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

Secular Church?

Can atheism be considered a new religious movement? Maybe not in the traditional sense. Without a God, deity or public face to worship or a sacred text to live by, how can atheism be put into the same category as Mormonism or the Unification Church? It can be argued that atheism is a new religious movement in the sense that it is a worldwide movement of people moving away from religion altogether (though, as noted in the article, such movements are common throughout history and definitely not new). One Calgary group is finding community and ritual, cultural concepts usually reserved for the faithful, in what they call the Calgary Secular Church.

Founded by Korey Peters, a Calgarian who brought up within the Christian faith, the Church seeks to unite and serve as a community for those who are non-theistic.  With their 10 commandments, weekly meetings and events, and growing number of followers, they seem to have all the elements of a “normal” religion and church, except one: God. Can they then consider themselves a church? According to Gail McCabe, quoted in the article, religion is a simply a social institution and that there is no need for God to be in it. Many groups across Canada and the world offer non-believers alternatives to rituals and perks usually left to the theistic, such as marriage and funeral ceremonies and a community of like-minded people with whom to convene and converse about topics important to them.

However, there remain some controversies over the group and others like it. Some believe the word “church” in itself used to describe a group of atheist people is ironic because it implied faith, which they claim not to have. Is “faith in a non-God”, as described by Pastor Harry Kelm, a faith nonetheless? Do church-like rituals have an effect that bypasses the critical thinking element that is so important to atheists, freethinkers and humanists?

The church and movement may be too new to answer the above questions. As with many new religious movements, the full effect of the Secular church and groups like it on society remains to be seen. As for now, let us be content with the positive benefit of community and acceptance it seems to offer many self-proclaimed black sheep.


SRRP #341


15 Year Sentence for Amish Haircutter

The leader of a breakaway Amish sect – Samuel Mullet Sr. – was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Friday, March 15th for coordinating a series of attacks on his former followers and critics within Amish communities of eastern Ohio. According to United States attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, Mr. Mullet preached to his followers that “Amish hypocrites” should be punished, leading to a series of beard and hair-cutting assaults by Mullet’s zealot devotees.  Given the religious symbolism of the hair cutting and beard sheering attacks, their actions were deemed a hate crime. Throughout the trail Mr. Mullet’s following of 135 supported him, with the defendants begging to serve their leaders sentence.

As we’ve learned in our class, Samuel Mullet fits the description of a charismatic leader of an emergent movement, with the goal of returning his followers to a more orthodox or “purified” version of the traditional Amish life. Based on the views of Bainbridge, Stark and Roy Wallis in ‘Understanding Cults and New Religious Movements’, Mullet’s group constitutes an expression of religious revival (Hexham and Poewe1987, p. 117).

An interesting question raised by Mullet’s leadership is whether Mr. Mullet’s actions constitute what Lorne Dawson calls a mismanagement of charisma – namely, “the breakdown of communication and understanding between the groups and the agencies of social control in the surrounding society” (Wessinger 2012, ‘Charismatic leaders in new religions’, New Religious Movements, p. 80). Wrong choices, Dawson states, can lead to a destabilization of the group. (Wessinger 2012, p. 90-1). It will be interesting to see how the Amish community responds to Mullet’s supporters now that he is behind bars, and also how well his followers fair during his incarceration. Perhaps he will find a way to continue to his charismatic leadership from behind bars just as sect-leader Warren Jeffs of the FLDS recently has.

 JPJP #341

Radical Islamic group Beheads Korean Doctor in Nigeria


Boko Haram has been a truly terrifying radical Islamic group that has struck Nigeria. In 2012 this group has been accused of 792 murders. Most recently, it was accused of killing three Korean doctors (AP, Feb. 10, 2013).

It feels like all religions at their core were created with some justification for good. They were intended to guide and help people in all aspects of their lives. It is mind boggling to know that this group, Boko Haram, believes they are justified for killing so many innocent people. What’s worse, they believe it is right to kill these healthcare providers that help save many lives just because they are using Western medicine. The name Boko Haram means, “Western Education is Sacrilegious” (AP, Feb. 10, 2013).  Basically, because they believe that learning Western things are wrong, people need to die. With how connected our world has become from technology, most people are connected to some Western education in one form or another. Does this mean they are going to eliminate the entire world? It is really sad how this group has chosen to kill doctors that dedicated their lives to helping people.

It is terrifying how a group that truly believes in their religion will do anything for it. It is scary how if someone was to talk to one of these people, they would find the members of this group would justify the clear murder of other humans. This group is not allowing anyone to think differently from what they believe. Their acts are also clearly a hate crime since they went as far as beheading one of the doctors. 

Sadly, despite how much people are frowning on these events, this is not the first time this has happened. Similar events can be traced back to even the history of the world’s largest religion, Christianity. What this group is doing is not too different then what Christianity did back when it persecuted all those that did not believe in their religion. Their cruel murders of women that they scapegoated as a witch is also similar to these hate murders Boko Haram has committed. So perhaps if Boko Haram becomes successful, they will seem more like crusaders then terrorist.

Religions need to learn to be tolerant of each other. It was created for good, and should continue to do good deeds. Killing one another under the name of their belief is wrong. These acts only create a bigger rift of ideas between people. It is sad and ironic that religion is the cause of so much death and suffering only because people refuse to let anyone believe in anything different from themselves.

B.L #341