrus fragment in which Jesus referred to Mary as “my wife”. The fragment seems to date from the fourth century A.D. and is written in the Coptic language.

The Life and Work of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Date:26 September 2012
Author:Religion Factor
On Monday 24 September, 2012, the University of Groningen awarded Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu with an honorary doctorate. His honorary promoter, Professor Dr Geurt-Henk van Kooten, Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, gave a stirring address in which he highlighed Tutu’s amazing achievements, particularly in the context of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Religion and Science: relating the relationships?

Date:24 September 2012
Author:Tyler Tully

In post-secular thought there is an increasing tendency to reject binary oppositions, such as religion and secularism. Past theories of secularization suggested religion was in decline and yet on the contrary, religion has remained viable although formulated...

Polarization of the anti-Islam film debate: undoing the Arab Spring? Part Two

Date:21 September 2012
Author:Religion Factor

Alongside the ideologically-driven agenda of the anti-Islam films that we explored in Part One, we should also not underestimate the political nature of the production and release of this film just before the 11th anniversary of 9/11 as well as before the American...

Protestors in Egypt during the Arab Spring. Photograph: Thomas van Gool

Polarization of the anti-Islam film debate: Undoing the Arab Spring? Part One

Date:19 September 2012
Author:Religion Factor

Over the last few days, international news coverage has been largely dominated by reports on protests across the world against a film that protestors claim is a direct insult to the prophet Muhammed.  The protests started with the storming of the American embassy...

Religie & Verkiezingen: vooronderstellingen en gevolgen

Date:16 September 2012
Author:Tim Swanger

Hoewel religie nauwelijks een rol heeft gespeeld bij de afgelopen verkiezingen, zullen de gevolgen van de uitslag voelbaar zijn voor personen met een bepaalde religieuze achtergrond. Eén ding lijkt namelijk zeker: deze verkiezingsuitslag betekent het einde...

Religious Humanitarianism in a Neoliberal Age

Date:12 September 2012
Author:Religion Factor

Guest contributor Cecelia Lynch explores how neoliberalism, a phenomenon closely connected with the rise of the post-secular, is affecting the language and practice of religious humanitarian organizations.

Experiments with the Post-Secular Part II

Date:06 September 2012
Author:Religion Factor

Following on from Part One, which discussed the post-secular as a description of 21st century society, Part Two explores the post-secular as a prescription for public life in the 21st century.

Reason, Reflection, Resistance, Revolution? Experiments with the Post-Secular Part I

Date:03 September 2012
Author:Religion Factor

The Religion Factor is self-consciously a post-secular blog. But what exactly is post-secular? In our first two installments, we explore this relatively new idea as both a description of and a response to the conditions of 21st century society.