Attention: Haters of Islam! Now welcome in Italy!


The ban of the Burqa has been a long and tiresome problem attracting negative attention especially to European nations. The ban has officially been place in France and Belgium, where there are substantial numbers of Muslim populations. Yet, Italy, with 1% of its population following the Islamic faith, why is there such a strong force against the religion and its people in Italy?

The Burqa should not be seen as a symbol of oppression and of discrimination against women as Sbai has stated in this article. The covering up by Nuns in the Christian faith is much similar to the Burqa in Islam. Modesty is the main purpose of the Burqa and headscarf itself. In all religions, there are extreme worshippers. Those who go above and beyond while praying and submitting themselves to God. What is wrong in this day and age of a woman wanting to cover herself, saving herself from the lurking eyes of males and degrading thoughts he may have?

I do not understand the point of the Italian government suddenly feeling the need to place a ban on the Burqa. Are they trying to show the world they are anti-islam to bring in a new wave of tourists? Whatever the reason is, Muslims were a quiet minority that had not created any trouble. The sudden need for a ban and act against Islam seems as though they are asking for trouble and to fight with innocent civilians. 

#341 ZM


Germany Cracks Down on Muslim Extremism

 Violence led on by religious fervor and the perceived duties of religious extremists is nothing new in the scope of religion and modern society. It is an important issue, which not only raises questions about the religious institutions that are involved, but also, the effects of extremism on society as a whole.

         In terms of this article, members of the ultra conservative Islamic movement known as Salafism have been detained by German authorities under rumors that they were plotting to kill the leader of a far-right political party whom has repeatedly taunted the Muslim group with caricatures of their prophet Muhammad. These arrests come amidst a nationwide German effort to suppress the Salafist movement, which has grown substantially over the years, and is deemed radical, and dangerous. “Our recent past demonstrates what unchecked radicalization based on a Salafist worldview can lead to,” says Friedrich the German Interior minister.

         These events lead to several questions regarding the danger in religious movements such as the Salafists. The German government ban on any groups or upstart organizations involved with Salafists is undoubtedly a strict and deliberate means to halt the movement itself, and protect citizens and other religious groups whom the Salafists have threatened violence upon. Salafists are an example of a new religious movement that has become violent and uncivil in their actions towards their perceived enemies. Instances like these beg the question as to what extent a religious movements rights and credibility can be taken into account before they are deemed “extremist” and no longer allowed to affiliate with society. To me, it begins and ends with violence. Nonetheless, movements like the Salafists will continue to crop up and the issue of such extremist groups in the context of new religious movements will be prevalent for years to come.



#341 AJR

New Age religion and Burning Man; the Link



Wondering what defines a religion as ‘New Age’? Let us keep it simple for the sake of this article: New Age religion is spirituality without borders. A million things can fall into this spectrum, from science to magic. There is something beautiful about the freedom within New Age religion as there is an elimination of any confining dogmas, but still a strong since of culture and community that traditional religion provides.


On that note, has anyone ever been to Burning Man festival? After reading Sarah M. Pikes article Burning Down the Temple: Religion and Irony in Black Rock City, I felt it was important to explore the link between Burning Man and New Age religion. It can be said that this one-week art festival in the desert truly captures the essence behind New Age Religion and spirituality, as a Burner I agree. As stated in the article “it is a religious event on a massive scale.” When people think of Burning Man it is easy to see it as a nudist rave for the weirdoes to come and enjoy dancing on drugs – perhaps for some this is true. But for thousands of Burners it is a place without limits, and a community devoted to support one another. It is a week long ‘experience’ that can truly move people into a place of spiritual bliss and understanding.


Could Burning Man itself be a New Age religion? Perhaps it’s not only a place that supports people within the movement. I would go as far as to call it the ULTIMATE New Age religion. There are absolutely no spiritual borders; everyone is welcome, as confining dogmas do not exist. Further more, Burning Man does not hesitate to show the irony in traditional religions and takes many ‘strict’ religions lighthearted. Because of the nature of the festival this is done naturally and not to offend anybody. There is an obvious coexistence among the people living at the weeklong festival, and it offers a glimpse of what the world could be.


From rituals to a strong community, there is a definite link from New Age religion and Burning Man festival. Perhaps it takes a different form then other religions and cults, but isn’t that what’s so special about the ‘New Age’ movement?


Check out Sarah M. Piike’s article here:



– SJM #RELS341

“With a Super Bowl Ad, Scientology Gets a Crowd”



            The super bowl is an event that has become as much about “The Event” to some people as it is about the game. And part of this “Event” is the many interesting ad’s that run in between the many breaks of a football game. It is during these breaks that the biggest corporate players (an estimated cost of about “$3.7 million to $3.8 million” per 30 second commercial makes the commercials exclusive to only large corporations) all come out with the best ads they got, to try to grab the attention of the massive TV audience that is watching the game. However, this year a new type of organization tried to interact with the millions watching, The Church of Scientology.

            With an ad that ran in the massive markets of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas, the Church of Scientology was able to reach millions of viewers and spread their message to them. The ad called on “the curious, the inquisitive, the seekers of knowledge” and asked the viewers to “think for yourself, to look for yourself, to make up your own mind”. The inspirational commercial came at a time when many controversies were effecting the Church of Scientology and is seen by many as a way to reach a broad audience and basically tell them – we aren’t bad, you can trust us, you should trust us, believe in us.

            I personally think this was a great idea by The Church of Scientology. I also think all religions, especially “New Religious Movements (NRM)” should use mass advertising to reach their target audiences. Just like how PEPSI needs to tell the people why they are better then Coca-Cola, or how Bud-Light needs to tell you that they have the smoothest tasting beer, NRM should also feel the need to tell you that they aren’t that bad or maybe even a little good. Because frankly, right now they are all seen as dangerous gatherings of some crazy people (ie. Tom Cruise).

            Similar to Tobacco companies, NRM have been vilified by the mass media. And how have Tobacco companies responded to this? Creative forms of advertisement to either make you forget that it’s bad for you or to make you think its cool to smoke. They didn’t just sit around content with their negative image. NRM need to do the same, they NEED to get people to not associate their religions with danger and insanity (even if they are dangerous and insane!).

            All NRM should be inspired by the many ways today’s technology allows them to communicate with the world. Mass media isn’t as powerful as it once was, and don’t let it be. Fight for your public perception.  And get creative with it. Why shouldn’t an episode of Barney be “brought to you by The Unification Church”?




New Book Criticizes Scientology

Jennifer Miscavige Hill, niece of the Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige has released an allegedly ‘tell all’ book relating to her experiences as a child of Scientology. Beyond Belief: My Secret life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape claims that a church run camp called the “Ranch” provided deplorable conditions for the children residing there. Hill claims that children were forced to do backbreaking work for long hours at a time, and if any child voiced their dissent or questioned the churches motives, they were quickly disciplined. The Church of Scientology has quickly responded, saying that these allegations are false, and no child would ever be forced to do manual labour.

This article raises yet another issue to an already controversial religion: the treatment of children. If these allegations of child labour and control are true, it appears to be a clear attempt to brainwash children into the beliefs of the Church. However, this goes against what we have learned in class, as it appears that brainwashing has been largely ineffective in bringing people into a religions cause. Ms. Hill could be attempting to expose a very dark side of the Church of Scientology, or has merely seen an opportunity to make money by raising more controversy. Is this an attempt to expose the Church of Scientology for what it really is? Or is it merely an individual attempting to capitalize on the misfortunes of a religion already exposed to media scrutiny?

-P Rennie


Scientology Helps Community

New Age Religions, such as Scientology, are often times referred to and continue to be labeled as ‘cults’. As we have learned in this course, this term has the potential to effect how individuals view these establishments. The negative connotations associated with the term cult create feelings of hostility and mistrust towards these new religions movements, and often times portray them as wrongdoing or evil. This article however, helps to establish the fact that not all new age religions are as bad as the term ‘cult’ makes them out to be. The article explains that in Maryland members of the Church of Scientology teamed up with a local non-profit group, Men Aiming Higher, to help fight drug use amongst American teens. When attending the Community Day Breakfast held by Men Aiming Higher, Scientology’s National Affairs Office introduced their ‘Truth About Drugs’ program. This program is a secularized drug prevention program aimed at informing and empowering American youth in regards to living drug-free lives. This program helps to stop the spread of misconceptions involving drug use while providing teens with proper information as well as support in regards to peer pressure and drug experimentation. In regards to the term ‘cult’ and the associations that come with it, this article is significant because it helps to demonstrate that not all new age religions are as bad as the term ‘cult’ makes them out to be. In many cases, these new religious movements are demonized due to the fact they are labeled ‘cults’ when some, such as Scientology, make positive and important contributions to their communities.

AP #341

Media brainwashing the public, “cult” still part of the discourse


Sun Myung Moon’s passing in the fall of 2012 has inadvertently given self-certified “de-programmers” another fleeting opportunity at relevance, so long as they can find someone to listen. The Guardian and Emine Saner were happy to provide the soap box in their article ‘I was a Moonie cult leader’ In it, Steven Hassan once again recounts his experience of being “brainwashed” by members of the Moonie “cult” in a story that reads as though it could have been pulled directly out of the 1980’s and the height of society’s trepidation surrounding the Moonies. The impetus for this renewed interest in the movement, at least according to Hassan, is a concern that following Moon’s death, his followers “will come together and promote Moon as a great being”. Emine and Steven would probably be surprised to learn that many members of the Moonies already revered their founder Moon as great, even while alive! Well, at least we can be certain the motivation has nothing to do with the handy link provided in the article’s introduction, which guides readers to Hassan’s website and online storefront.

The problem here is the fear that Hassan continues to peddle has no basis. No clinical evidence has ever existed that allows for the possibility of brainwashing in a human being. Rather, the evidence tells us it is the techniques employed by the de-programmers themselves that leave subjects in an altered and deteriorated mental state.  Exposing these truths would be the real service to the public.

JWL #341