As we all know and as many of our well established textbooks have argued for decades, the Inquisition was one of the most frightening and bloody chapters in Western history, Pope Pius XII was anti-Semitic and rightfully called “Hitler’s Pope,” the Dark Ages were a stunting of the progress of knowledge to be redeemed only by the secular spirit of the Enlightenment, and the religious Crusades were an early example of the rapacious Western thirst for riches and power. But what if these long held beliefs were all wrong?
In this stunning, powerful, and ultimately persuasive book, Rodney Stark, one of the most highly regarded sociologists of religion and bestselling author of The Rise of Christianity (HarperSanFrancisco 1997) argues that some of our most firmly held ideas about history, ideas that paint the Catholic Church in the least positive light are, in fact, fiction. Why have we held these wrongheaded ideas so strongly and for so long? And if our beliefs are wrong, what, in fact, is the truth?
In each chapter, Stark takes on a well-established anti-Catholic myth, gives a fascinating history of how each myth became the conventional wisdom, and presents a startling picture of the real truth. For example,
Instead of the Spanish Inquisition being an anomaly of torture and murder of innocent people persecuted for “imaginary” crimes such as witchcraft and blasphemy, Stark argues that not only did the Spanish Inquisition spill very little blood, but it was a major force in support of moderation and justice.
Instead of Pope Pius XII being apathetic or even helpful to the Nazi movement, such as to merit the title, “Hitler’s Pope,” Stark shows that the campaign to link Pope Pius XII to Hitler was initiated by the Soviet Union, presumably in hopes of neutralizing the Vatican in post-World War II affairs. Pope Pius XII was widely praised for his vigorous and devoted efforts to saving Jewish lives during the war.
Instead of the Dark Ages being understood as a millennium of ignorance and backwardness inspired by the Catholic Church’s power, Stark argues that the whole notion of the “Dark Ages” was an act of pride perpetuated by anti-religious intellectuals who were determined to claim that theirs was the era of “Enlightenment.”
In the end, readers will not only have a more accurate history of the Catholic Church, they will come to understand why it became unfairly maligned for so long. Bearing False Witness is a compelling and sobering account of how egotism and ideology often work together to give us a false truth.
A controversial episode in the life of the Prophet Muhammad concerns an incident in which he allegedly mistook words suggested by Satan as divine revelation. Muslims now universally deny that the Satanic verses incident took place. But Muslims did not always hold this view. Shahab Ahmed uses this case to explore how religions establish truth.
In this systematic philosophical critique of the major tenets of Christianity, Michael Martin examines the semantic and epistemological bases of religious claims and beliefs. Beginning with a comparison and evaluation of the Apostles’ Creed, the Niceno-Chalcedonian Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, Martin discusses the principal theological, historical, and eschatological assumptions of Christianity. These include the historicity of Jesus, the Incarnation, the Second Coming, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, Salvation through faith in Jesus, and Jesus as a model of ethical behavior.
Until now, an adequately convincing criticism of Christianity did not exist. Martin’s use of historical evidence, textual analysis, and interpretations by philosophers and theologians provides the strongest case made to date against the rational justification of Christian doctrines.
The Curse of Cain confronts the inherent ambiguities of biblical stories on many levels and, in the end, offers an alternative, inspiring reading of the Bible that is attentive to visions of plenitude rather than scarcity, and to an ethics based on generosity rather than violence.
"[A] provocative and timely examination of the interrelationship of monotheism and violence. . . . This is a refreshing alternative to criticism-biblical and otherwise-that so often confuses interpretation with closure; it is an invitation to an ethic of possibility, plenitude, and generosity, a welcome antidote to violence, as important for its insights into memory, identity, and place as for its criticism of monotheism's violent legacy."—Booklist
"Brilliant and provocative, this is a work demanding close attention from critics, theologians, and all those interested in the imaginative roots of common life."—Rowan Williams, Bishop of Monmouth
"A stunningly important book."—Walter Brueggemann, Theology Today
"Artfully rendered, endlessly provocative."—Lawrence Weschler, New Yorker
Everything you thought you knew about Islam is about to change
This stunning book uncovers provocative evidence that forces us to ask: Did Muhammad, Islam’s founding prophet, even exist?
It is a question that few have thought—or dared—to ask. But the widely accepted story of Islam’s origins begins to crumble on close examination.
InDid Muhammad Exist? bestselling author Robert Spencer brings to early Islam the same level of probing historical criticism scholars have long applied to Christianity and Judaism. Meticulously examining historical records, archaeological findings, and pioneering new scholarship, Spencer challenges the most fundamental assumptions about Islam’s origins—raising questions with profound implications for our world today.
Born to a noble family in Tournai, Marie Dentière (1495-1561) left her convent in the 1520s to work for religious reform. She married a former priest and with her husband went to Switzerland, where she was active in the Reformation's takeover of Geneva.
Dentière's Very Useful Epistle (1539) is the first explicit statement of reformed theology by a woman to appear in French. Addressed to Queen Marguerite of Navarre, sister of the French king Francis I, the Epistle asks the queen to help those persecuted for their religious beliefs. Dentière offers a stirring defense of women and asserts their right to teach the word of God in public. She defends John Calvin against his enemies and attacks the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. Her Preface (1561) to one of Calvin's sermons criticizes immodesty and extravagance in clothing and warns the faithful to be vigilant. Undaunted in the face of suppression and ridicule, this outspoken woman persisted as an active voice in the Reformation.
After the 1872 publication of Expose',Fanny Stenhouse became a celebrity in the cultural wars between Mormons and much of America. An English convert, she had grown disillusioned with the Mormon Church and polygamy, which her husband practiced before associating with a circle of dissident Utah intellectuals and merchants. Stenhouse’s critique of plural marriage, Brigham Young, and Mormonism was also a sympathetic look at Utah’s people and honest recounting of her life. Before long, she created a new edition, titled "Tell It All," which ensured her notoriety in Utah and popularity elsewhere but turned her thoughtful memoir into a more polemical, true expose' of Polygamy. Since 1874, it has stayed in print, in multiple, varying editions. The original book, meanwhile, is less known, though more readable. Tracing the literary history of Stenhouse’s important piece of Americana, Linda DeSimone rescues an important autobiographical and historical record from the baggage notoriety brought to it.
"This innovative, well-researched study looks at anti-Judaic rhetoric in the Old English and Latin texts of Anglo-Saxon England-a land lacking real Jews. The author isolates a common pool of inherited images for portraying the Jew, and teaches us to hear, especially in the vernacular, their increasingly dark and disturbing inflections."
---Roberta Frank, Yale University
"The Footsteps of Israel is a fascinating study of a pervasive stereotype. Scheil's analysis of how Jews, with no real physical presence in Anglo-Saxon England, captured the imagination of writers of the period, is a superb achievement."
---Louise Mirrer, President and CEO, New-York Historical Society
"The elegance of Scheil's prose weaves a unifying thread through the vast literary and historical tapestry he presents, moving with grace from Latin to Old English, from Bede to later authors, from Wordsworth and Blake to modern writers. He speaks elegantly of these texts' conversations with the past, and the Jews emerge as both enemies and spiritual antecedents of the 'New Israel' of Anglo-Saxon England."
---Stephen Spector, State University of New York, Stonybrook
Jews are the omnipresent border-dwellers of medieval culture, a source of powerful metaphors active in the margins of medieval Christianity. This book outlines an important prehistory to later persecutions in England and beyond, yet it also provides a new understanding of the previously unrecognized roles Jews and Judaism played in the construction of social identity in early England.
Andrew P. Scheil approaches the Anglo-Saxon understanding of Jews from a variety of directions, including a survey of the lengthy history of the ideology of England as the New Israel, its sources in late antique texts and its manifestation in both Old English and Latin texts from Anglo-Saxon England. In tandem with this perhaps more sympathetic understanding of the Jews is a darker vision of anti-Judaism, associating the Jews in an emotional fashion with the materiality of the body.
In exploring the complex ramifications of this history, the author is the first to assemble and study references to Jews in Anglo-Saxon culture. For this reason, The Footsteps of Israel will be an important source for Anglo-Saxonists, scholars of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, scholars of medieval antisemitism in general, students of Jewish history, and medievalists interested in cultural studies.
The years from 1852 to 1890 marked a controversial period in Mormonism, when the church's official embrace of polygamy put it at odds with wider American culture. In this study, Christine Talbot explores the controversial era, discussing how plural marriage generated decades of cultural and political conflict over competing definitions of legitimate marriage, family structure, and American identity.
In particular, Talbot examines "the Mormon question" with attention to how it constructed ideas about American citizenship around the presumed separation of the public and private spheres. Contrary to the prevailing notion of man as political actor, woman as domestic keeper, and religious conscience as entirely private, Mormons enfranchised women and framed religious practice as a political act. The way Mormonism undermined the public/private divide led white, middle-class Americans to respond by attacking not just Mormon sexual and marital norms but also Mormons' very fitness as American citizens. Poised at the intersection of the history of the American West, Mormonism, and nineteenth-century culture and politics, this carefully researched exploration considers the ways in which Mormons and anti-Mormons both questioned and constructed ideas of the national body politic, citizenship, gender, the family, and American culture at large.
In this startling original work of historical detection, Mark D. Jordan explores the invention of Sodomy by medieval Christendom, examining its conceptual foundations in theology and gauging its impact on Christian sexual ethics both then and now. This book is for everyone involved in the ongoing debate within organized religions and society in general over moral judgments of same-sex eroticism.
"A crucial contribution to our understanding of the tortured and tortuous relationship between men who love men, and the Christian religion—indeed, between our kind and Western society as a whole. . . . The true power of Jordan's study is that it gives back to gay and lesbian people our place in history and that it places before modern theologians and church leaders a detailed history of fear, inconsistency, hatred and oppression that must be faced both intellectually and pastorally."—Michael B. Kelly, Screaming Hyena
"[A] detailed and disturbing tour through the back roads of medieval Christian thought."—Dennis O'Brien, Commonweal
"Being gay and being Catholic are not necessarily incompatible modes of life, Jordan argues. . . . Compelling and deeply learned."—Virginia Quarterly Review
This is the first full-scale history of the only organized American Jewish opposition to Zionism during the 1940s. Despite extensive literature on the Zionist movement, the Jewish opposition to Zionism has received only marginal and usually negative attention. In this impartial study, Thomas A. Kolsky examines the neglected phenomenon of Jewish anti-Zionism, its roots, and its results.
In 1942, a number of dissident Reform rabbis founded the American Council for Judaism, the first and only Jewish organization created to fight against Zionism and the establishment of a Jewish state. Emphasizing the purely religious nature of Judaism and unequivocally rejecting Jewish nationalism, the Council supported free Jewish immigration and equal rights for Jews throughout the world. For Palestine, specifically, it advocated establishment of a democratic state wherein all citizens, regardless of their religion, would enjoy equal political rights.
Summarizing both the history of Zionism and the history of American Jews, Kolsky traces the effects of the Holocaust on the Zionist movement and the personalities that shaped the leadership of the Council. Its position toward Zionism has particular contemporary relevance in understanding the historical relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.
"Instead of writing a bitter condemnation of the Nation of Islam, Tate has adroitly described its purpose as well as its shortcomings." —USA Today
"A temperate and sympathetic treatment of an African-American family's religious evolution." —Publishers Weekly
"A compelling story. It provides an honest, inside view of one of America's most controversial religious movements and perceptively points to social tensions of race, gender and religious identity." —Kirkus Reviews
"Extremely valuable. Recent literature is interested almost exclusively in male leaders. Tate's book provides a new perspective. I have used the book in a number of teaching contexts to very good results." —Judith Weisenfeld, Vassar College
In Little X, Sonsyrea Tate reveals, through the acute vision and engaging voice of a curious child, the practices and policies of the mysterious organization most know only through media portrayals of its controversial leaders Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and Louis Farrakhan. First published in 1997, Little X chronicles the multigenerational experience of Tate's family, who broke from the traditional black church in the 1950s to join the radical Nation of Islam, then struggled to remain intact through disillusionment, shifting loyalties, and forays into Orthodox Islam.
Little X is also an absorbing story of a little girl whose strict Muslim education filled her with pride, confidence, and a longing for freedom, of a teenager in an ankle-length dress and headwrap struggling to fit in with non-Muslim peers, and of a young woman whose growing disillusionment with the Nation finally led to her break with the Muslim religion. Little X offers a rare glimpse into the everyday experience of the Nation of Islam, and into a little-understood part of America's history and heritage.
Sonsyrea Tate-Montgomery has been a staff writer for the Virginian Pilot, Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post. The recipient of four coveted Echoes of Excellence awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, Tate has also worked as assistant to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. She currently works as a political reporter for The Gazette, a Post-Newsweek publication.
EMANUEL SWEDENBORG Swedenborg Foundation Publishers, 2014 Library of Congress BX8712.D92 2014 | Dewey Decimal 289.4
Since the dawn of Christianity, there has been debate about the true nature of Jesus Christ. Was he a divinely inspired person or the incarnation of God on earth?
In his short work The Lord, Swedenborg presents an answer to the time-honored question of how Jesus and God are related: he argues that they became in every way one and the same. Throughout his works Swedenborg uses the term “Lord” to refer to Jesus as the embodiment of God. In this work he emphasizes that the traditional trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit should be thought of not as three separate divine Persons that have always coexisted but as three aspects now present within one divine Person—Jesus in his resurrection. The Lord also touches upon key themes in Swedenborg’s theology: the spiritual reasons why the Lord came to earth; the significance of the death and resurrection of his human form; and the ways in which his coming was foretold in the Old Testament. Throughout the book, Swedenborg provides extensive biblical references to support his arguments. He concludes with a brief chapter describing the New Jerusalem, a reference to both the city described in the book of Revelation and the new spiritual age that is now unfolding. The Lord is part of the New Century Edition of the Works of Emanuel Swedenborg (NCE), an ongoing translation series. The NCE series incorporates the latest scholarship and translation standards for a more accurate and accessible rendering of Swedenborg’s works. Traditionally titled The Doctrine of the Lord, this short work is often published together with three other short works—Life, Faith, and Sacred Scripture—under the title The Four Doctrines. The Swedenborg Foundation will publish these four titles together in the forthcoming NCE hardcover annotated volume The Shorter Works of 1763.
Marx On Religion
John Raines Temple University Press, 2002 Library of Congress B3305.M74M37713 2002 | Dewey Decimal 335.4092
"Religious suffering is at one and the same time the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions."Few people would ever expect that Karl Marx is the writer of the above statement. He not only wrote it, but he did so in the same breath of his more famous dictum that "religion is the opiate of the masses." How can one reconcile such different perspectives on the power and ubiquity of religion?In this compact reader of Marx's essential thought on religion, John Raines offers the full range of Marx's thoughts on religion and its relationship to the world of social relations. Through a careful selection of essays, articles, pamphlets, and letters, Raines shows that Marx had a far more complex understanding of religious belief. Equally important is how Marx's ideas on religion were intimately tied to his inquiries into political economy, revolution, social change, and the philosophical questions of the self.Raines offers an introduction that shows the continuing importance of the Marxist perspective on religion and its implications for the way religion continues to act in and respond to the momentous changes going on in our social and environmental worlds. Marx on Religion also includes a study guide to help professors and students—as well as the general reader—continue to understand the significance of this often under-examined component of Marx.
Moral Absolutes sets forth a vigorous but careful critique of much recent work in moral theology. It is illustrated with examples from the most controversial aspects of Christian moral doctrine, and a frank account is given of the roots of the upheaval in Roman Catholic moral theology in and after the 1960s.
Any Latter-day Saint who has ever defended his or her beliefs has likely addressed issues first raised by Eber D. Howe in 1834. Howe’s famous exposé was the first of its kind, with information woven together from previous news articles and some thirty affidavits he and others collected. He lived and worked in Painesville, Ohio, where, in 1829, he had published about Joseph Smith’s discovery of a “golden bible.” Smith’s decision to relocate in nearby Kirtland sparked Howe’s attention. Of even more concern was that Howe’s wife and other family members had joined the Mormon faith. Howe immediately began investigating the new Church and formed a coalition of like-minded reporters and detractors. By 1834, Howe had collected a large body of investigative material, including affidavits from Smith’s former neighbors in New York and from Smith’s father-inlaw in Pennsylvania. Howe learned about Smith’s early interest in pirate gold and use of a seer stone in treasure seeking and heard theories from Smith’s friends, followers, and family members about the Book of Mormon’s origin. Indulging in literary criticism, Howe joked that Smith, “evidently a man of learning,” was a student of “barrenness of style and expression.” Despite its critical tone, Howe’s exposé is valued by historians for its primary source material and account of the growth of Mormonism in northeastern Ohio.
As Eastern European economies move to capitalism, many people there hope for a better life. But capitalism is no guarantee of prosperity. Economic deprivation, war, social marginalization, and powerlessness mark the lives of millions and spark social movements for economic justice aimed at correcting these conditions. Often these movements are based in religious communities, their activists motivated by religious commitment to human dignity and the need for personal empowerment. Although the new theology contains an economic critique, little dialogue has taken place between the religious and economic communities on matters of economic analysis. Religion and Economic Justice seeks to develop this exchange.
This book contains original essays by distinguished contributors from economics, religious ethics, and biblical studies. The authors provide a powerful critique of the individualism which underlies mainstream economic analysis and which fragments our communities, a critique that extends to the values implicit in the market system. The authors also show how social marginalization and economic deprivation are the consequences of economic organization, not simply the failings of individuals.
Leo Strauss articulates the conflict between reason and revelation as he explores Spinoza's scientific, comparative, and textual treatment of the Bible. Strauss compares Spinoza's Theologico-political Treatise and the Epistles, showing their relation to critical controversy on religion from Epicurus and Lucretius through Uriel da Costa and Isaac Peyrere to Thomas Hobbes.
Strauss's autobiographical Preface, traces his dilemmas as a young liberal intellectual in Germany during the Weimar Republic, as a scholar in exile, and as a leader of American philosophical thought.
"[For] those interested in Strauss the political philosopher, and also those who doubt whether we have achieved the 'final solution' in respect to either the character of political science or the problem of the relation of religion to the state." —Journal of Politics
"A substantial contribution to the thinking of all those interested in the ageless problems of faith, revelation, and reason." —Kirkus Reviews
Leo Strauss (1899-1973) was the Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of political science at the University of Chicago. His contributions to political science include The Political Philosophy of Hobbes, The City and the Man, What is Political Philosophy?, and Liberalism Ancient and Modern.
Writings Against the Saracens
Peter the Venerable Catholic University of America Press, 2016 Library of Congress BP172.P45413 2016 | Dewey Decimal 239
Peter the Venerable's extensive literary legacy includes poems, a large epistolary collection, and polemical treatises. The first of his four major polemics targeted a Christian heresy, the Petrobrussians (Against the Petrobrusians); the rest took aim at Jews and Saracens. Catholic University of America Press has published his Against the Inveterate Obduracy of the Jews. This present volume will make available in their entirety Peter the Venerable's twin polemics against Islam - A Summary of the entire heresy of the Saracens and Against the sect of the Saracens - as well as related correspondence. These works resulted from a sustained engagement with Islam begun during Peter's journey to Spain in 1142-43. There the abbot commissioned a translation of sources from the Arabic, the so-called Toledan Collection, that include the Letter of a Saracen with a Christian Response (from the Apology of [Ps.] Al-Kindi ); Fables of the Saracens (a potpourri of Islamic hadith traditions); and Robert of Ketton's first Latin translation of the whole of the Qur'an. Thanks to Peter's efforts, from the second half of the twelfth century Christians could acquire a far better understanding of the teachings of Islam, and Peter may rightly be viewed as the initiator of Islamic studies in the West.