Dear readers and visitors.
I should have included a brief biographical summary of who I am years ago. I will do this here just so readers and visitors can have some clue about who actually writes these posts.
The Basics: Who Am I?
My name is James Bishop and I am the author and content creator at this blogsite, which has been running for about six years. I live in the southern most country in Africa and attend university there, although most of my readers are from the United States.
I have several degrees and my tertiary educational journey is just shy of ten years. I graduated in brand marketing and multimedia design in 2014. In 2018 I graduated in theology majoring in psychology. I obtained my BTh Psych. with cum laude. I also obtained TESOL in 2017 which is an English language teaching course. I obtained honours in religious studies in 2019. I currently tutor undergrad students in the sociology of religion at my present university. In the future I intend to lecture in religious studies and comparative religion. My other interests include philosophy and apologetics.
I am currently chipping away at my Masters and hope to be doing my Ph.D. in religion in 2022. I study religious movements using qualitative discourse analysis and am in the process of writing a thesis on the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). As part of fieldwork, I conduct interviews, read way too many materials, and visit a local temple.
I currently use David Chidester’s interpretive tool (which I call the theory of symbolic exchange) to analyze contestations over symbols. It is a helpful tool for coming to terms with how religions are coping in societies and where the ideological, metaphysical, and theological contestations lie between religious persons and the perspectives of others in society. It assists in laying bare the interests that religious and irreligious persons have so as to understand their motivations.
Beyond my university work, I enjoy applying Ninian Smart’s seven dimensions of religion to alternative religions in South Africa. To my knowledge, no-one else has done this, which motivates me.
I’m fascinated with the theory of religion (to the extent of having read my textbook six times in a year!), so I have recently been uploading videos to my YouTube channel on which I provide summarizes of many of the classical theorists and their views on religion.
What Do I Believe Personally?
I’ve never enjoyed this question (after all, where does one even begin?) and people love to ask it. This is not for any reason other than the fact that for me life is a continual journey. I learn as I go and my views change.
Generally speaking, I am agnostic about many things that others take for granted. I seldom adopt strong positions. I am also inclined to ancient Greek skepticism, which means that I often suspend judgement, especially on matters that my knowledge is limited on. Often I find various views on a matter appealing and cannot decide which one to adopt. I am also an evidentialist, so I follow the evidence where I believe it leads. I have my biases, but I try my best to keep them at a distance. I have in the past and will certainly continue to alter my views on many topics the more I learn.
Interests in my Specialization of Religious Studies and Sociology of Religion
There are a number of debates within my specialization that I follow closely and on which have formed my opinions. There is, for example, a debate about the decolonizing of religious studies which seeks to bring light to the discipline’s roots in historical colonialism and how this continues to shape how we think about religion today. I currently hold to a soft version of decolonization in which (unlike hard proponents) I do not believe we should abandon our classical historical theorists or the term/category “religion.” I largely agree with scholar Ivan Strenski who maintains we need to be critical of our category of “religion,” but need not eliminate it and commit “disciplinary suicide.” I believe we can do much to include many more theorists of color and women in our syllabus. This is indeed starting to reflect in the literature, which I support.
I think looking at religion as a discursive tradition is important as this takes us beyond the narrow scope of defining religion as belief “belief in spiritual beings,” as E. B. Tylor stated it. This is partly why I use Smart’s Seven Dimensions framework because it also takes into account emotional, aesthetic, and embodied gestures of the religious alongside the doctrinal and material components.
I enjoy a great deal of feminist scholarship on religion. I think it is important we include more voices of women in our discipline and that we also pry open history to allow religious women to speak. Often these voices have been marginalized and much good work is being done in this area to bring them to the surface.
I am interested in the notion of subjective religiosity, which I first came to learn of through the work of Rodney Stark. I am interested in the religiosity of persons who are religiously unaffiliated. What types of religious beliefs and sentiments do we find in this demographic, and so on? I have also noticed how this form of religiosity has thrown a spanner into the works of the secularization hypothesis and its proponents. It remains fascinating to see how these trends will continue to evolve.
Other Background Info
In my free time I am usually reading. I am busy reading the sacred texts of various religions. I have gotten through the Tao Te Ching and have more recently completed the Qur’an and the Analects (of Confucianism). I will be posting reflections shortly. I am also busy with the rather esoteric Upanishads. Next on my list is the Book of Mormon. I read other stuff too, such as on philosophy, general history, Church history, historical Jesus studies, New Testament, Old Testament, God, comparative religion, world religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, and more.
Netflix, sports, traveling locally, and coffee are some of my great hobbies too.
How Do I Get My Information?
For those interested in the content I generate and release on this blogsite, I obtain the vast majority of information from academic sources that I spend countless hours summarizing. This includes various books in my online archive and on my bookshelf. JSTOR, EBSCO, and Google Scholar are my most used arenas for academic content. I make use of websites, although I am very careful and picky concerning which ones I use. I trust Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Encyclopedia Britannica, the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and the Ancient History Encyclopedia, and use these quite often. For “insider” views on specific topics, I will consult websites of specific individuals and groups (e.g. the official ISKCONZA.com website if I want to know something about what ISKCON teaches or affirms, etc.). No information on this blogsite is plagiarized although I do draw generously from what scholars in relevant fields have written.
Also please note that since this blogsite is about six or seven years old, I am often editing and discarding old materials. This is just one of the cons of being a one-man team and having to maintain a blogsite with several hundred articles on it.
For those who want to know more or have any queries, you are welcome to contact me via email: