“Gods of Suburbia”

“Gods of Suburbia”
Photographer Dina Goldstein recently released a project depicting religion in society through emphasized and dramatic photos. She does not focus on a singular religion but rather a plethora of religions to present a wide view of their situations in the real world. However, being based in Vancouver, Dina focuses mainly on influence in western culture as she obviously has the most experience there, but the touches she makes within her photographs exhibits hints of realization that the situations we face are also prevalent around the world, just to a different degree. Her curated images are powerful in presentation and invoke deep thought into it’s overall message.

She states in the accompanying video that her influence came from religious iconographies and so she is re-representing these icons in ways which show their influence and stature in modern culture. Her interest lies in how religion can even thrive in a society with such advancing technology and heightened secularism which is valid. It is an ongoing appearance in society that a state should not condone a single religion but rather all religions, accepting and integrating all faiths but in that has come a lack of faith. With an extreme rise in agnosticism and atheism in the 21st century, more and more people are steering away from religion, attempting to keep it enclosed and coined as ‘magical’ where faith is kept private. So in this where does religion find it’s place when it feels almost segregated or weakened. Add the rise in technology and people become less attracted to a practice of faith but rather practicing how fast they can text. In Dina’s images, we see everything from blinded shoppers to neglect of education to discrimination by children shows real-life scenarios of religion trying to be prominent in an ever changing society.

The issue raised in the article is based off of the reaction of her art. Some Hindu’s believe their gods are being wrongfully represented while others embrace the idea of their deities being represented by outside sources. It appears clear that she is not negatively depicting any of the gods but rather is creating a ideological state for the position they are in today. she reveals that “Suburbia” is not suburbia but rather a created world for her characters to be represented. As well, she clearly states that her intention is to show these religious icons “suffering the real human condition and trying to find their place in this world, as we do.” This statement exemplifies that a struggle existing in humans (that being existentialism) also occurs in the ideas of religion. I believe she has wonderfully represented how a society that is always progressing can create struggle for even the most powerful beings. Her quote, “Of course we all interpret gods in each differently but they really all exist because people believe in the first place”, exemplifies her observation of a wide range of religious world views, developing an empathetic and poetic narrative of pictures which effectively grasp the idea of societal struggle.

#Rels200 #uwreligion

Reversing the Sexual Revolution

Reversing the Sexual Revolution


Josephine McKenna wrote an article that appeared in the Religion News Service. Her article summarizes one of the discussions that took place at the Vatican conference on November 18th, 2014. The discussion was centered on the destruction of traditional marriage and family. The speakers at the conference agree that that the destruction witnessed is due to the sexual revolution. We are living in a time when sexual freedom is at its peek and conservative views on sexuality are far from popular. Russell Moore, a prominent figure of the Southern Baptist Convention, said sexual liberation had created “a culture obsessed with sex” and that it has led to a “boredom of sex shorn of mystery.” Sex is no longer taboo in Western culture. As a student at University of Calgary it is not uncommon to hear about students engaging in activities such as one-night stands, pre-marital sex, pornography, cheating, and divorce. At one time all these things were socially unacceptable. The conservative Catholics at the Vatican conference argue that the rise of sexual freedom is far from beneficial to society. Instead, they claim that societies that are endorsing sexual liberation are seeing many negative effects. These effects include divorced families, mothers and fathers abandoning their responsibilities, as well as diseases such as HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The Vatican members also claim that this approach is not an effective way to empower women and children but rather promote the male pursuit of “power, prestige and personal pleasure.” McKenna reports that Rick Warren, a California church pastor said that marriage must be celebrated and promoted in churches by scheduling vow renewals, congratulating successful marriages, and promoting marriage in the media. If examples of what healthy relationship look like are more readily available people may be more willing to consider the idea of marriage as the traditional life long commitment that it is designed to be. The amount of exposure to things like divorce and infidelity in the media has desensitized societies members. This desensitization has slowly created the illusion that those things are unavoidable and morally insignificant. People need a renewed hope in the commitment of marriage and family. A community that endorses those values, such as the church, may need to step forward and show society the damage that the sexual liberation movement has incurred and give society examples of what marriage and family should look like.


Conversion in Judaism

TITLE: Conversion in Judaism


The news story “Judaism Must Embrace the Convert” written by Shmuly Yanklowitz was published on The New York Times on Nov. 23, 2014.

This article begins with the discussion about the arrest of an Orthodox rabbi in Washington. The rabbi was charged for setting up hidden cameras in his Synagogue in order to watch women when they were showering. The author believes that this instance has drawn attention to challenges that are faced by potential converts to Judaism.

One of the most important checks in Judaism is the Jewish conception of chosenness, which is the belief that Jews are chosen to be in a covenant with God. Being Jewish is not a genetic thing but instead it is a complex hierarchy of identity and choice by the individual.

It is argued that Judaism is a religion that is willing to welcome anyone but this seems to be quite the opposite of the reality. In Judaism the Israeli Chief rabbinate has the power to reject conversions that seems un-Orthodox.

A little while ago a new law was passed in Israel that gave the chief rabbinate the control over the approval of conversion certificates and this was suppose to make Jewish conversion easier. All this done, was cause more bureaucratic mix-ups and cause more disagreements about converts and the Law of Return.

The author then discusses the difficulty and pain that he faced when he decided to convert. He discusses how he chose not to share his journey of orthodox conversion because Jews who chose to convert by choice are seen as less authentic than those born Jewish. He says that many converts feel shame to reveal they are converts as he himself was interrogated with personal questions upon conversion.

The author then discusses how trends in the Orthodox conversion seem to be moving in the wrong direction. He believes that the process needs to be performed with transparent expectations and that a small group of homogenous Orthodox authorities should not have the power to determine who can and cannot become a Jew.

He concludes the article by saying “Deuteronomy tells us, “You shall love the stranger as you were strangers in Egypt.” No other commandment is more essential to the moral destiny of the Jewish people”.

In this news article the author says that his father was Jewish and his mother was Christian and as a result he converted twice. Just because he went through an Orthodox conversion later in his life, that does not give others who were born Jewish the right to question his status as a Jewish person. I think that the fact that the chief rabbinate decides who can and cannot convert is ridiculous. If a person decides that they want to convert to a different religion, then he/she should have the freedom to convert and not be restricted to do so, just because an individual with higher authority decides that the person doesn’t have certain characteristics. I believe that the whole conversion process is flawed and I believe that they Israel should pass some new legislation that actually makes the Jewish conversion less difficult. I think that individuals who follow Judaism should be accepting of new converts into their religion and they should work on making these converts feel comfortable instead of ashamed of the fact that the converted.

#200 #uwreligions


By Mariam Ibrahim, Edmonton Journal November 24, 2014


Liberal MLA Laurie Blakemore has sponsored Bill 2002 that would force all Alberta school boards to allow gay-straight alliances in their schools. The bill would also amend section 11.1 of the Alberta Human Right Act, a controversial clause that requires parents to be notified when discussions about sexual orientation happen in the classroom. The section would be moved to the Education Act, and remove any reference to sexual orientation. The Wildrose opposition parties proposed three amendments to Bill 202. The first amendment would allow Catholic and faith-based schools to opt out of allowing gay-straight alliances provided that they create a “strong anti-bullying and support strategy that meets the unique needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students.” The second amendment would keep section 11.1 in the Human Rights Act, but would remove the reference to sexual orientation and replace it with discussing about “personal sexuality or sexual health.” The final amendment would add a clause to the Education Act to ensure that home- schoolers and religious schools are not forced to teach lessons that contradict their faith.
Present day doctrines of the world’s major religions vary greatly on their attitudes toward sexual orientation. For these religions that are negative towards homosexuality, sanction range from quietly discouraging this orientation, to explicitly forbidding it an in extreme cases to execution. How does government address these diverse views when developing educational standards in a cultural mosaic like Canada?
Freedom of conscience and religion is a Fundamental Freedom in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Under the same charter, however, every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination. Canada’s approach to education, although largely under the jurisdiction of provinces is to try and find a balance in addressing the competing concerns of antidiscrimination laws and religious freedoms. In considering Bill 2002, it would seem that the Wildrose amendments are not a step backwards but are an attempt to strike that delicate and necessary balance


How Feminism In Religion Can Help Protect The Future

How Feminism In Religion Can Help Protect The Future

Link: http://bit.ly/11ZorCg

The article, “Pope Francis on Europe: an insult to grandmothers, and a slur on the church” by Joanna Moorhead, discusses a controversial statement made by Pope Francis during his speech at the council of Europe, where he described the continent as: “a grandmother, no longer fertile and vibrant” (Moorhead, 2014). This statement was made in as a comparative analogy in response to Europe’s failing attempts to assist the many impoverished and miserable people who head to Europe in search of a new life. According to the article, Pope Francis made a huge public faux pas, which astonishingly went undetected by his entourage – Moorhead argues this is due to his male dominant advisory team. The article’s main point about why this public mishap was so detrimental to the Pope’s respectability, especially from Catholic feminists, is that older women are the backbone of Catholic churches all over the world (they are flower arrangers, cleaners, priest’s housekeepers, soup kitchen operators), and not to mention a majority of the congregants at masses.

This event is undoubtedly controversial because it raises the question of: Is Pope Francis really as warm-hearted, understanding, and nonjudgmental as he seems? Or is he just a typical male-centric leader representing the Catholic Church? Moorhead and her article argue the latter, as she states that: “the value that has been put on women through centuries of Catholic history, from the Virgin Mary onwards, has been one that is tied up with their ability to bear children: de-linking them from this one-dimensional view of what it is to be female is a move that is desperately needed in the Vatican” (Moorhead, 2014). A woman’s soul purpose on this earth is not to bear children; as exemplified above, older women are indisputably needed in the Catholic Church as well, and it is truly unfortunate that not one member in the Pope’s staff had this same viewpoint prior to the speech. Moorhead argues that: “any other world leader, surely, would have had someone in his entourage who was enough in touch with female feelings and sensibilities to realize that being negative about older women because of their lack of ability to bear children, and suggesting that they were no longer active, enthusiastic, lively and life-giving, was a complete no-no ” (2014).

Although Moorhead is an upfront Catholic feminist, I do not think that her accusations against Pope Francis and his actions are out of place by any means. The history and worldview of the Catholic Church has always included women, and therefore all women should be equally respected and valued (as God’s children) regardless of their age. I think Moorhead makes great points emphasizing that this was a major public nose-dive for the Catholic Church, and if there had been more women on the advisory team this may not have happened.

C.C. #200

The great Burka debate

The great Burka debate


While I am happy that we are beginning to look towards Middle Eastern countries and people are taking notice of the injustices that exist there, the Western countries who are arguing this have turned it into a different issue all together. While many believe that banning the Burka will bring justice to Muslim women who have suffered oppression, sadly this isn’t the case. By making the targets we are welcoming more racism, bullying someone into abandoning their culture and traditions simply is unfair. What we really need to do is to educate ourselves about this religion and the women who practice it. Knowledge is power and unfortunately many women in these countries do not have the right to this knowledge. This is ultimately a fight that they need to fight, perhaps not alone, but we cannot fight it for them no matter how good our intentions may be. I have had this discussion several times about the banning of the Burka with different people who are not practicing Muslims and each time I get a similar response, that it needs to go and we are liberating these women, this frustrates me to no end. The way to liberating is through empowering people, not taking away their traditions. However each time I try to defend the Burka it gets highly misunderstood from my end, like I said I do not support a religion that oppresses women, but don’t most religions oppress women anyways? This one just happens to be very blatant about it. While I realize that people have the best intentions at heart in supporting the banning of the head veil, they also don’t exactly know what they are talking about and the history that lies behind it. If we really are concerned then we need to hear from the voices of Muslim women, they are the ones who need to speak up on the matter and while we can support them we cannot speak for them and that is usually where the lines get blurred. In several articles I have read, Muslim women seem to have mixed feelings, some do believe that the Burka is a tool for oppression, however many believe it is not. Many Muslim women see the Burka as a religious symbol that brings them great peace, you need to keep in mind when starting this argument that most of these women have been raised with the Burka as a social norm, to them it is a way of life. I couldn’t imagine if I moved to a different country and the government told me I couldn’t leave my house with clothes on, that I had to walk around naked. That is what unveiling feels like to many of these women, naked, exposed and scared. The ones who choose to ignore these laws get bullied and experience vast forms of racism, which is highly unfair. Unless you were raised in a Muslim society, you cannot preach either side of the argument.

Let me stress again, that I do necessarily support the Burka, but I do support the women who want the right to wear one. While I see both sides of the debate clearly, it is not one I have wanted to touch for a long time because as much as I have educated myself on the Quran and Muslim culture, I still cannot fully understand it. What I can say is this, the reason this is such a heated topic on both sides boils down to women feeling oppressed by men in general. The Burka isn’t the problem in my eyes; it is a stepping-stone for a long standing gender debate that will continue for many years to come. It is about women having full control over their own bodies and minds, which is still a large problem anywhere you go in the world. I believe this is why so many Western women get so passionate about topics like banning of the Burka, we feel like we have made huge strides in for the freedom of women and seeing women in other countries who have little freedom irritates them, it is a deep rooted issue that we are still learning to overcome. The problem is this; women feeling oppressed by men and pressured to adapt to the objectification of women’s bodies. Whether it is the issue of women needing to cover from head to toe as to not distract men with their sexuality, or a woman who feels the need to look a certain way to be considered attractive. They are simply different sides of the same issue, men using power to force women to conform into whatever image they see fit. This is a basic issue that lays within any woman’s mind, we can argue all day about whether a women should be forced to wear a Burka or not but when it comes down to it we need to change our way of thinking in general, the way to do this is through knowledge all we can do is educate ourselves as much as possible about issues we feel passionate about and try our best to educate others as well. I believe that this will be the key to a better future where women no longer feel oppressed by man in any situation, fighting a fight with violence and hate is not the answer, deep down I believe we all know this.
#uofc #uwreligions

Can Anyone Stop Mr. Husbands?

Can Anyone Stop Mr. Husbands?
On June 2, 2012, Christopher Husbands, 25, was charged for first- degree murder, when he shot and killed two men and wounded five other people in Eaton Centre in Toronto. He breached bail conditions that he had sworn under oath to observe. He said that he had no intention of breaking his bail but that’s what he ended up doing. Moreover, Husbands had pleaded not guilty to the planned murder of two men, during which he injured at least five people at the Eaton Centre on June, 2, 2012. The Crown alleged that Husbands had killed Nixon Nirmalendran and a friend deliberately early that year. Prosecutor John Cisorio, noted that on June, 2, Husband was walking in Eaton Centre with a loaded gun and believed that Nirmalendran was also carrying a gun too. Husbands defended himself by saying that he carried the gun to protect himself as he feared that there were men out there ready to kill him. Cisorio noted that Husband lied to the police in an effort to conceal the link between the February attack and the June shooting. Furthermore, Husbands claimed that he had no idea what pushed him that led to the February assault that took place in the apartment of the woman who he was in a relationship with, who was also the mother of one of the attackers. He said that their relationship had to do nothing with the stabbing. Husbands believed that everything may have happened because he heard that Nirmalendran, who was in jail at that time, was really angry with Husbands. At the time of the shooting, Husbands was on bail for conviction related to the sexual assault of the mother of his six-year old daughter. Husbands had to observe eight conditions including house arrest, selling drugs, carrying a firearm or being near a women. He violated all the conditions and upon asking, he said he had no answer to give.
No religion advocates killing. Most of the religions teach its followers to forgive and set an example for others so that a crime is not repeated. Husbands act was violent and aggressive. Eric Fromm in his famous book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness shares his insight that animals express benign violence—they kill only in self defense or when they are hungry. Even a lion is peaceful when he is not hungry or doesn’t feel threatened. Human beings murder due to emotional, social, religious, economic or political reasons. It’s hard to guess what triggered Husbands to kill the two men at Eaton Centre in June. It is ironic that in the contemporary world, leaders of religious, spiritual and secular traditions claim that their ideology promotes peace and harmony, when there are still people like Husbands out there who didn’t have an answer to why they kill, despite the fact that their killing is planned and deliberate.
Personal Identifier: MK
Course: #200

France’ s Homegrown Jihadists

France’s Homegrown Jihadists


This article starts with the heart breaking stories of the families of the “home grown jihadists”. Their inability to comprehend their children’s actions has lead to emotional turmoil. France is seeing an increase in its younger citizens leaving to fight in Syria. Some of these citizens are converts from prison but Sylvie Kaufmann notes that Social media has its role to play as well. It is clear that since this “jihadist” trend exists that it must have something to offer. I believe our western media is far too quick to condemn the conversions of these people. I do not condone violence is anyway but, religion is an incredibly strong emotional force for people. Something must be driving these men and women to risk their lives in the name of Islam. Some may say it is brain washing but how can you differentiate a brainwashed follower from a true believer? This article takes only one viewpoint on these conversions and the struggle in Syria. I cannot claim to know exactly what the strife of the Syrians or the Muslim people in that region is, but I would hope that a free press would be prepared to investigate the personal reasons for conversion. The article ends with the words of the French P.M (formerly the interior minister), saying “that jihadism is “the greatest danger we will have to face in the next few years.” It is unclear why, having not referenced any jihadist attacks within France, the P.M would call conversion and fight for Islam in other states the “greatest danger”. Do I think that extremists of any sort can be a threat? Yes but is there any reason to believe that if these citizens are leaving France to fight that they pose a threat to France itself? That is to be seen. I would like to see a fair treatment of Islamic view in western media as opposed to the traditional “jihadist” labeling (this case includes jihadism I know).

“A Heinous Crime” : The story of ISIS

“A Heinous Crime:”

Based on the article “ISIS abducting and indoctrinating children for active combat ‘in a systematic manner’


Based on the article “ISIS abducting and indoctrinating children for active combat in a ‘systematic manner:’

The story of ISIS continues to plague our radios, televisions and any other information source available. This ongoing conflict, based primarily between the two largest Muslim groups- the Iraq Sunnis and Iraq Shias- has not only been a threat of danger to Iraqi citizens but has now expanded to threatening the lifestyle of children. It has become known that recently “in Raqqa, the de facto Syrian capital of the Islamic state of Iraq & Al-Sham (ISIS),”1 the exploitation and recruitment of the most vulnerable of people is taking place.
Personally, I feel like this can be deemed the most heinous of crimes; not only do these children have no knowledge of the repercussions on the tasks they are forced into doing, but they almost have no other choice. Due to the ISIS conflict in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, families displaced and separated, and children orphaned. This has created an easy and accessible resource of children, simply seen as ‘disposable fighters’ for ISIS affiliates. In order to create compliance, “the group commands large areas in which the jihadists inculcate the children with their radical and violent interpretation of Shariah law.”2 Because of their vulnerable age, not only will the children believe what they are being taught is right, but as they grow older they will most likely continue to follow and even pass on this more violent form of religion.
Scare tactics are also used, with which ISIS would threaten harming the childrens’ family if they d not fully comply. Even more recently, as the power of ISIS grows and spreads further into areas of Syria and more of Iraq, is either the closing of schools or replacement of the traditional curriculum with one that fights and relates to their violent ideology. This nearly ensures that children will adopt the beliefs of the ISIS state, despite the majority of parents wishes. It is extremely sad to think that what initially was intended to be a source of knowledge and power- education- is now being corrupted and twisted in the hands of this rebel group. It is essentially, brainwashing. What is nearly as disturbing as the act of recruiting these children is the blatant openness and vocality with which the group goes about the indoctrination. The group is not even shameful of the severe war crime they are committing, instead seeing it as a very useful and effective tactic. The usage of children in war is not new, but it is being noted that never has it been as systematic or organized as it is within the group ISIS. I think the usage of all these tactics as well as the vocality and systematic way with which ISIS is conducting its indoctrination of children is a message of just how threatening this group if becoming.

#uwreligions #uofc

The Ottawa shooting response reveals fault lines in the battle between two Canada’s.

The Ottawa shooting response reveals fault lines in the battle between two Canadas.  “The Ottawa shooting response reveals fault lines in the battle between two Canada’s”, in The Guardian. http://bit.ly/1wxlnYh

In Abdelmahmoud’s article, he suggests that the duality in Canada lies not between East and West, but between those who support multiculturalism, in particular Islam, and those in Canada who do not. He says there is a distinct division between those who welcome diversity and those who do not want Muslims in Canada. At the core of Canada there is the essence of diversity, multiculturalism, and acceptance, or as Abdelmahmoud said in his article, “different but together, side by side”. The other side to Canada, Abdelmahmoud said, is wary of how much multiculturalism Canada has accepted, and concerned if it is too much. Abdelmahmoud’s definition of Canadian duality is in preface to his commentary on the shootings that took place on Wednesday in Ottawa. He said it is events like this that bring to light the true feelings of Canadians in their reactions. He commented on Peter Mansbridge’s CBC coverage, and how his respectful tone, and he refused to draw conclusions about the shooters and their lives, and did not comment on their race or faith. Abdelmahmoud says this perfectly sums up Canada’s tolerant, melting pot attitude. However, the beliefs of other Canadians can be seen in their reactions; what Abdelmahmoud called the ‘manifestation of Islamophobia.’ There were anti-muslim outcries all over social media following the shootings in Ottawa and Quebec, with some people going to so far as to say “All our government needs to do is unrecognize Islam”. Abdelmahmoud claimed that the group of people most affected by the divide in Canada is the Muslims themselves, because they are forced to live in a society where legally and through institutions their equality is ensured and their differences celebrated, however, there is much animosity from a large portion of the population, some people going so far as to say the entirety of the region of Islam should not prohibited in our country. In Canada, we pride ourselves on multiculturalism, however, events such as those that transpired on Wednesday, reveal the true beliefs of many citizens, and there is clearly an issue in this country with the acceptance Islam, and the individuals who follow in its faith. #uwrelgiions #uofc