Round up of research papers on religion and culture

National Affairs is a blog that describes itself as a “journal of essays about domestic policy, political economy, society, culture, and political thought. It aims to help Americans think a little more clearly about our public life, and rise a little more ably to the challenge of self-government.”

Today they posted a roundup of abstracts for academic papers on religion which should provide hours of substantive reading for anyone interested in trying to understand matters of faith and culture.

This is my favorite; comprising elements of art history, theology and comparative religions:

Did Buddha turn the other cheek too? A comparison of posing biases between Jesus and Buddha

Kari Duerksen, Trista Friedrich & Lorin Elias
Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, forthcoming

People tend to exhibit a leftward bias in posing. Various studies suggest that posing to the left portrays a stronger emotion, whereas posing to the right portrays a more neutral emotion. Religions such as Christianity emphasize the role of strong emotions in religious experience, whereas religions such as Buddhism emphasize the calming of emotions as being important. In the present study, we investigated if the emphasis on emotionality of a religion influences the depiction of their religious figures. Specifically, we coded 484 paintings of Jesus and Buddha from online art databases for whether the deity exhibited a left bias, right bias, or central face presentation. The posing biases were analysed to discover whether paintings of Jesus would more frequently depict a leftward bias than paintings of Buddha. Jesus is more commonly depicted with a leftward bias than Buddha, and Buddha is more commonly depicted with a central face presentation than Jesus. These findings support the idea that the amount of emotionality that is to be conveyed in artwork influences the whether the subject is posed with a leftward bias

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