All the latest news and articles from the OCRS

Why study religion?

7 December 2018 | Luke Burns

We’re naturally curious about the world around us, and are drawn to things we find interesting; all of us will learn about something in our free time. It might be a new skill like crochet, web development, tennis, or horse riding; it might be the ins and outs of celebrity lives, footballer statistics, or political intrigue; and it might be an academic subject like geology, history, or… religious studies. But why religious studies?

True Religion and Religious Truths

5 December 2018 | Luke Burns

As practitioners of religious studies, academics are advised against investigating the truth claims of different religious traditions - it’s one of those awkward subjects that cannot be reliably studied (hence the ongoing difficulties integrating scientific empiricism with religious accounts of the world). However, in a world full of competing truth claims, worldviews, and ways of living, the question inevitably sneaks in… what does it mean that different prophets and sages make equally compelling arguments, accrue millions of followers, endure for thousands of years, yet offer no material proof?

Dhikr in the Sufi Tradition

16 November 2018 | Luke Burns

In the centuries following the death of Muhammad, the Arabian peninsula was altered dramatically. The nomadic tribes, whose previous relationships had been mercurial and often violent, had become unified in a great empire, intended (at least by the devout) to reflect the great unity of Allah. Yet there were numerous difficulties in governing such a vast and culturally diverse area, not least of which was managing political power in accordance with Islam.

The foundations of modern yoga

1 October 2018 | Luke Burns

We are faced with a difficult task when it comes to defining contemporary yoga, since there are numerous variants, countless schools, and a broad spectrum of teaching. In Western nations such as the United Kingdom, it’s more likely to be found in health clubs and gyms, where the focus is placed upon the development of physical fitness and emotional stability. An example can be found on the official website of Iyengar Yoga (a variant of Hatha Yoga), which describes the benefits of their technique as “good health, mental peace, emotional equanimity and intellectual clarity” with no reference to the liberation of the purusha from prakriti, despite citing Patanjali’s ashtanga yoga as the original source of the wisdom.

Literary bias in Celebrity Big Brother

25 August 2018 | Luke Burns

One of the important parts of studying religion is to be open to observations all the time (even if you’re curled up watching TV). On a recent episode of Celebrity Big Brother in the UK, two contestants were having a conversation about religion that caught our interest. Rodrigo: I heard that you are a Scientologist, is that right? Kirstie: Yes R: Can you tell me, what is it exactly? Because we see so much about it on the press, and there are so much controversy about it, and I just don’t understand.

Thematic approaches to the study of religion

19 July 2018 | Luke Burns

There are, broadly speaking, two ways to approach religion as an academic subject. The first is based on a sort of family tree model; it looks a bit like this. Religion ==Christianity ----Catholicism ----Eastern Orthodoxy ......Greek Orthodox Church ......Russian Orthodox Church ----Protestantism ......Methodism ......Evangelism And so on. It’s useful from a historical perspective, because we can easily trace back along a tradition’s lineage to see where it diverged from its closest neighbour.

Freedom and faith - open source religion

24 November 2017 | Luke Burns

Religion is often used as a by-word for rigid dogma and traditional patterns of behaviour, while open source is a technological term for freedom to examine, customise, and create without structure or restriction - however these different worlds actually have more in common than you might think. The term ‘open source’ originates in the world of computer programming. It was coined in 1998 as part of an effort to promote the principles of collaborative development, and encourage businesses to share the source code for their projects.

The importance of religious literacy

8 November 2017 | Luke Burns

Religion impacts many aspects of our lives, and religious events are all around us, both positive and negative. Over the last few years, the idea of improving religious literacy has been gaining ground, with the launch of the Religious Literacy Project at the Harvard Divinity School in 2015, and the publication of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Education’s report (Improving Religious Literacy) in 2016. But what is religious literacy, and how is it different to religious education, comparative religion, or religious studies?