Getting positively critical about 'religion'

EDINBURGH, STIRLING & LONDON - March 17, 2011: Academics at the University of Stirling, and the beliefs and values think-tank Ekklesia, have teamed up to promote a new research agenda and blog entitled Critical Religion, which aims to put hot topics under a careful spotlight.

The idea is to bring together researchers from a wide range of backgrounds to explore the way 'religion' is employed as a label, category and idea in both public and intellectual discourse.

Dr Andrew Hass, who researches the intersection of religion with philosophy, theory, and the arts at the University of Stirling, explained: “The impact of religion and belief in the world today is a huge talking point. The purpose of the Critical Religion initiative is to build positive bridges between a range of specialists and those who have to write, make policy or think about ‘religious issues’ at a more general level.”

Simon Barrow, co-director of Ekklesia, added: “Much of the public debate around ‘religion’ is bad-tempered and under-informed on all sides. We are delighted to be promoting and benefiting from the important cross-disciplinary work taking place at Stirling. Like us, the University wants to deepen and broaden public understanding, enabling people with expertise to engage with a wider audience, and vice versa.”

Dr Michael Marten, who lectures in postcolonial studies, says: “The Critical Religion blog will be a shop window for issues as diverse as faith and politics, spirituality and culture, belief and economics, religion and history – and much more. It aims to question the way ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ experience and thought get polarised, and to examine how power is used and abused in the arena of contested beliefs.”

Critical Religion articles will appear both on the University of Stirling’s website and on Ekklesia – which has one of the most visited religion and society websites in the country, according to Alexa/Amazon rankings.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1. Critical Religion materials can be accessed and commented upon at http://www.criticalreligion.stir.ac.uk/blog/. They are also published at www.ekklesia.co.uk/criticalreligion.

2. Initial contributors to Critical Religion at the University of Stirling are Dr Timothy Fitzgerald (Reader in Religion), Dr Andrew Hass (Lecturer in Religion), Dr John l’Anson (Lecturer in Education), Dr Alison Jasper (Lecturer in Religion), Dr Michael Marten (Lecturer in Postcolonial Studies), Professor Richard H Roberts (Visiting Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies), and Dr Sabine Dedenbach Salazar-Saens (Senior Lecturer in Latin American and Amerindian Studies).

3. The University of Stirling, Scotland, seeks to promote academic excellence across a range of postgraduate and graduate studies, including religion.

4. Founded in 2001, Ekklesia is a think-tank examining politics, values and beliefs in a changing world, from a theological perspective. For further information see: http://ekklesia.co.uk/content/about/about.shtml

5. For further comment: Dr Andrew Hass, University of Stirling (email: andrewDOThassATstirDOTacDOTuk); Simon Barrow, Ekklesia (email: simonDOTbarrowATekklesiaDOTcoDOTuk).