School of Religion Graduate Theses

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    Words Made Manifest: Canadian Print Media as Architects of Religion in the “Secular” Public Sphere
    (2012-11-02) Nieman, Sarah
    Early to mid-twentieth century scholarship on religion and the “secular” public sphere largely perpetuated the Enlightenment categorization of religion as an element of the private sphere, not to be influential in public matters. Recently, however, a paradigm shift has emerged that has forced the re-evaluation of religion’s place in society. Spatial methodologies from scholars such as Henri Lefebvre and Kim Knott have allowed for religion to be considered as one of a number of constructs that influence the lives and spatial experiences of people. Applying the spatial methodologies of Lefebvre and Knott, I demonstrate how Canadian print media can be considered to be a gauge of the active presence of religion in the public sphere by revealing the ways in which the media construct the space they inhabit. This is done by considering two recent events in Canada that highlight the presence of the “religious other”: the 2002 kirpan debate in Quebec and the 2003 sharia law debate in Ontario. Through these cases, I explore how the conception, perception, and lived reality of the “religious other” as a spatial quality are solidified through the perceived sense of what Ulrich Beck considers to be risk and catastrophe. I ultimately conclude that, through this perceived sense of risk, Canadian print media’s portrayals of the “religious other” allow religion to remain manifest in the Canadian public sphere.
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    Being and Becoming: Analyzing the Negotiation of Spiritual, Religious, and Sexual Identities in Nonheterosexual British and American Young People through the Lens of Queer Theory
    (2012-09-05) Gallini, Thomas James
    Despite the large amount of research on religious young people, and research on the formation of young people‘s sexual identity, there is little research addressing the bearing that religion plays on identity construction in young people. Helping to fill this gap in the research, this paper investigates how young people simultaneously negotiate religious, spiritual, and sexual identities. Utilizing first-hand accounts from religious and spiritual young people from projects in the United Kingdom and the United States, this paper explores nonheterosexual youth as a site of liminality through the lens of queer theory. Participants in the studies demonstrated different approaches to the negotiation of multiple identities, including tension and conflict, compartmentalization, and integration, as well as differing levels of awareness of relevant concepts such as performativity and heteronormativity.
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    Cavanaugh's Myth-Appropriation of Ideology: A Critical Review of The Myth of Religious Violence
    (2012-09-05) Anthony, Charlotte Rae
    In The Myth of Religious Violence, William Cavanaugh deconstructs the category of “religion” in an attempt to undermine the distinction between “religious” violence and “secular” violence, and to examine the way in which this construction manifests itself in the conceptual apparatus of contemporary Western society. This paper focuses on how Cavanaugh uses the categories “myth” and “ideology.” Cavanaugh’s given definition and employment of “myth” is sensitive to broader conceptions of the category in myth-studies. Unlike “myth,” Cavanaugh does not offer a definition “ideology,” but he employs the term in two ways: (1) as an all-encompassing category that seems to override definitional issues with “religion” and; (2) pejoratively to signal the falsity of putatively “secular ideology” that is responsible for the creation and maintenance of the “myth of religious violence.” In particular, Cavanaugh does not recognize the “mythic” dimension of his use of the concept of “ideology.” Cavanaugh’s use of “ideology” appears to replace the general argument that “religion causes violence” with the equally general argument that “ideology causes violence” without informing his reader what he means by “ideology.”
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    Rite of Passage, Kyriarchic Warrior Mentality, or Issues with Father? Universal Elements of Male Initiation and their Potential for Men in the West
    (2012-09-05) Fanning, Ian Robert
    The decline of male initiation rituals in the West is lamented by authors articulating a variety of perspectives. However, the full extent of the decline and the subsequent impact on men, women and children is difficult to measure. There are many different descriptions of male initiation and many different conclusions regarding its purpose. Rather than concluding that the decline of male initiation contributes to hypermasculine behaviours or that the decline of male initiation frees men from forms of oppression, in this essay I both review a number of approaches in an assessment of current literature and undertake a search for common elements in such rituals with a view to determining whether a “good” ritual or rite of initiation for men in the West is possible, and, if so, what it might include. Identification of universal elements of male initiation across different approaches provides a starting point for re-defining and recovering “male initiation” in the West. Three of the most prominent approaches to male initiation in the West are those of ritual theorists, those of Christian ministers and scholars, and those of secular practitioners and writers. This paper examines perspectives on male initiation and the sub-topics within each of the three approaches. It traces the development of each perspective and identifies common elements of male initiation. Arguments will be made for the rejection of certain elements not common to all three approaches. My concluding analysis will review the elements I find to be universal and potentially valuable to new rites for men in the West.
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    Meaning Makers and Secularization: Human Rights as an Expression of Meaning in a Post-Secular Age
    (2012-09-05) Montgomery, Cameron
    The connection between secularization theory, the privatization of religion and the public development of rights legislation is a response to growing confusion concerning the place of ‘morality’ and ethics in a public, ‘secularized’ society. This paper explores how human rights legislation emerged in the ‘western’ context, how it has adapted to globalization and criticisms it faces. Brief examples of Jainism and the Inuit represent alternative rights paradigms, acting as a cautionary against solidifying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into an inflexible document universalizing all cultures. I conclude that it is important for ‘secular’ societies to make choices in public policy with a critical and judicious examination of the citizens’ rights in mind, not only to preserve rights historically achieved but to prevent ambiguous or indecisive ethical positions from resulting in the protection of corporate interest above the individual.