Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Media and Religion and History

Last evening I caught bit and pieces of a story [I was going to say 'documentary', but as you will see, 'story', is a more accurate label] on CNN about the current Catholic Pope.  [To understand why I say 'Catholic Pope'  start with this link:  Coptic Pope ]

Journalism ideally is about presenting facts to the general public of a democracy so that citizens can then decide on issues of the day.  What journalism is in practice these days anyway is entertainment.  Journalists and their owners in television, radio, newspapers and the net present stories that will titillate, interest, entertain as many viewers as possible.  Fact and balance are employed only in the rare instances where these approaches might be entertaining, and usually with a superficial nod to balance by quick interviews with opposing viewpoints, buried far into the story, and passed over quickly.

As for history, this is usually omitted entirely, or utilised where it serves the purposes of increasing audience and thus advertising dollars.  The media, I might add parenthetically, is immune to the sorts of criticism it levels at others, because it will not train its guns on its own.

Why is it important to have an historical perspective on religion, as an issue?  Well, history provides depth - not just a three dimensional understanding of anything, but a four dimensional understanding.  I do not think it too egregious a claim to say that no concept, issue, event, thing in this world can be approached with any hope of a full and deep understanding without adding in history - that is, without showing how a concept, issue, event, thing came to be as they are in the present.

So, CNN.  Their report was, as is so sadly typical, a polemic and not a presentation of fact.  I will not go here into all the details that irritated, but alas, did not surprise me - but will note that any sense of  history was missing entirely from the report. The issue was presented as though the world had appeared roughly five minutes ago, fully formed as we see it now.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Wikipedia etc.

Earlier in this blog I posted an entry on the use of Wikipedia.. and in fact, all encyclopedias and dictionaries as sources for essays, and essay answers on exams..... I am going to repost it to the course sites for this term.  Wikipedia has a bad reputation among  most [but not all] scholars because it can be altered by anyone at any time.  But..... that does not mean it is unusable......


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Name Change and new members to be welcomed

I have decided to change the name of this blog as I will invite members from the other two history of religion courses I teach currently.  So, welcome to students in the Fall semester of Hist2260DE Religion & Society in the Modern World at the U of Guelph, and students in AHSS2360  Judaism, Christianity & Islam at the University of Guelph/Humber.