The tragic events of Waco, although different in many ways to those of Jonestown (especially as it regards the role of law enforcement), also forces the scholar as well as any curious person, to ask questions about the nature of religion and human existence: why do some people decide to believe certain individuals even when their claims may seem irrational, or even dangerous? What is the difference, if any, between a cult and a religion? What is the role of government in regulating religious groups? Why are American evangelical groups so obsessed with the end of times? As Smith said, our need to understand is not the same as our approval of the practices we study, but as he warned us “if we do not persist in the quest for intelligibility, there can be no human sciences, let alone, any place for the study of religion within them.”
Are you a Muslim if you eat bacon? What about if you drink alcohol? Do you need to pray five times a day? Can you pick and choose in order to create your own identity as a Muslim? And what does it even mean to be a Muslim (or a Christian, or a Hindu)? How […]Read more "Eating Bacon and Being a Muslim in Aziz Ansari’s Master of None"
Last week, HBO aired the finale of The Leftovers. For three seasons, the show, examined the social, psychological, and spiritual effects of an event, called the Sudden Departure, in which 2% of the world’s population simply vanished without any explanation. The series was an exploration of loss and grief, but also of the role that religion […]Read more "The Leftovers Finale: An Interview with Damon Lindelof"
On Sunday, HBO aired the series finale of The Leftovers. The show, created by Damon Lindelof and based on Tom Perrotta’s 2011 novel of the same name, examined the social, psychological, and spiritual effects of an event, called the Sudden Departure, in which 2% of the world’s population simply vanished without any explanation. The finale […]Read more "The Leftovers Finale: A Conversation with Reza Aslan"
Welcome to our weekly recap of the third and final season of the Leftovers. If we began the season with the Book of Kevin, we ended with the Book of Nora, making clear that, even though the series presented itself as a grand metaphysical mystery, it also was, at its heart, a love story. Do Kevin and Nora end up together? Do we find out what caused the Sudden Departure? Do we figure out what the hell was up with that National Geographic magazine? As HBO wisely warned us in its description of the episode “Nothing is answered. Everything is answered. And then it ends.”Read more "The Leftovers Season 3 Episode 8 Recap: The Book of Nora"
Welcome to our weekly recap of the third and final season of the Leftovers. The end is almost near (only one episode left!) and tonight’s episode offered some important answers to many of our questions. The episode, like International Assassin in season 2, took place mostly in “the other world.” Kevin dies (again) and becomes once more an international assassin, although his mission this time is to stop the end of the world. Does he succeed? Does Kevin really have an identical twin? What’s up with that romance novel? What is the Fisher Protocol? And what does it all mean?!?!?!? If this is not enough, the episode includes some old beloved (well, not really loved) characters, and a pretty funny joke about Justin Theroux’s penis.Read more "The Leftovers Season 3 Episode 7 Recap: The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)"
Welcome to our weekly recap of the third and final season of the Leftovers. In The Myth of Sisyphus, the French existentialist Albert Camus argued that “there is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All […]Read more "The Leftovers Season 3 Episode 6 Recap: “Certified”"