Tehran Bans Dog Walking

Religious fundamentalism just has to ruin everything. From the BBC,

Iran’s capital city has banned the public from walking pet dogs, as part of a long-standing official campaign to discourage dog-ownership.

Tehran Police Chief Hossein Rahimi said “we have received permission from the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office, and will take measures against people walking dogs in public spaces, such as parks”.

. . .

Dogs are viewed as “unclean” by Iran’s Islamic authorities, who also regard dog-ownership as a symbol of the pro-Western policy of the ousted monarchy.

The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance banned the media from publishing any advertisements for pets or pet-related products back in 2010, and there was a push in parliament five years ago to fine and even flog dog-walkers.

Scientology’s R2-45

On the one hand, it is bizarre that Scientology is taken seriously by a significant number of human beings. On the other hand, that’s true of every other religion. According to Wikipedia,

R2-45 is the name given by L. Ron Hubbard to what he described as “an enormously effective process for exteriorization but its use is frowned upon by this society at this time”. In Scientology doctrine, exteriorization refers to the separation of the thetan (soul) from the body, a phenomenon which Hubbard asserts can be achieved through Scientology auditing. R2-45 is said to be a process by which exteriorization could be produced by shooting a person in the head with a .45 pistol. This literal meaning is acknowledged by the Church of Scientology, although they deny that it is meant seriously.

. . .

Some critics of Scientology and ex-Scientologists have alleged that R2-45 was invoked by Hubbard to authorize the killing of individuals regarded as antagonistic to the Church of Scientology. There is no evidence that it has ever been put into practice and Hubbard did not explicitly define the meaning of R2-45 in writing. Representatives of the Church of Scientology have said that Hubbard’s description of R2-45 “was coined as a joke — [it] is not authorized, and I am afraid [it] occasionally ‘misfires’ as a joke when taken literally”.

On two separate occasions orders to use R2-45 on specific individuals were published in a prominent Scientology magazine. On March 6, 1968, Hubbard issued an internal memo titled “Racket Exposed”, in which he denounced twelve people as “Enemies of mankind, the planet and all life”, and ordered that “Any Sea Org member contacting any of them is to use Auditing Process R2-45.” The memo was subsequently reproduced, with another name added, in the Church of Scientology’s internal journal, The Auditor. Another four people were named in a second R2-45 order published in The Auditor later in 1968. Stephen A. Kent of the University of Alberta characterises such orders as demonstrations of “the manifestation of Hubbard’s malignant narcissism and, more specifically, his narcissistic rage.” The Santa Rosa News-Herald reported in 1982 that “attorneys have uncovered evidence to suggest that between 1975 and 1977, during the FBI’s investigation of the cult, meetings of Scientology executives were held in which there were discussions relative to ‘auditing’ high-level FBI members with auditing process R2-45.”

Is the Internet Making People Lose Their Religion?

Sociologist Paul McClure published a study (SciHub link) in a recent issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion investigating whether or not technological changes are undermining traditional religious belief. According to the paper’s abstract,

Internet technology presents a new conceptual reality, one that could potentially challenge religion in subtle but distinct ways. Few sociologists of religion, however, have attempted to evaluate whether using the Internet impacts the way people think about and practice religion. This article elaborates on the concept of “tinkering” discussed by Berger, Berger, and Kellner (1974), Turkle (1997), and Wuthnow (2010) to argue that Internet use affects how people think about and affiliate with religious traditions. Using data from Wave III of the Baylor Religion Survey (2010), I find that Internet use is associated with increases in being religiously unaffiliated and decreases in religious exclusivism. At the same time, I find that television viewing is linked to decreases in religious attendance and other time-related religious activities, but these outcomes are not impacted by Internet use. To explain these disparate findings, I argue that the Internet is fundamentally different from previous technologies like television and thus impacts religious beliefs and belonging but not time-related religious activities.

McClure’s analysis (albeit on data collected in 2010) is mixed, suggesting that Internet usage is associated with a decreased likelihood of religious affiliation, but not a decrease in participation in religious activities.

To summarize, I have empirically tested several hypotheses concerning the effects of Internet use on our religious beliefs, b ehavior, and belonging. I have grounded these hypotheses in
scholarly literature that examines religious and technological changes. The researchers whose work guides these hypotheses, though, do not explicitly make these connections. For example,
Smith and Snell (2009) and Wuthnow (2010) extensively discuss the changing religious landscape for Millenials, but they fail to mention technology as a likely source for the change we see from one generation to the next. Likewise, Song (2009) and Turkle (1997, 2011a, 2011b) focus on Internet technology, but their concern is more with its effects on social capital or changing conceptions of self rather than religion. What links all of these scholars, however, is their use of the concept of tinkering, an attitude that they think represents large and increasing portions of the American population. Thus, the foregoing analysis synthesizes these literatures and empirically
tests the following hypotheses:

H1: Internet use decreases the likelihood of being religiously affiliated. (supported)

H2: Internet use decreases the likelihood of participating in religious activities. (unsupported)

H3a: Internet use decreases the likelihood of being religiously exclusive. (supported)

H3b: Internet use increases the likelihood of being religiously exclusive. (unsupported)

. . .

Why might Internet use affect beliefs and affiliation patterns but not participation in religious activities? As a pluralizing force, the Internet creates a new space through which individuals must navigate competing truth claims and ideas about what is ultimately important. Because of the overwhelming variety of worldviews, beliefs, and religious ideas that are part and parcel of one’s online experience, the Internet encourages tinkering with an assortment of spiritual options, and rejecting the exclusive truth claims of any one particular religious tradition becomes more likely.

While these outcomes may appear uneven, we should not expect the Internet to affect all aspects of religion uniformly. Rather, as my results show, Internet use lowers the likelihood of exclusive commitments to any one religious institution and in doing so opens the door to spiritual tinkering. Internet use does not, however, prevent individuals from regularly attending religious services or participating with religious communities in other ways, perhaps because one can engage in such activities without full ideological commitment. Further, rather than displacing religious activities, Internet use may fill in the gaps between previously scheduled events. In sum, being online increases the likelihood of being religiously unaffiliated, and regardless of one’s affiliation, Internet use also reduces the likelihood of maintaining an exclusivist posture toward one’s own religious tradition

It would be interesting to see this research repeated with data collected in 2017. Obviously the Internet was fairly widely distributed in 2010, but today its usage is nearly ubiquitous with the widespread usage of smart phones and other devices (the iPhone hadn’t even been on the market for three years when this dataset was collected).