Tag Archives: History
On Monday I visited the Dover Rug Company in Natick, Massachusetts for an interview with CEO Mahmud Jafri, who happens to be a very down-to-earth and insightful man. Mahmud is a successful businessman who happens to also be a proud Bostonian, American, Muslim and Pakistani.
When I was entering the Dover Rug building, I noticed a painting to the left of the main door. With a sociological lens on my brain I drifted over to the painting for a closer look. I had never seen this painting before so I was a bit puzzled. I wondered if it was placed there by Mahmud and if so, what the painting might say about the man himself.
The painting happens to be the work of Norman Rockwell. I’m assuming the work is called “The Golden Rule” as the quote you see above is inspired by “the golden rule” passage in Matthew 7:12: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Here is what Mahmud said about the story behind the painting:
I was visiting [his museum] with my children and I was in the Berkshires… I saw this painting there and I absolutely loved it.
Mahmud continues to explain why the painting moved him:
I do a fair amount of [interfaith] work here… I’m the former co-chair of the Jewish-Muslim dialogue here in Boston with the American Jewish Committee. Just last Wednesday I was at this interfaith service with the Committee and the American Islamic Congress. Governor Patrick spoke there and there was a reception after.
And we end on Mahmud’s powerful message…
I really think there are plenty of opportunities for us to come together on the majority of the issues. The few differences should not keep us apart… You’re better off being engaged however strong your differences may be as opposed to [divided] and let the differences multiply.
Tags: American Islamic Congress, American Jewish Committee, Art history, Berkshire, Boston, Dover, Dover Rug Company, Golden Rule, History, Inspiration, Interfaith, Interfaith Dialogue, Mahmud Jafri, Matthew 7:12, Norma Rockwell, Norman Rockwell, NormanRockwell, Paintings, The Golden Rule, United States
You can read more about the life of Akbar the Great in my Huffington Post Religion article, “Finding Tolerance in Akbar, the Philosopher-King”
Akbar the Great, ruler of the Mughal Empire during the late 16th and early 17th century, was a true pioneer of interfaith dialogue. Akbar’s desire to build interfaith bridges and dedication to seeking knowledge about all religions is clear in a letter he wrote in 1582 to King Philip II of Spain.
“As most men are fettered by bonds of tradition, and by imitating ways followed by their fathers… everyone continues, without investigating their arguments and reasons, to follow the religion in which he was born and educated, thus excluding himself from the possibility of ascertaining the truth, which is the noblest aim of the human intellect. Therefore we associate at convenient seasons with learned men of all religions, thus deriving profit from their exquisite discourses and exalted aspirations.”
- Pope Francis I, Akbar the Great, and the Jesuits (craigconsidinetcd.wordpress.com)
Michael Francis Considine, my great-grandfather, was born on September 4th, 1884 in Ennis, County Clare (Ireland). He was born to Michael Considine (born in 1861 and died in 1936) and Bridget O’Loughlin Considine (Ni Larkin; born in 1851 and died in 1909). Michael Francis later lived with his family in Kilmoon Parish, Lisdoonvarna, which he would later leave for Canada.
By profession Michael Francis was both a Royal Irish Constable and soldier of the British army. He had two sons: John Vernon Considine (born in 1924 and died in 1969) and Alexander Patrick Considine (born in 1927 and died in 2005). Michael died in Verdun, Quebec in 1951.
Here’s a quick recap of the lineage discussed here:
Michael Considine (born 1861)
Michael Francis Considine (born 1884)
John Vernon Considine (born 1924)
Christopher Michael Considine (my father; born 1948)
Craig Michael Considine (me; born 1985)
Michael in his uniform his wife, Christina. We can surmise this picture was taken somewhere in Canada.
This next picture shows Christina with her two boys. John Vernon is on the left and Alexander Patrick on the right. The picture must have been taken somewhere in Canada in the early 1930s.
Here is John and Alexander as boys in Irish clothing. John was born in 1924 and Alexander in 1927. Though the exact date of the picture is not known, we can guess it was taken around the early-t0-mid 1940s in Canada.
These last two picture show Alexander and John at the time of Alexander’s wedding.
Tags: Black and white pictures, Considine clan, County Clare, Ennis, Forefathers, History, Irish, Irish ancestry, Irish family history, Irish geneology, Kilmoon Parish, Lisdoonvarna, Michael Considine, Michael Francis Considine, Old pictures, Photography
The Jesuits, members of a religious order of Christianity founded in the 16th century, have entered the public spotlight after the election of Pope Francis I, himself a Jesuit. In reading more about the their philosophy, I stumbled across an interesting story about one of their missions to the court of Akbar the Great of the Mughal Empire.
The best account of the Jesuits’ visit to Akbar’s palace in India comes from Pierre Du Jarric, who wrote the book Akbar and the Jesuits. Du Jarric (1566-1617) was a French priest of the Jesuit order. Although he was never able to travel as a missionary he compiled the tales of Jesuit missions throughout the world. He was a professor of philosophy and theology at Bordeaux (Source: Gorgias Press).
According to an Amazon.com blurb, the contents of Akbar and the Jesuits describe the various Jesuit missions that visited India during the reign of Akbar (1566-1605) to propagate the gospel. The narrative of this work is based entirely on the letters and reports written by the fathers while on service with the missions. The original book was published within six to nine years after the death of Akbar. This publication is an English translation. You can read parts of Akbar and the Jesuits on Google Scholar.
The most interesting part of the mission is documented in an article from the Economic Times, which notes:
Akbar’s Church, built in the late 16th century, demolished in the mid 17th and finally rebuilt in 1772, stands as a tribute to the secular spirit of the Emperor it is named after. The original structure here was built by early Jesuits who began preaching at a time when the spirit of tolerance was its acme under Akbar, for whom a new religion would have been of immense interest given his open-mindedness to new ideas.
The website of the Archdiocese of Agra, India adds:
Akbar’s Church built in 1598 was the first Catholic Church of Agra and it was the Cathedral of Agra till 1848. The Church was built by the Jesuit Fathers under Akbar’s order. It was a gift from the Mughal Emperor Akbar. In this Church the Mughal Emperors came to pray, especially Jahangir. Emperor Jahangir finding the Church built by his father, Akbar too small, donated a large sum of money for a larger and more beautiful Church to be built.
The act of bridge building as seen in the Jesuit mission to Akbar’s court can serve as an example of the power of interfaith dialogue for Pope Francis I. I hope he enters his papacy in a similar spirit of tolerance as the Jesuit missionaries and Akbar the Great.
Tags: Agra, Akbar, Akbar and the Jesuits, Akbar the Great, Akbar's Church, Catholic Church, History, India, Interfaith Dialogue, Islam and Christianity, Jesuit, Mughal Empire, Pierre du Jarric, Pope Francis, Pope Francis I, Religion, Roman Catholicism, Society of Jesus, The Jesuits
George Washington’s birthday, celebrated annually on Febr. 22nd, is an opportunity to reflect upon his exemplary character and the example he set for future generations of Americans. While much is known about Washington’s military service and political career, less is known about his attitude towards religious freedom and his relationships with Muslims. Looking closely at his personal documents, letters, and activities, we can see that Washington was indeed a proponent of religious tolerance and a friend to the Muslims in his midst.
Columbus Day. A day where many Americans celebrate the ‘discovery’ of America. Why do we glorify it?
For us thinking people, we realize that Columbus didn’t discover anything. In fact, he stumbled across a civilization, which he wrote about in his famous diary:
They… brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned… They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… They would make fine servants… With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want…
For more shocking first hand accounts of the terror brought upon the indigenous peoples of the ‘new world’, please visit this link from ‘Howard Zinn on History’.
This video below does a better job of summarizing why we shouldn’t celebrate Columbus. Please watch and visit the website at the end of the video.
The world can easily be turned upside down. Old cultures and civilizations can be uprooted at the flick of a switch. Do you ever wonder about previous cultures? Do you ponder their origins and what made them tick? What happened to them? Did we learn from them?
Sometimes you have to get lost to be found. Sometimes you have to lose your sense of direction to regain it. Sometimes you desire to go back to a bygone era. Sometimes the difficulties in the past do not seem so grave now.
What are the signs which show us the way? Have we gone too far? Have we not learned enough?
What happened to trusting the instinct of nature? What about beings bonding? What happened to trust?
We have maps. We have journeys. There are paths. But is there a reward?
Have you ever thought that we have lost our way as a species? Have we become too rational? Have we lost touch?
Today we stand at a civilizational crossroads. Are we going down the right paths? Are we progressing forward? Are we overusing and eroding the natural things in life? Why should nature respect man if man does not respect nature?
To be a member of the Know Nothing Party, one had to be ‘a native born citizen, a Protestant, born of Protestant parents, reared under Protestant influence, and not united in marriage with a Roman Catholic’. In addition, members of the Know Nothing Party had to take a pledge to prevent ‘the insidious policy of the Church of Rome, an all other foreign influences against the institutions of our country, by placing in all offices in the gift of the people, whether by election or appointment, none but native-born Protestant citizens’.
Similarly, Tea Party members have stressed the importance of ‘taking our country back’ from ‘them’; ‘them’ often being immigrants, undocumented people, Muslims, homosexuals, socialists and communists (to name a few). Tea Party members often stress the importance of America’s ‘Protestant origins’ and oftentimes suggest that the Founders never intended to separate church and state. Tea Party members often attack Islam as being ‘un-democratic’ and antithetical to ‘American values’. Tea Party members often accuse Barack Obama, who is not ‘American enough’, of being a ‘secret Muslim’ because his middle name is Hussein and he spent time growing up in countries with Muslims. Tea Party members also spread the conspiracy that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the American government and that Americans will soon be dominated by the tyranny of ‘Islamists’ like the Muslim Brotherhood.
The rhetoric between these two parties is eerily similar.
The Know Nothing Party eventually became irrelevant, perhaps because too many Americans looked beyond their unproductive rhetoric of racism and discrimination.
Time will only tell if the Tea Party experiences a similar fate.
Tags: American, Barack Obama, Christian, Comparison, Culture, History, Islamism, John McCain, Know Nothing, Know Nothing Party, Muslim, Muslim Brotherhood, National identity, Politics, Protestant, Religion, Republican, Tea, Tea Party, United States
The lovely lady Mel wrote an important response to this blog about the meaning of the Confederate flag. Below is a short excerpt. To read her entire article The Confederate flag and growing up in the south , click here.
My fifth grade history teacher told us, “No matter what people tell you, the Civil War was NOT fought because of slavery. Slavery had nothing to do with it,” and then she proceeded to give us ten reasons about why the North and South had different political and social view points, almost justifying the South’s decision to secede. Though she had a point that the nation was divided in it’s political and social perspectives, slavery DID have something to do with the War.
I just had a Twitter conversation with a presumably white, southern man who had argued that the real definition of the Confederate flag is pride in the confederacy and states rights and only these two things. I told him that he needs to be careful with such bold definitions because this was his subjective interpretation. He proceeded to argue that it was a ‘fact’ that the Confederate flag was about the confederacy and states right, and simultaneously implied that its meaning had nothing to do with slavery. I begged to differ. For example, if we asked, say, a southern black man from Georgia what the Confederate flag means to him, he might have a totally different opinion; he might say it means ‘the end of slavery’ or ‘racism’. The fact that there are always going to be these different narratives in assessing the meaning of the Confederate flag suggests that there is no ‘true’ or ‘real’ meaning to it. This, in fact, is the only fact which arose out of my discussion with this presumably white, southern man on Twitter. My goal in this Internet encounter was to shed light on the idea that no one group has sole custody of the Confederate flag’s meaning, and that it was not right for one man or woman to take away another’s right to interpret it freely. Sadly, the man I was arguing with did not buy into any of what I was saying. And so the debate rages. Though certainly not without closed-mindedness.
Tags: Confederate, Confederate States of America, Flags of the Confederate States of America, Georgia, History, Interpretation, Meaning, Northerner, Opinion, Slavery, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Southerner, Twitter, United States
We can gain a sense of young Benjamin Franklin’s thoughts on religion in A Witch Trial at Mount Holly, which raised the concern of his Puritan parents that he held ‘erroneous’ religious opinions. Franklin was not himself an emphatically religious man; while he believed in God, he did not subscribe to one particular creed. What we do know about Franklin’s personal beliefs is that he frowned upon religious orthodoxy, writing to his mother, in citing Matthew 26, that ‘I think vital religion has always suffered when orthodoxy is more regarded than virtue’. To escape the clutch of his parents and Puritanism, the young Franklin ran away to Philadelphia, a city more diverse in its religious makeup (with Quakers, Jews and Christian sects). It was here in Philadelphia where Franklin famously raised money to build a new ‘religious hall’ that would be ‘expressly for the use of any preacher of any religious persuasion who might desire to say something’. And while colonial Philadelphia had few Muslims, Franklin also suggested that ‘Even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service’. Franklin’s virtue was on display when in 1788, he donated money to each religious group in Philadelphia, including a sum for a new synagogue of the Mikveh Israel Jewish community. Later in 1790, Franklin was carried to his resting place by clergymen from every single religious group in Philadelphia. How is that for respect? We as Americans would be wise to heed his message.
Tags: American culture, Arts, Benjamin Franklin, Craig Considine, Franklin, God, History, Interfaith, Islam, Jews, Judaism, Matthew 26, Mikveh Israel, Muslims, Opinion, Personal, Philadelphia, Pluralism, Quakers, Religion, Spirituality, Tolerance, United States
Muslim Americans are often harassed and forced to defend themselves against controversial verses in their holy text – the Qur’an. One of these verses is Surah 9:5 (the ‘kill the infidel’ verse). I am not a Muslim, but I still have concerns over how ‘experts’ say Muslims kill because the Qur’an tells them to (Representative Allen West is one such person). Several questions arise out of my concern: If Muslims are told to ‘kill the infidel’, as so many ‘experts’ claim, why do not Muslims deliberately exterminate non-Muslims? And if the Qur’an is telling Muslims to kill non-Muslim ‘infidels’, how does one explain a figure such as Emperor Akbar of the Mughal Empire, whose
use of Islamic symbols was not exclusionary, and he welcomed to his new court at Fatehpur Sikri for discussion Brahmans, yogis, Jains, Jesuit priests who travelled up from Portugese trading enclaves on the south-west coasts, Zoroastrians, and Muslim scholars of every orientation… Like many intellectuals and holy men in the open climate of this period, Akbar sought shared esoteric or philosophic truths across traditions, as well as disciplinary practices in the pursuit of those truths. He patronized translations into Persian of the Sanskrit Ramayana (the story of Lord Ram) and Mahabharata, as well as miniature painting representing episodes of the two epics. He abolished the jizya taxes levied on non-Muslims. (In A Concise History of India by Metcalf and Metcalf, p. 18)
Another useful point is to highlight Muslim-ruled Spain as a place where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived side by side without any significant friction. Spanish Jews under Muslim rule, according to Middle Eastern historian Bernard Lewis in The Jews of Islam (1984),
were allowed to practice their religion and live according to the laws and scriptures of their community. Furthermore, the restrictions to which they were subject were social and symbolic rather than tangible and practical in character. That is to say, these regulations served to define the relationship between the two communities, and not to oppress the Jewish population.
Tags: Akbar, Christianity, Culture, Edict of Expulsion, Fatehpur Sikri, History, Infidel, Islam, Islamic history, Jews, Koran, Mughal Empire, Muslim, Muslims, Ottoman Empire, Qur'an, Religion, Religious extremism, Religious text, Spanish Inquisition, Spirituality, Surah 9:5
WE SHOULD THEREFORE…
Declare war on Heart Disease
Attack McDonald’s and then all fast food chains
Declare war on Cancer
Attack Marlboro and then all cigarette companies
Declare war on Air Safety
Declare war on Automobiles
Attack Ford, Mercedes, and Honda so to make sure we are fighting around the world
Declare war on Falling
Attack our parents for teaching us how to walk (balance ourselves)
Declare war on Drowning
Attack companies that make floaties and boats
Declare war on Vomitting
Attack alcohol companies
Declare war on Police
Attack their stations, obviously
Declare war on Power
Attack lamps, energy sockets, radios near showers
Declare war on Mother Nature
Attack wherever she is located
Tags: Air safety, Cancer, Danger, Drowning, Falling, Heart disease, History, Honda, Marlboro, McDonald, Mother Nature, Terrorism, Threat, Twentieth Century, Vomitting, War, war declaration, Wars and Conflicts
An inviting path,
under the shade of a gigantic tree
and the shadow of a bird flying above.
The bird chirps,
as another one sings.
The aura is over me.
There’s an opening ahead,
where the water, crashing at the falls
eliminates the silence.
There, on a small cliff, I stand,
embracing the mist, which, ever so lightly,
covers my face, and tickles it.
The water, ever so calmly,
slips over, and falls,
into a world unknown to us.
The water simmers into a motionless pool,
the thunderous sound of crashing water slowly simmers
and silence again approaches,
but only if you carry on.
This path ends at the intersection,
where another path begins,
another chapter etched,
for better, or worse, or neither.
Were these trees always broken?
Were these steps always here?
What did their bridge look like?
Did they even have one?
And what about their water?
Was it suffocating like ours?
Were their creatures frightened of man?
Did they screech, and jump,
like that little frog just did?
Am I an alien to this place?
Why are even chipmunks paranoid?
The ancient trails are left, right, and center.
In between are huge rocks, isolated and lonely,
bold and mysterious.
Two rocks, together, look perfectly placed.
Did they put them that way?
A part of me feels like digging for answers.
I want to find an artifact, or some clue,
to better understand this world,
and whether it has always looked like this.
On the bank, I tip-toe on a slippery slope
of rocks coated with fluorescent green moss.
I grab on to skinny trees for balance
as I struggle to make my way around the rocky bend.
There, is an opening, a ghostly cave of sorts.
Inside, I look for writings on the wall.
A war scene, a deer… anything.
To no avail, I sit, crossed legged, thinking…
what went on in here?
Were there stacks of branches nestled in a flame,
eyes gazing into a downpour,
quiet conversations amongst friends,
baskets of recently caught fish,
shamans performing rituals
and animal sacrifices?
Will we ever know?
But, today, there is just graffiti, plastic trash,
and pieces of shattered glass,
bitter signs of the wrath of the alien man,
violent and frustrated.
As I left this sacred place
I read, from page one of my entry, the line
the aura is over me.
Not liking one word, I took my pen,
to change the ‘aura’ to ‘spirit’, to read:
‘the spirit is over me‘.
That was more like it.
With the change made, immediately,
something fell from that gigantic tree.
I turned to my left, and backwards,
and looked slightly downwards over my shoulder
to see a giant acorn roll gradually to its stop.
Did you know that trees could speak?
At least here they do.
© Craig Considine
In his book The Cube and the Cathedral, George Weigel turns to Joseph Weiler‘s ‘Christophobia’ theory to discuss the ‘European problem’ (or the struggle for cultural and moral supremacy between atheistic humanists (secularists) and Christians). ’Christophobia’, which resists any acknowledgement of the Christian sources of Europe’s democracy, has eight key features, as outlined by Weigel, which include, in no particular order:
- The notion that the Holocaust and other 20th-century European genocides are the logical outcome of Christianity’s inherent racism.
- The ’1968 mind-set’ – the youthful rebellion against traditional authority and Europe’s traditional Christian identity and consciousness.
- The psychological and ideological denial of the non-violent revolution of 1989, which, according to Weiler, was deeply and decisively influenced by Christians in central and eastern Europe, preeminently by Pope John Paul II.
- The continuing resentment of the dominant role once played by Christian Democratic parties in post-World War II Europe.
- The habit of associating Christianity with right wing political parties, which are the parties of xenophobia, racism, intolerance, etc.
- The resentment towards Pope John Paul II among secularists and anti-Catholics.
- The distorted teaching about European history which stresses the Enlightenment roots of the democratic project to the virtual exclusion of democracy’s historical cultural roots in the Christian soil of pre-Enlightenment Europe.
- The resentment of the ’1968 mind-set’ generation that their children have become Christian believers.
Source: Weigel, George. The Cube and the Cathedral. Basic Books: New York, 2005. Pgs. 73-77.
Tags: 1968, 1989 Revolution, Catholicism, Catholics, Christian Democratic Parties, Christianity, Christians, Christophobia, Culture, Democracy, Discrimination, Enlightenment, Europe, European problem, Europeans, George Weigel, History, Holocaust, Intolerance, Joseph Weiler, Pope John Paul II, Racism, Religion, Secularism, Spirituality
This archive documents my writings from the ‘Journey into America’ book and documentary project. The writings here are my own personal opinions and don’t necessarily reflect the overall message of ‘Journey into America’. Most of these entires are ‘notes in the field’, but you may also find published articles. In addition, included here are short documentaries which I directed, filmed, and edited. The question referred to in the title above is ‘What does it mean to be American?’ We dissected this question through the lens of Muslims in the USA.
February 25, 2011 – Islamophobic Yellow Journalists Attack Professor Ahmed, Again
April 13, 2009 – Can a Muslim be a good American? Absolutely.
April 3, 2009 – Washington’s ‘Old Guard’: Meeting with American Soldiers
April 3, 2009 – Dean Louis Goodman: American identity from a Jewish Perspective
March 29, 2009 – From Party Animal to Role Model
February 27, 2009 – Re-connecting with my Italian roots with Father Nesti
February 23, 2009 – Muslim Acts of Heroism during Hurricane Katrina
February 20, 2009 – Congressman Andre Carson and I see eye to eye
January 28, 2009 – Atlanta: Re-connecting with our Bosnian friends
January 26, 2009 – An Arab in Arab, Alabama
January 15, 2009 – A (not so) Serious Conversation about American Stereotypes
January 5, 2009 – In the ‘Land of Stars’, Muslim Americans Shine the Brightest
December 22, 2008 – A Hero of Mine (interview with Judea Pearl)
December 15, 2008 – ‘Friendship Beach’: The border wall
November 27, 2008 – A Fireside Chat with Hamza Yusuf
November 7, 2008 – Islam Saves a Life
October 28, 2008 – The New Sons of Liberty
October 17, 2008 – Together We Stand, Divided We Fall
September 20, 2008 – Take Professor Out to the Ballgame
September 18, 2008 – You Can Never Miss Mom’s Birthday
September 15, 2008 – Don’t Judge, Just Listen and Learn
September 11, 2008 – Dresden or Detroit?
September 3, 2008 – The next Steven Spielberg?
Tags: American, Diary, Field diary, Fieldwork, History, Interfaith Dialogue, Islam, Islamophobia, Mosques, Muslim American, Muslims, Nationalism, Patriotism, Politics, Qur'an, Religion, Research, Thomas Jefferson, USA
Note: Christian Smith of the University of Notre Dama recently wrote an important piece in Footnotes of the American Sociological Association on the importance of taking the sociology of religion seriously. Essentially, Smith wonders ‘why, when it comes to religion, do so many sociologists suddenly stop being sociological and become ideological and ignorant?’
The time has come for American sociology to stop being so ignorant and dogmatic about religion. As someone who knows something about the real history, cultures, and organizations of religious traditions, I am regularly appalled by the illiterate prejudices about religion that are routinely expressed by sociologist colleagues. It is embarrassing for our discipline and galling to those who know better.
For example, in a recent Contemporary Sociology book review, the reviewer, a senior sociologist from an Ivy League university, chides a book author for not knowing enough about religion. The reviewer then asserts that the real “net effects of religion and faith” operating “on a macro level” are “a few thousand years of horrible wars, genocide, slavery’s ideology, sexual exploitation, torture, devaluing others as not human, terrorism, and organized hatred.” That opinion is not uncommon—I frequently see and hear it expressed by sociologists.
News flash: this view of religion is so simplistic, ideological, parochial, ill-informed, and historically naïve that it can only be called ignorant or bigoted, or both. It simply parrots the polemics of 18th century skeptical Enlightenment activists and the New Atheists, like Voltaire and Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens (or the combined “Ditchkins”), as if they were historical and scientific fact. It substitutes caricature for scholarship, ideological politics for academic analysis, and understanding. If such sophomoric views were applied to any other area of social life, experts who knew better would laugh and scream.
To be clear, what is at stake here has nothing to do with scholars’ personal views about religions, whether for or against. What matters is simply being educated and intelligent about an important part of human social life. The issue is not personal belief but basic professional aptitude and integrity.
We sociologists like to think that we have the hard facts about social life, reliable empirical findings, insights and understanding that ordinary people lack. Common sense, we tell our students, is often wrong—which is true. So why, when it comes to religion, do so many sociologists suddenly stop being sociological and become ideological and ignorant? For some reason, many American sociologists feel free to avow and impart superficial views of religion, as if they were learned, sophisticated, and realistic.
Here are the facts: the social, historical, and moral realities of religions are just as complicated, scrambled, and difficult as every other social practice and institution in human life—both the ones we personally like and the ones we don’t. The truth about religions is complex and challenging. Historically and today, religion involves plenty of good and bad, light and darkness, splendor and evil to go around.
Informed, non-ideological sociologists—people like Mike Hout, Lisa Keister, and Robert Wuthnow—have published many informative, balanced works on religion. Libraries are full of fair, reliable literatures about religions for discerning readers. There is plenty to learn from. So why do so many in sociology continue with their shopworn hearsay and simplistic stereotypes?
It is time for American sociologists to stop playing good-guys-versus-bad-guys with religion and ritually shoving the black hat on religion. It is time to take religion just as seriously as everything else humanly social, and time to make the effort to learn complicated facts.
Religion is not going away anytime soon, if ever. And religion often matters immensely for understanding human social life. If we sociologists are what we claim to be, we have to replace ignorance with real knowledge, biases with genuine understanding, and comfortable myths with realistic complexity. Personal beliefs about religion aside, open and honest learning is our professional responsibility.
‘A GOOD MAN CANNOT BE HARMED IN LIFE OR IN DEATH’ – SOCRATES