Friday, October 21, 2011

Comic Strip Syncretism

Some syncretism humor from

Book Club - God is Back #2 & #3 - Fall 2011

In Part I (Chapters 1-4) of their book, Micklethwait and Wooldrige contrast religion in the United States and Europe. They argue that the commitment by government to maintain a separation from church actually helped enhance religiosity in the United States. This claim is not intuitive for some people because it is thought that religion is in part a public good, and standard economic logic says that governments ought to provide public goods.

In Part II (Chapters 5-7), the authors look more closely at religion in the U.S. The go so far as to claim that
The American religious marketplace is almost a study in perfect competition: there are no real barriers to entry, the domestic market is big enough to support a mind-boggling variety of religious producers, and new religious entrepreneurs are always rising up to challenge incumbents. (P. 174)
Think of this quote in light of my comments about Part I of the book. Remember from class that a public good is defined as a good that is non-rivalrous and non-excludable (a club good is non-rivalrous and excludable). If religion is a public good, why is it provided in such high supply by private suppliers? How can we have such a competitive religious marketplace for a public good? Is religion a public good? If so, how might religion be different from typical public goods that we think ought to be provided by government? If not, why not?

Hajj 2011

The Hajj is the largest pilgrimage in the world. As one of the five pillars of Islam, it is a religious duty for each Muslim to undertake at least once in his or her lifetime given financial means and health. The Hajj will occur in the first or second week of November this year, so it is only weeks away.

Undertaking this pilgrimage involves traveling to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Some people must save their whole lives to pay for the trip, while others are able to do it multiple times. For more information, see this brief entry at CNN and this longer entry in wikipedia.

I think it is good for us to think of the Hajj in terms of our notion of religious capital. Notice how it is described in the CNN entry. One person refers to it is "spiritual boot camp," which suggests it is an enterprise that builds a person's religious capital. Yet, due to the high cost of going, we expect that participants are individuals with already fairly high religious capital. This is a great example of the chicken-and-egg problem mentioned in class. Oftentimes, religious participation results from religious capital and builds it at the same time.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Kazakhstan's President Signs the Restrictive Religion Law

As reported by Forum 18. I have mentioned this before, most recently here. This is most strident law of its kind passed since I have been teaching this course.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Book Club - God is Back #1 - Fall 2011

Micklethwait and Wooldridge open their book by presenting China as a surprising place for religious resurgence. The Marxist agenda in the mid-twentieth century took great measures to stamp religion out, yet "By 2050, China could well be the world's biggest Muslim nation as well as its biggest Christian one" (p. 5).

One of the main questions this book seeks to answer is how and why such a resurgence is happening. Part of the authors' answer is that modernity and religion are not as antithetical as many people have claimed. As you read, look for clues that support their claim.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A New Jewish News App

Designed with the iPad in mind, the Jewish Journal app provides up-to-date news and other content. See the story here. According to Rob Eshman, who is affiliated with the company that produced the app:
The first Jewish news came down from Mount Sinai on stone tablets. ... We believe the digital tablet will be the most important news delivery system of the future, so we committed to developing the best and first Jewish news app for it.
The app is available for free. A question for you: is this app an economic good?