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.

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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.

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Five Untruths About Sikhism

Earlier this month, a Sikh-American man named Deep Rai was shot in the Seattle suburb of Kent by a masked assailant, who told Rai to “go back to your own country” before firing a bullet that barely missed his heart.[1] Sadly, as of writing, the gunman remains at large[2] and Mr. Rai is still recovering from his injuries,[3] but the incident serves as a harrowing reminder that Sikhs are also leading targets of racist, xenophobic violence in this country.[4]

Jasjit Singh, Assistant Director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund attributes anti-Sikh sentiments to people simply “not knowing who we are.”[5] As a religious minority that is inherently on display yet attracts little public interest into their beliefs and traditions beyond the highly visible turban, there many widespread, harmful misconceptions about Sikhs. Below I have highlighted just a few of the most basic myths affecting the Sikh community.

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