A Brief History of the Study of Religion at the University of Tennessee

I wrote this history of changes in the academic study of religion at the University of Tennessee: both macro changes in the climate where we worked and internal transformations within that climate.   The department faculty voted not to publish it, so I am posting it here.  I do so primarily to share the fruits of my labor with … Continue reading A Brief History of the Study of Religion at the University of Tennessee

Pros, Cons, and Whiplash: Studying American Religions from a Home Base in Religious Studies

In the first and second sections of this three-part post—introduced here and expanded from my article in the Encyclopedia of American Religion—I sketched the contours of the academic study of religion (ASR), or Religious Studies, and discussed tensions among its creation myths: who were its heroes and villains, in what contexts, as the field emerged? … Continue reading Pros, Cons, and Whiplash: Studying American Religions from a Home Base in Religious Studies

Creation Myths of Religious Studies: Starting Over Near a Dead Tree Vs. an Evolving Garden with Old and New Roots

In the first section of this three-part post—introduced here and based on my article in the Encyclopedia of American Religion—I broached evergreen questions about the definitions, scope, and methods of the academic study of religion (ASR) or Religious Studies. I described these as a “more like a framework for debate than a foundation for consensus” … Continue reading Creation Myths of Religious Studies: Starting Over Near a Dead Tree Vs. an Evolving Garden with Old and New Roots

Notes from a Dinosaur Who Cares About Reference Books

I am so old that I can remember when people used hard copies of encyclopedias! I read the World Book Encyclopedia as a kid, and later I spent perhaps a couple years of my life, depending on how one counts, writing articles for reference books in American Studies and/or the academic study of religions.  Colleagues, … Continue reading Notes from a Dinosaur Who Cares About Reference Books

Exactly What Does “Religious Studies” Study?—the Evergreen Question

As discussed in my previous introductory post, MBE is republishing a piece I wrote for the Encyclopedia of American Religions about the academic field in which I spent most of my career. It will proceed in three chunks and this is the first.  I will add links to the second and third installments here as they … Continue reading Exactly What Does “Religious Studies” Study?—the Evergreen Question

Hegemonic Half-Truths: Why 9/11 Did Not Necessarily Strengthen the Religious Right in the Long Run

(This post is cross-published here on Narrative Paths Journal) Last week I fielded a query from the University of Tennessee campus newspaper about legacies of 9/11/2001. Its reporter asked: “How did 9/11 strengthen or weaken the religious faith of Americans? How did it change the way people think about mortality, evil, and hope? In what … Continue reading Hegemonic Half-Truths: Why 9/11 Did Not Necessarily Strengthen the Religious Right in the Long Run

Experts Agree—”Spiritual But Not Religious” Is Extremely Important—Too Bad They Can’t Define It

Since I spend my summers near Minneapolis, I'm part of a working group at my alma mater, the University of Minnesota, called the Religion and the Public University Collaborative (RPUC). Tomorrow we will discuss research by sociologist Nancy Ammerman that led to her important book, Sacred Stories, Spiritual Tribes. Although I’m often delinquent at RPUC, … Continue reading Experts Agree—”Spiritual But Not Religious” Is Extremely Important—Too Bad They Can’t Define It

A Workshop for Critical Thought about U.S. Religion—with Silly Putty and a Carved Lion

I have built up numerous cheesy but memorable “mottos” for the academic study of religion, which I use in my teaching. Perhaps I’ll write about more of them later, but meanwhile today's topic is the motto, “our class is not a paint-by-number kit, but a workshop for critical thought.” I wrote up a short and … Continue reading A Workshop for Critical Thought about U.S. Religion—with Silly Putty and a Carved Lion

Don’t Deem a Melting Glacier Irrelevant (Just Because the Rest of the Glacier is Still Cold and You Really Hate Cold Things)

“Many evangelicals are likely to switch their loyalties to the Democrats [in the coming election]—and the exact numbers will depend partly on whether they perceive that mainstream liberals are treating them with nuance and respect, as opposed to stereotypes and contempt.” I said that in 2008, in a context I will discuss shortly. It remains … Continue reading Don’t Deem a Melting Glacier Irrelevant (Just Because the Rest of the Glacier is Still Cold and You Really Hate Cold Things)

The Master’s Tools and the Master’s House–“Woke” Capitalist Style

I know I’m not supposed to play the proud parent too much, especially when my daughter (Lucia Hulsether) moves in some of the same intellectual circles where I made my own career. She needs to make her own way, and is succeeding at that project very well, thank you very much. I've also said that … Continue reading The Master’s Tools and the Master’s House–“Woke” Capitalist Style