Atheism and Areligion in the Czech Republic: Unmarked Identities of the Czech Redditsphere

Based on self-declared religious affiliation, the modern Czech Republic is regularly cited as the most areligious country in Europe and one of the least religious countries in the world according to internal and international survey data.[1] When asked, most Czechs choose not to affiliate with, or perhaps affiliate against, a church or religious tradition.[2]

With that said, the Czech Republic, as with most nations, possesses a quite complex religious environment. In some ways it might be characterized by widespread irreligiosity evidenced by unparalleled levels of church absence, while at the same time home to an alternative spiritual milieu resembling that of many Western nations.[3] What is clear however is that the prevailing attitude among Czech natives is one of church avoidance and indifference, if not opposition, toward primarily Christian institutions and their adherents, and a more general concept of “organized religion” and religious people.[4]

To investigate how areligiousness in the Czech Republic manifests itself in the every day life, I conducted Reddit-mediated interviews with self-identified atheist/agnostic and non-identified areligious Czechs. Based on the Redditors’ responses and within the framework of social unmarkedness (described below), three themes emerged: non-identification of nonreligious identity, non-discussion of religious topics, and marking religious people. Overall, the Redditors described their environments as devoid of religion, both in its manifestation in social dialogue among homogenous groups of (assumed) areligious people and in the degree of its relative importance for the Redditors’ self-concept.

Continue reading “Atheism and Areligion in the Czech Republic: Unmarked Identities of the Czech Redditsphere”

Distance Healing: Internet-Age Religious Healing?

Susan Grey[1] is a 73 year old “distance healer.” Operating out of her South Carolina home, she offers a type of alternative therapy that engages her purported metaphysical abilities, which are not limited to face-to-face contact. She defines herself as a “natural born healer, intuitive and empath,” and boasts a menu of therapies for both humans and animals that includes channeling entities, past lifetime Karma healing, Chakra cleansing, and water crystal treatments.

Susan is part of a larger movement[2] of long-range healers with gifts said to include extrasensory perception, medical intuition (the psychic ability to sense information about one’s bodily condition),[3] and energy healing (the ability to treat energy imbalances using “energy-based therapies”).[4] Made possible by modern communication technologies, distance or remote healing allows ailing or “dis-eased”[5] individuals to access their preferred method of care without leaving the comforts of home. Energy therapies have recently ballooned in popularity; one such treatment, Reiki, is the subject of a new TV series on TLC titled, “The Healer.”[6]

Although there are notable differences between distance healing and so-called “faith healing,” it is also reasonable to question in what ways, if any, the two express a similar spiritually-minded anti-establishment fervor, and even potentially dangerous or predatory behavior. This post will examine the underlying influence of certain social movements in shaping modern distance healing, and how its unique historical legacy and esoteric spirituality has led to striking differences between energy healing and Christian Charismatic healing. For this blog post, I will identify energy healing under the category of “New Age” spirituality, a loosely defined umbrella term used to describe many modern North American religious movements that prioritize individual spirituality whose adherents distrust organized religion (and authority more broadly). Continue reading “Distance Healing: Internet-Age Religious Healing?”

Today’s Black Israelites

“Black Israelite” faith centers on the belief that African Americans are the direct biological descendants of ancient Israelites, God’s “chosen people.”[1] By adopting the Hebrew identity and its special religious status, followers of this movement connect themselves with a grand narrative of oppression, revolution, and triumph as well as at least partially reject the religion of White Christian colonizers.[2]

The term encompasses a variety of distinct groups, which may claim separate titles, including Black Hebrews, Black Hebrew Israelites (BHI), and Black Jews—among others,[3] and may hold somewhat divergent religious beliefs: some worship Christ, others practice more orthodox forms of Judaism, while others seem to mix several religious traditions.[4]

However, it would do a great disservice to this movement to categorize it as solely—even primarily—a religious phenomenon; the historical, political, and sociological factors that spurred the creation of the first Black Israelite church in the immediate post-slavery era, and the circumstances that have molded this movement throughout American history are integral to any investigation of Black Israelite belief systems, as well as any potential revival of BHI membership in the current age.

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Reviewing Allegations of anti-Semitism against Trump Advisor Sebastian Gorka

Amid a string of damning reports, several US senators, [1],[2],[3] a number of Jewish organizations,[4],[5] and human rights groups[6] have recently called for an investigation into Sebastian Gorka’s ties to an anti-Semitic extremist group, and for him to step down as one of President Trump’s key national security advisors.

At a May 7 conference hosted by the Jerusalem Post, Gorka forcefully denied these allegations[7]—but questions remain, including whether or not Gorka will be leaving his position[8],[9],[10] due to the damaging effect these accusations have had on the Trump administration’s already controversy-laden first 100 days.[11] Gorka, and Trump staff have denied rumors that Gorka is being asked to leave the White House,[12],[13] calling them “very fake news.”[14]

Unfortunately, as other “unpresidented” Trump moves dominate this week’s news cycle,[15] Gorka’s potential anti-Semitic leanings may be obscured and forgotten.

Continue reading “Reviewing Allegations of anti-Semitism against Trump Advisor Sebastian Gorka”

Who are the Christian Transhumanists?

Historically, the relationship between science and religion has been rather rocky—to put it delicately. With two millennia of clashes to hark back to, die-hard naturalists and devout theists seem to (for the most part) avoid each other’s company, viewing the two basic philosophies as fundamentally incompatible.

Yet as each side’s collective historical trauma fades more with each new generation, and with the rise of 21st-century-America’s unique cultural landscape, rigidity on both sides may be giving way to a willingness for dialogue, even marriage. An emerging pattern of philosophical syncretism between traditionally scientific and religious disciplines testifies to an increasing shift toward acceptance of scientific thought within religious institutions and, for some, the deification of technological advancement in the “Information Age.”

The Christian Transhumanist movement embraces both sides of this long historical divide.[1] It fuses America’s most deeply-rooted religious tradition and a distinctly modern movement. Superficially, these two philosophies appear at odds, and members of each routinely express negative attitudes toward their counterparts on the other side. And yet, Christian Transhumanism retains more than just a small, fringe following.

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The Evil Origins of the Witches’ Mass Ritual to #bindtrump

At the stroke of midnight (EST) on February 24, 2017, an untold myriad of self-described witches, magical folk, and ordinary malcontent Americans gathered for a global political protest event, which aimed to apply a tradition of ritualistic magic to “bind” the president “and all those who abet him”[1] until Trump is removed from the Oval Office. The organizer calls for the ritual to be repeated on all successive Waning Crescent Moon nights (including March 26th, April 24th, May 23rd, June 21st, July 21st, and August 19th).[2]

In the days and hours leading up to the Trump-binding event, the ritual gained significant media attention,[3] celebrity endorsements,[4] and exploded in popularity on social media websites like Twitter (with #bindtrump and #magicresistance trending) and Facebook (which has grown to 11,650 “likes” at time of writing).[5] Participants shared their videos and anecdotes of the midnight spellbinding, which included a varied array of expressions, from brief individual recitations to gaggles of robed witches performing elaborate ceremonies.[6]

This strategy seamed to mean something different to each participant; for some, it was simply an artistic manifestation of the anti-Trump movement, representing a creative technique for demonstrating their dissatisfaction and amassing public awareness for their cause; however for others, the ritual held actual supernatural power to affect the current political landscape. The guidelines of the ritual were first made public on February 19th by Michael Hughes, who described it as a plan that had already been brewing for some time in certain circles and which allegedly originated with a “member of a private magical order who wishes to remain anonymous.”[7] He also added,

“I make no claims about its efficacy, and several people have noted it can be viewed as more of a mass art/consciousness-raising project (similar to the 1967 exorcism and levitation of the Pentagon), than an actual magical working. But many are clearly taking it very seriously.”[8]

As expected, the event sparked considerable blowback from many within the Christian right,[9] igniting an old culture war and bringing witchcraft back into the forefront of modern American discourse.[10] Evangelical Christian supporters of President Trump reportedly gathered to pray as a way to “counteract the spell.”[11] Led by theo-conservative activist groups, Christian Nationalist Alliance (CNA)[12] and Intercessors for America (IFA),[13] the nation-wide call to prayer condemns the “magical attack on believers and servants of God” as a Satanically-inspired act of “blasphemy” against the Christian god,[14] initiated by “those who have covenants with evil.”[15]

These responses highlight an intensifying demonization of members of the anti-Trump movement and those who belong to culturally obscure religious/spiritual organizations. The religiously-charged condemnation of this event is born out of a long standing tradition of ignorance and intolerance toward the magical community and its pop-culture manifestations, but the association with the political left has added new fuel to the fire.

This post will analyze accusations of Satanism and immorality aimed against the organizers of the magical ritual to bind Trump and practitioners of magic/witchcraft in general. It will then briefly explore the multifaceted religious origins of this unique form of magical ritualism, which borrows most distinctively from the religious/spiritual traditions of Wicca, Neopaganism, and Occultism, as well as folk religions and shamanism. However the ritual also has roots in the mystical elements of more “established” religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, which is likely a major point of resentment for its critics within the Christian right, which overwhelmingly support Trump,[16],[17] actively advocate socially conservative positions,[18] and often follow strict Protestant fundamentalism.[19],[20]

Continue reading “The Evil Origins of the Witches’ Mass Ritual to #bindtrump”

Ancient Judea and Samaria Explained

After reviewing my original post on Jewish settler ideology, I don’t think I adequately addressed the critical question, what is ancient Judea and Samaria? And furthermore, what is the biblically based claim to its divine bestowal upon the Jewish people? I hope this brief history lesson will suffice. Further, I hope the biblical passages quoted below will provide some insight into how easily violent settler ideologies can draw upon scripture to justify their point of view.

Continue reading “Ancient Judea and Samaria Explained”