The 221 religions

V&A_-_Raphael,_St_Paul_Preaching_in_Athens_(1515)The United States military has nearly doubled its list of recognized religions to 221.

The list includes the various forms of neo-paganism, which is as sectarian as any other religion:  Druids, Heathens, Pagans, Shamans, Magick & Spiritualists, Wicca, Seax Wicca, Gardnerian Wicca, etc.   But Satanists did not make the list.

The new list includes the various kinds of unbelief:  Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, Deists, No Religion.

The earlier list had the one category “Jewish,” but this one usefully breaks down that religion into its  “Reform,” “Conservative,” and “Orthodox” strains.  Hasidic Jews are not listed, but Messianic Jews are.

It lists “Islam” as one group, but ignores the distinction between “Shi’ite” and “Sunni,” despite the current conflict between those two sects, which would seem to be important for our military to be aware of.

The Lutheran list is all confused.  “Lutheran Church in America,” “American Lutheran Church,” and the “American Evangelical Lutheran Church” are listed, though they no longer exist, having merged into the “Evangelical Lutheran Church in America” (listed).  “The Lutheran Council in the USA”–never a church, just an organization of churches– is also defunct, having shut down in 1988.  More recent organizations are not listed.  Nor is the North American Lutheran Church, which broke away from the ELCA.

The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is on the list, but not the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church or the Evangelical Lutheran Synod.  And yet smaller Lutheran groups, such as the Free Lutherans and the American and the Independent Lutherans, are on the list.  There is a category for “Lutheran Churches, Other.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if other traditions are similarly garbled.  So the list falls short of being a comprehensive catalog of American religions.  But it’s interesting nonetheless.

How this list will be used is unclear.  Expect an initiative to provide religious support for all of these groups, and expect Christian chaplains to be pressured accordingly.  Read this article about the list and see our post on religion in the military.

Read the whole list after the jump.

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Religious, but not spiritual

Francis Cardinal George reverses the commonplace saying in a column entitled “I’m Religious, but Not Spiritual”:

It’s somewhat fashionable these days to describe oneself as “spiritual but not religious.” This is supposed to mean that one is open to an experience beyond the commercial or the political but not tied to “institutional” religion. One claims an experience of transcendence that is bound by no one else’s rules.

People can always make claims to any kind of experience. The question is always: Who cares? Why should anyone care where someone else gets a spiritual high? Because no one really cares, the claim to be spiritual but not religious is always safe. It’s never a threat and can be dismissed quite easily. The claim to be religious is different. It is a claim that God himself has taken the initiative to reveal himself to us and tell us who he is and who we are. Religion binds us to God according to his will, not ours, in a community of faith that he has brought into existence. Being religious can therefore be threatening. [Read more…]

Muhammad: The Movie

In the “you don’t know what you are getting into” department, one of the producers of The Lord of the Rings movies is planning on making a movie about the prophet Muhammad:

Producer Barrie Osborne cast Keanu Reeves as the messiah in The Matrix and helped defeat the dark lord Sauron in his record-breaking Lord of the Rings trilogy. Now the Oscar-winning American film-maker is set to embark on his most perilous quest to date: making a big-screen biopic of the prophet Muhammad.

Budgeted at around $150m (£91.5m), the film will chart Muhammad's life and examine his teachings. Osborne told Reuters that he envisages it as "an international epic production aimed at bridging cultures. The film will educate people about the true meaning of Islam".

Osborne's production will reportedly feature English-speaking Muslim actors. It is backed by the Qatar-based production company Alnoor Holdings, who have installed the Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi to oversee all aspects of the shoot. In accordance with Islamic law, the prophet will not actually be depicted on screen. . . .

The as-yet-untitled picture is due to go before the cameras in 2011. It remains to be seen, however, whether it will be beaten to cinemas by another Muhammad-themed drama. Late last year, producer Oscar Zoghbi announced plans to remake The Message, his controversial 1976 drama that sparked a fatal siege by protesters in Washington DC. The new version, entitled The Messenger of Peace, is currently still in development.

A Hollywood non-Muslim is going to teach the world “the true meaning of Islam”? Either he will offend actual Muslims or he will present a white-washed version, one that possibly will inspire Westerners to embrace a new Westernized and sanitized form of the religion. (See what some Americans have done to Hinduism, Buddhism, and paganism [below–note the lack of sacrifices].)

The earlier movie “The Message” offended Muslims to the point of violence, but this remake looks like it will atone for that insensitivity by rendering the prophet as “The Messenger of Peace” for this religion of peace.

Shooting the movie without showing the main character, though, will be an interesting challenge. “Ben Hur” managed scenes with Jesus that never showed Him, but that was only for very short sequences. And the point of view shots that replaced the visual depictions of our Lord (which still bother some Christians to this day) show a degree of adoration that would probably also violate Islam.