It’s that time of year when everyone (and truly, I mean everyone) is putting up Top 10 lists for 2010, noting the most “intriguing people” of the year and counting down the best and worst of what was the last year of the first decade of the twenty-first century. So, with Oscar season just around the corner and awards being given to various people for momentary movie glory I thought I might toss around a few meaningless awards as well.
In the spirit of “awards season” these are the official Ubuntu Spirit Notable Religion Awards featuring the moments, events, people and positions that gave shape to the religious landscape of 2010:
Most Contentious Religious Event:
With arguments over the soul of yoga and the ubiquitous holiday hostilities it was (sadly) a tough category to win this year as religious leaders fought for first place in this category where winners are awarded for fighting (or instigating a tussle) over religion. Above all other contentious moments, one reigned supreme:
Abdul Rauf certainly did not plan for his mosque to cause such a ruckus, but it surely did. The plans, and not the actuality, of a mosque near an American Patriot’s Holy Site stirred up thousands of angry protestors, instigated responses nation-wide and pulled Islam in America into the limelight. Many are amazed that more violence and contention did not ensue and many more are overjoyed at that fact (myself included). Included in this award as a “supporting actor” you might say is Pastor Terry Jones who organized, and subsequently cancelled, a National Burn the Koran event in Florida. Contentious? Yes. Ridiculous? Yes. Saddening. Yes. This whole debacle, and its subsequent fallout, truly deserves such a dubious prize.
Read the related Ubuntu post “Freedom, Justice and Conflict”.
Most Encouraging Religious Moment:
Not to be totally negative, one of the most encouraging of the bast year was the Faith based response to the earthquake in Haiti.
The various faith based groups (from Christians, to Jews to…yes, Vodun adherents) all deserve a HUGE kudos for their continued response to the devastating quake in Haiti. I was honored, and humbled, to attend a talk given by a medical doctor who responded within days of the quake by sacrificing her own time, her own funds and in the end risking her life to help. A member of a Telugu Indian Christian Fellowship here in Houston, she is just one example of the great response that came from religious groups across the world.
Most Religiously Confused Trend:
Overall, television, internet and radio are forces for good in our multi-cultural and religiously diverse world. Yet, in Ghana, it is the opinion of many that broadcasting religious revivals and a wealth of information on various faiths on the internet has got the people of Ghana religiously confused.
The most interesting part? As a rapidly developing economic sleeper in Africa, Ghana is poised to become Africa’s next big economy. While the country’s GDP is on the rise, per capita it still struggles. Religious leaders continue to confuse the economy, financial success and religion in such a way that it causes general incertitude among the common people looking for a faith to follow and a greater being to believe in as they struggle with day-to-day realities like unemployment and paying for this week’s food and supplies.
Most Intriguing Religious Moment:
This event drummed up quite a bit of conversation as well. When atheists took top honors in a Pew Forum Poll both religious adherents and stringent non-believers paid attention and discussed what the poll meant. Above all else, one thing became clear – no matter who came out in front, every demographic didn’t make a passing grade.
Read the related Ubuntu post “Time to Get an Education”.
Best New Religion:
In a report coming out of Texas A&M University in College Station, TX researchers claim that Apple’s cultish following can only be explained by comparing it to religious devotion. The white washed walls of the Apple Store are the new sanctuaries of a tech-savvy culture and the iPhone and iPad akin to Jesus Christ (crucified, but not denied, by the media). Why is it the Best New Religion of 2010? Well, because it’s made by Apple
Most Awkward Religious Moment:
Pastor Terry Jones, who made a tense religious situation even worse back in August and September by threatening to burn Korans and copies of the Talmud at a rally in Gainesville, FL took to Tampa as the first leg in a national tour. The only problem was that an awkwardly low amount of 10 people showed up!
Maybe it’s funny, maybe it’s not.
Maybe it’s very encouraging.
At the very least, it was awkward for Pastor Jones.
Most Out-Spoken Atheist:
Rather than awarding an individual, this year I want to “honor” an emboldened association of atheists – the American Atheists.
Founded in 1963 and very active via their on-line community, the American Atheist’s took the rhetoric a step further this by putting up a billboard for Christmas that read, “You KNOW its a Myth: This Season Celebrate Reason.” Where did they put it? Oh, not anywhere big…like the Lincoln Tunnel! ;)
For that type of hubris, they definitely deserve the Most Outspoken Atheist Award of the year!
Read the related Ubuntu post “Whose Holiday Is It Anyway?”.
Most “Religulous” Adherent:
Note, this award is not given to the most “religious” per se, but the most ridiculously religious person out there. This year, it goes to the Tea Party supporting Mormon magistrate of a New American Religion that’s reinventing God’s will for His country; none other than Glenn Beck.
Why so religulous? The guy used fear, religion and politics to celebrate America (and himself) at his popular Restoring Honor Rally on the National Mall in Washington D.C. and, get this, claimed it wasn’t religiously motivated at all! Take a few moments to watch his speech, listen to the prayers of invocation preceding the rally or read the placards held by disciples of “the Beck” and you will clearly see this event was not only religious, but religulous indeed!
Read the related Ubuntu post “I’m Going Political”.
Best Religious Movie:
Last year, the cinema was awash in explicitly spiritual movies like The Blindside, Avatar and A Serious Man. This year, although there were plenty of films out there with religious leanings and spiritual gleanings, we weren’t so spoiled for choice.
While some argue that Harry Potter’s final chapter is particularly Christian (and, I believe, there is an argument to be had here) I think the following that ole ‘arry Potter has is the most notable aspect of “religion” in the famed series and the beginning of the end (might we say, the final eschaton, or revelation?).
On top of that, although not being a prophet, me thinks Part 2 will prove a major talking point in religious circles in 2011. We shall see.
For this year, my suggestion is go watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt. 1 and put your religious thinking cap on to see the MANY themes that emerge and read just how fanatic people can be about Harry Potter (you can do so by checking out a related Ubuntu post “Modern Religious Pilgrimages.”).
Best Religious Book:
American Grace by Robert Putnam and David Campbell certainly rules the roost on this one. Following years of research, dialogue and deliberation Campbell and Putnam released a tome that is sure to set the stage for plenty of religious research in the years to come. For that gift alone this book deserves much laud and salutation!
Read a related Ubuntu post “Religion (Can Be) Good for America.”
Best Religious Educator:
Stephen Prothero from Boston University for his continual “crusade” to teach America about religion. In 2010 he taught the world religions in 140 characters or less via his Twitter feed, appeared on the Colbert Report, released a watershed book on the eight most influential world religions and why they matter entitled God is Not One and continuing to get people thinking about religion and religious events via his CNN blog and Wall Street Journal articles.
Read the related Ubuntu post “The Pitfalls of Pluralism and the New Atheism”.
Most Viewed Ubuntu Post:
Now to honor that post that garnered the most interest from readers on the Ubuntu Spirit blog this past year. Drum roll please…
“The Pitfalls of Pluralism and the New Atheism” posted April 23, 2010
Close runners up include the “Ubuntu Idea” information page and “Hitchens Gets it Right: Why Me and an Atheist Agree and Why I Hope He Agrees With Me Too!”
Least Viewed Ubuntu Post 2010:
Sadly, with every game there is a loser and with all awards ceremonies there is a rotten tomato. The Ubuntu Spirit Rotten Tomato Award goes to the least viewed post from the last year:
Lifetime Achievement Award(s) in Religion:
The following aren’t my awards at all, but I found the following fascinating when compared to one another.
First, is the award given to punk band Bad Religion’s front man Greg Graffin for his lyrical support of “atheism, punk rock and science” by a group of Harvard atheists. To listen to a prime example of his musical skepticism listen to the song, “I Want to Conquer the World.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Gustav Niebuhr, an accomplished chronicler of religion and religious events, was honored by Religion Newswriters for his passionate position that to cover and commentate on major world events is to report on religious trends. Thank you sir for making sure that religious reporting stays at the forefront of our papers and magazines, whether they be in print or on the web!
Honorable Mentions in Religion from 2010:
There were many events, moments and individuals that gave shape to the religious landscape of 2010. It was, and continues to be in its final days, an exciting year for religion…and isn’t it always? The “honorable mentions” are too many to count. I encourage you, the Ubuntu reader, to check Ubuntu’s archives or scroll through some of the links on the blog roll to discover your own “top ten” list of religious events in 2010.
Peace to all of you, Happy New Year and see you next year!
Ubuntu will return with a reflective post on the state of religious reporting in early January!