01: For its 40th anniversary issue (#3, 2007), Faith & Form, a magazine on religious architecture, features an in-depth symposium on how the appearances and functions of congregations and the spaces surrounding them are changing in response to religious and social transformations. The lead article by Richard Vosko sees the shift away from organized religion so evident in Europe now taking place in the U.S. and increasingly evident in American congregational architecture.
For many congregations, the values of hospitality and community (particularly for evangelicals) outweigh the older stress on symbolism, although mainline and Catholic churches can still draw on the latter. Multi-use spaces are becoming more popular. A concern to draw new generations to organized religion is also leading to the design and building of new facilities for youth–not only educational facilities but also places where teens can hang out, such as snack bars and game rooms. But several of the clergy and architects spot conflicting trends: David Wilson sees a “creeping conservatism and less openness” to innovation in Catholic churches.
Annie Dixon sees a renewed appreciation for symbolism and beauty among Catholic churches, though not necessarily a return to tradition. Ellen Davis sees a growing trend among many world religions toward “green” worship space, where the sanctuary becomes a “microcosm” of the wholeness and interconnectedness of creation.
Meanwhile, Muslim architect Ashraf Salama sees several models in use among mosques, though most have tended to isolate the mosque from the surrounding community. Newer designs tend to reinterpret traditional Islamic themes into new forms that may be more accessible. Synagogues are making room for greater communal space, with “theater-in-the-round” designs especially popular, writes Maurice Feingold. As might be expected, the megachurch model is viewed as the most pervasive and challenging, leading to buildings that value function and multi-use capabilities as much as form.
For more information on this issue, write: Faith & Form, 1737 Kenyon St., NW, Washington, DC 20010
02: The recent emphasis on the religious economy and competition between religions is given special attention in the November 3 issue of The Economist magazine. The special section covers a wide range of issues through the lens of pluralism rather than one-sided scenarios of religious revival or secularization. One article makes the point that even atheism is being revived as it competes against other religions. Although many of the trends covered in this issue have been featured in RW and other publications, The Economist’s overview is wide-ranging–from science and religion conflicts to Korean Christianity to European secularity to Turkish Islam, Hindu nationalism, and culture wars and religious politics around the world.
03: The article that RW ran on the “new atheism” last April was part of a larger project on secularism that the editor has worked on over the years. One result of this research appears in the Winter issue of the journal Sociology of Religion in the article “Secular Humanism and Atheism Beyond Progressive Secularism.“ Co-authored by RW’s editor and Christopher Smith, the article examines how secular humanists and atheists have lost “faith” in the U.S. becoming a secular nation and have adopted various strategies to come to grips with this new situation: they have started competing and appealing to “secular seekers” searching for a community; have borrowed evangelical methods, even as they define themselves against these Christians; and, thirdly, have adopted minority and identity politics to make the case that they are being discriminated against.
For more information on this issue, visit:http://www.sociologyofreligion.com. RW readers can read a shorter version of this article on our website, at: http://www.religionwatch.com, by clicking on “Publications.”