“Citizenship is salvation,” preached Noble Drew Ali, leader of the Moorish Science Temple of America in the early twentieth century. Ali’s message was an aspirational call for black Americans to undertake a struggle for recognition from the state, one that would both ensure protection for all Americans through rights guaranteed by the law and correct the unjust implementation of law that prevailed in the racially segregated United States. Ali and his followers took on this mission of citizenship as a religious calling, working to carve out a place for themselves in American democracy and to bring about a society that lived up to what they considered the sacred purpose of the law.
In The Aliites, Spencer Dew traces the history and impact of Ali’s radical fusion of law and faith. Dew uncovers the influence of Ali’s teachings, including the many movements they inspired. As Dew shows, Ali’s teachings demonstrate an implicit yet critical component of the American approach to law: that it should express our highest ideals for society, even if it is rarely perfect in practice. Examining this robustly creative yet largely overlooked lineage of African American religious thought, Dew provides a window onto religion, race, citizenship, and law in America.
Altruism in World Religions
Jacob Neusner and Bruce Chilton, Editors Georgetown University Press, 2005 Library of Congress BJ1474.A475 2005 | Dewey Decimal 205
In 1830 philosopher Auguste Comte coined the term altruism to provide a general definition for the act of selflessly caring for others. But does this modern conception of sacrificing one's own interests for the well-being of others apply to the charitable behaviors encouraged by all world religions? In Altruism in World Religionsprominent scholars from an array of religious perspectives probe the definition of altruism to determine whether it is a category that serves to advance the study of religion.
Exploring a range of philosophical and religious thought from Greco-Roman philia to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, from Hinduism in India to Buddhism and the religions of China and Japan, the authors find that altruism becomes problematic when applied to religious studies because it is, in fact, a concept absent from religion. Chapters on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam reveal that followers of these religions cannot genuinely perform self-sacrificing acts because God has promised to reward every good deed. Moreover, the separation between the self and the other that self-sacrifice necessarily implies, runs counter to Buddhist thought, which makes no such distinction.
By challenging our assumptions about the act of self-sacrifice as it relates to religious teachings, the authors have shown altruism to be more of a secular than religious notion. At the same time, their findings highlight how charitable acts operate with the values and structures of the religions studied.
Sarah Iles JOHNSTON Harvard University Press, 2007 Library of Congress BL96.A53 2007 | Dewey Decimal 200.93
Religious beliefs and practices, which permeated all aspects of life in antiquity, traveled well-worn routes throughout the Mediterranean: itinerant charismatic practitioners peddled their skills as healers, purifiers, cursers, and initiators; and vessels decorated with illustrations of myths traveled with them. This collection of essays, drawn from the groundbreaking reference work Religion in the Ancient World, offers an expansive, comparative perspective on this complex spiritual world.
Comparison is an indispensable intellectual operation that plays a crucial role in the formation of knowledge. Yet comparison often leads us to forego attention to nuance, detail, and context, perhaps leaving us bereft of an ethical obligation to take things correspondingly as they are. Examining the practice of comparison across the study of history, language, religion, and culture, distinguished scholar of religion Bruce Lincoln argues in Apples and Oranges for a comparatism of a more modest sort.
Lincoln presents critiques of recent attempts at grand comparison, and enlists numerous theoretical examples of how a more modest, cautious, and discriminating form of comparison might work and what it can accomplish. He does this through studies of shamans, werewolves, human sacrifices, apocalyptic prophecies, sacred kings, and surveys of materials as diverse and wide-ranging as Beowulf, Herodotus’s account of the Scythians, the Native American Ghost Dance, and the Spanish Civil War.
Ultimately, Lincoln argues that concentrating one's focus on a relatively small number of items that the researcher can compare closely, offering equal attention to relations of similarity and difference, not only grants dignity to all parties considered, it yields more reliable and more interesting—if less grandiose—results. Giving equal attention to the social, historical, and political contexts and subtexts of religious and literary texts also allows scholars not just to assess their content, but also to understand the forces, problems, and circumstances that motivated and shaped them.
This book makes the bold claim that intellectual sophistication was born worldwide during the middle centuries of the first millennium bce. From Axial Age thinkers we inherited a sense of the world as a place not just to experience but to investigate, envision, and alter. A variety of utopian visions emerged and led to both reform and repression.
Two French Protestant refugees in eighteenth-century Amsterdam gave the world an extraordinary work that intrigued and outraged readers across Europe. In this captivating account, Lynn Hunt, Margaret C. Jacob, and Wijnand Mijnhardt take us to the vibrant Dutch Republic and its flourishing book trade to explore the work that sowed the radical idea that religions could be considered on equal terms.
Famed engraver Bernard Picart and author and publisher Jean Frederic Bernard produced The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of All the Peoples of the World, which appeared in the first of seven folio volumes in 1723. They put religion in comparative perspective, offering images and analysis of Jews, Catholics, Muslims, the peoples of the Orient and the Americas, Protestants, deists, freemasons, and assorted sects. Despite condemnation by the Catholic Church, the work was a resounding success. For the next century it was copied or adapted, but without the context of its original radicalism and its debt to clandestine literature, English deists, and the philosophy of Spinoza.
Ceremonies and Customs prepared the ground for religious toleration amid seemingly unending religious conflict, and demonstrated the impact of the global on Western consciousness. In this beautifully illustrated book, Hunt, Jacob, and Mijnhardt cast new light on the profound insight found in one book as it shaped the development of a modern, secular understanding of religion.
While children figure prominently in religious traditions, few books have directly explored the complex relationships between children and religion. This is the first book to examine the theme of children in major religions of the world.
Each of six chapters, edited by world-class scholars, focuses on one religious tradition and includes an introduction and a selection of primary texts ranging from legal to liturgical and from the ancient to the contemporary. Through both the scholarly introductions and the primary sources, this comprehensive volume addresses a range of topics, from the sanctity of birth to a child's relationship to evil, showing that issues regarding children are central to understanding world religions and raising significant questions about our own conceptions of children today.
Stefan Einhorn Templeton Press, 2002 Library of Congress BL200.E3713 2002 | Dewey Decimal 291.211
Highly acclaimed in Sweden where it was first published in both hardcover and paperback editions, A Concealed God poses two intriguing questions:
•Does God truly exist?
•If so, is the concept of God logical and in agreement with the knowledge of the world that science has provided to date?
The God presented by most religions doesn't make sense in today's world; we have little room for miracles. Furthermore, there are irreconcilable aspects in the world's religions. Must we abandon our faith or belief in God? Perhaps not, says popular Swedish thinker Stefan Einhorn. We can behave as scientists do when they run experiments only to obtain contradictory results. They ask themselves whether there might not be a logical conclusion that binds all the results together and leads to the most probable explanation.
Einhorn hypothesizes that if God truly exists, then many different religions would have discovered this. He finds a common denominator in the concept of a hidden God in seven major religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. But even with this shared belief, can we know if God exists? Did humankind create the idea of God to answer the unexplainable? What about evil and suffering, the absence of meaning in life, loneliness and insecurity? And most importantly, how do we search for a concealed God?
Most religions share common principles for the search for "that which is concealed," including meditation, contemplation, and prayer. Whatever route is chosen, the search for God may bring us some answers. Einhorn concludes that two themes are central to the search: one is that God is both concealed and simultaneously omnipresent; the other is that only with utter humility and an awareness of our inability to fully understand may we approach the divine.
In the end, there are no definite answers. But the search sheds light on the many paths to enlightenment offered by the world's religions.
The contributors to Divine Love cover a broad spectrum of world religions, comparing and contrasting approaches to the topic among Christians of several denominations, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and adherents of traditional African religion. Each chapter focuses on the definition and conceptual boundaries of divine love; on its expression and experience; on its instrumentality and salience; and both on how it can become distorted and on how it has been made manifest or restored by great historic exemplars of altruism, compassion, and unlimited love.
The ultimate aim for many of the world’s major faith traditions is to love and be loved by God—to live in connection with the Divine, in union with the Beloved, in reconciliation with the Ultimate. Religious scholars Jeff Levin and Stephen G. Post have termed this connection “divine love.” In their new collection of the same name, they have invited eight of the world’s preeminent religious scholars to share their perspectives on the what, how, and why of divine love.
From this diverse gathering of perspectives emerges evidence that to love and to be loved by God, to enter into a mutual and covenantal relationship with the Divine, may well offer solutions to many of the current crises around the world. Only a loving relationship with the Source of being within the context of the great faith and wisdom traditions of the world can fully inform and motivate the acts of love, unity, justice, compassion, kindness, and mercy for all beings that are so desperately required to counter the toxic influences in the world.
Contributors: William C. Chittick, Vigen Guroian, Ruben L. F. Habito, William K. Mahony, John S. Mbiti, Jacob Neusner, Clark H. Pinnock, and David Tracy.
Juxtaposing “ecumenism” and “jihad,” two words that many would consider strange and at odds with one another, Peter Kreeft argues that we need to change our current categories and alignments. We need to realize that we are at war and that the sides have changed radically. Documenting the spiritual and moral decay that has taken hold of modern society, Kreeft issues a wake-up call to all God-fearing Christians, Jews, and Muslims to unite together in a “religious war” against the common enemy of godless secular humanism, materialism, and immorality.
Aware of the deep theological differences of these monotheistic faiths, Kreeft calls for a moratorium on our polemics against one another so that we can form an alliance to fight together to save Western civilization.
“Be forewarned. This book pricks prejudices, jostles assumptions, and can do permanent harm to complacent Christianity. Definitely not recommended for people who are unprepared for a rollickingly adventurous journey into truths that might change them forever. Don’t say you were not warned.” – Fr. Richard John Neuhaus
“Peter Kreeft is one of the premier apologists in America today, witty, incisive and powerful. On the front lines in today’s culture war, Kreeft is one of our most valiant intellectual warriors.” – Charles Colson
“This racy little book opens up a far-reaching theme. With entertaining insight Kreeft looks into the attitudes, alliances, and strategies that today’s state of affairs requires of believers. Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox alike need to ponder Peter Kreeft’s vision of things – preferably, in discussion together. What if he is right?” – J.I. Packer
“With his usual brilliance and wit, Peter Kreeft offers us a combat man manual for the culture wars. Ecumenical Jihad is a reasoned defense of the rights of God and the duties of man, and a bold exhortation to spiritual warfare. It is wise, holy, and prophetic.” – Michael O’Brien, editor, Nazareth Journal, and author of many novels.
The Family of Abraham
Carol Bakhos Harvard University Press, 2014 Library of Congress BS580.A3B335 2014 | Dewey Decimal 222.11092
"Abrahamic religions" has gained currency in scholarly and ecumenical circles as a way to refer to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Carol Bakhos steps back from the convention to ask: What is Abrahamic about these three faiths? She challenges references to Judaism and Islam as sibling religions and warns against uncritical adoption of the term.
Edited by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby University of Chicago Press, 1995 Library of Congress BL238.F83 1991 vol. 5 | Dewey Decimal 291.0904
In this fifth volume of the Fundamentalism Project, Fundamentalisms Comprehended, the distinguished contributors return to and test the endeavor's beginning premise: that fundamentalisms in all faiths share certain "family resemblances." Several of the essays reconsider the project's original definition of fundamentalism as a reactive, absolutist, and comprehensive mode of anti-secular religious activism. The book concludes with a capstone statement by R. Scott Appleby, Emmanuel Sivan, and Gabriel Almond that builds upon the entire Fundamentalism Project. Identifying different categories of fundamentalist movements, and delineating four distinct patterns of fundamentalist behavior toward outsiders, this statement provides an explanatory framework for understanding and comparing fundamentalisms around the world.
Bruce Lincoln is one of the most prominent advocates within religious studies for an uncompromisingly critical approach to the phenomenon of religion—historians of religions, he believes, should resist the preferred narratives and self-understanding of religions themselves, especially when their stories are endowed with sacred origins and authority. In Gods and Demons, Priests and Scholars, Lincoln assembles a collection of essays that both illustrates and reveals the benefits of his methodology, making a case for a critical religious studies that starts with skepticism but is neither cynical nor crude.
The book begins with Lincoln’s “Theses on Method” and ends with “The (Un)discipline of Religious Studies,” in which he unsparingly considers the failings of uncritical and nonhistorical approaches to the study of religions. In between, Lincoln presents new examinations of problems in ancient religions and relates these cases to larger comparative themes. While bringing to light important features of the formation of pantheons and the constructions of demons, chaos, and the dead, Lincoln demonstrates that historians of religions should take religious things—inspired scriptures, sacred centers, salvific rites, communities graced by divine favor—as the theories of interested humans that shape perception, community, and experiences. As he shows, it is for their terrestrial influence, and not their sacred origins, that religious phenomena merit consideration by the historian.
Tackling many questions central to religious study, Gods and Demons, Priests and Scholars will be a touchstone for the history of religions in the twenty-first century.
"No one has done so much as Mr. Eliade to inform literature students in the West about 'primitive' and Oriental religions. . . . Everyone who cares about the human adventure will find new information and new angles of vision."—Martin E. Marty, New York Times Book Review
The idea of "world religions" expresses a vague commitment to multiculturalism. Not merely a descriptive concept, "world religions" is actually a particular ethos, a pluralist ideology, a logic of classification, and a form of knowledge that has shaped the study of religion and infiltrated ordinary language.
In this ambitious study, Tomoko Masuzawa examines the emergence of "world religions" in modern European thought. Devoting particular attention to the relation between the comparative study of language and the nascent science of religion, she demonstrates how new classifications of language and race caused Buddhism and Islam to gain special significance, as these religions came to be seen in opposing terms-Aryan on one hand and Semitic on the other. Masuzawa also explores the complex relation of "world religions" to Protestant theology, from the hierarchical ordering of religions typical of the Christian supremacists of the nineteenth century to the aspirations of early twentieth-century theologian Ernst Troeltsch, who embraced the pluralist logic of "world religions" and by so doing sought to reclaim the universalist destiny of European modernity.
Daily political events and the steady inevitability of globalism require that informed students and citizens learn something about religious traditions foreign to their own. Designed for both classroom and general use, these handy Key Words guidebooks are essential resources for those who want clear and concise explanations of common terms and unfamiliar concepts of major world religions.
Each pocket-sized volume contains definitions for over 400 terms from religious principles and significant periods to noteworthy figures.
Exegesis The process of explaining a sacred text in order to penetrate further into the author's meaning or to apply new interpretations based upon contemporary situations or enhanced knowledge (see hermeneutics, sacred texts).
Monotheism The worship of one God regarded as the sole and universal creator of the universe, typically expressed in the religions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. However varieties of monotheism can also be found in Indian traditions. Monotheistic beliefs classically assert that such a deity is personal, caring for and involving itself in the affairs of human beings through revelation (see deism, monism, henotheism, polytheism, revelation).
In Map Is Not Territory, Jonathan Z. Smith engages previous interpretations of religious texts from late antiquity, critically evaluates the notion of sacred space and time as it is represented in the works of Mircea Eliade, and tackles important problems of methodology.
Those who anticipated the demise of religion and the advent of a peaceful, secularized global village have seen the last two decades confound their predictions. René Girard’s mimetic theory is a key to understanding the new challenges posed by our world of resurgent violence and pluralistic cultures and traditions. Girard sought to explain how the Judeo-Christian narrative exposes a founding murder at the origin of human civilization and demystifies the bloody sacrifices of archaic religions. Meanwhile, his book Sacrifice, a reading of conflict and sacrificial resolution in the Vedic Brahmanas, suggests that mimetic theory’s insights also resonate with several non-Western religious and spiritual traditions. This volume collects engagements with Girard by scholars of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism and situates them within contemporary theology, philosophy, and religious studies.
Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are usually treated as autonomous religions, but in fact across the long course of their histories the three religions have developed in interaction with one another. In Neighboring Faiths, David Nirenberg examines how Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived with and thought about each other during the Middle Ages and what the medieval past can tell us about how they do so today.
There have been countless scripture-based studies of the three “religions of the book,” but Nirenberg goes beyond those to pay close attention to how the three religious neighbors loved, tolerated, massacred, and expelled each other—all in the name of God—in periods and places both long ago and far away. Nirenberg argues that the three religions need to be studied in terms of how each affected the development of the others over time, their proximity of religious and philosophical thought as well as their overlapping geographies, and how the three “neighbors” define—and continue to define—themselves and their place in terms of one another. From dangerous attractions leading to interfaith marriage; to interreligious conflicts leading to segregation, violence, and sometimes extermination; to strategies for bridging the interfaith gap through language, vocabulary, and poetry, Nirenberg aims to understand the intertwined past of the three faiths as a way for their heirs to produce the future—together.
In the period domoninated by the triumphs of scientific rationalism, how do we account for the extraordinary success of such occult movements as astrology or the revival of witchcraft? From his perspective as a historian of religions, the eminent scholar Mircea Eliade shows that such popular trends develop from archaic roots and periodically resurface in certain myths, symbols, and rituals. In six lucid essays collected for this volume, Eliade reveals the profound religious significance that lies at the heart of many contemporary cultural vogues.
Since all of the essays except the last were originally delivered as lectures, their introductory character and lively oral style make them particularly accessible to the intelligent nonspecialist. Rather than a popularization, Occultism, Witchcraft, and Cultural Fashions is the fulfillment of Eliade's conviction that the history of religions should be read by the widest possible audience.
In Queering Black Atlantic Religions Roberto Strongman examines Haitian Vodou, Cuban Lucumí/Santería, and Brazilian Candomblé to demonstrate how religious rituals of trance possession allow humans to understand themselves as embodiments of the divine. In these rituals, the commingling of humans and the divine produces gender identities that are independent of biological sex. As opposed to the Cartesian view of the spirit as locked within the body, the body in Afro-diasporic religions is an open receptacle. Showing how trance possession is a primary aspect of almost all Afro-diasporic cultural production, Strongman articulates transcorporeality as a black, trans-Atlantic understanding of the human psyche, soul, and gender as multiple, removable, and external to the body.
Transnational migration has contributed to the rise of religious diversity and has led to profound changes in the religious make-up of society across the Western world. As a result, societies and nation-states have faced the challenge of crafting ways to bring new religious communities into existing institutions and the legal frameworks. Regulating Difference explores how the state regulates religious diversity and examines the processes whereby religious diversity and expression becomes part of administrative landscapes of nation-states and people’s everyday lives. Arguing that concepts of nationhood are key to understanding the governance of religious diversity, Regulating Difference employs a transatlantic comparison of the Spanish region of Catalonia and the Canadian province of Quebec to show how processes of nation-building, religious heritage-making and the mobilization of divergent interpretations of secularism are co-implicated in shaping religious diversity. It argues that religious diversity has become central for governing national and urban spaces.
Modern Western thought has traditionally relegated the religious and the secular to two entirely different spheres. Religion and Its Other takes issue with this oversimplified dichotomy, tracing the borders and grey areas between religion and the secular world as conceived of in Christian, Jewish, and Muslim cultures past and present.
A unique collection of theoretically informed historical and anthropological case studies, this comprehensive volume includes discussions of medieval atheism, Egyptian modernization, Jewish mysticism, Lutheran angels, and other such topics. Religion and Its Other will enrich the library of anyone interested in the social construction of religion across the centuries.
Discussions of the relationship between religion and violence have been on the rise since 9/11. Conversations have also focused on how religion can mediate conflict and help build peace. This volume offers a diversity of approaches to the subject, gathering essays from a cross-section of prominent scholars studying the role of religion in peacemaking.
Contributors from varied backgrounds share perspectives and insights gleaned from history, theory, practice, and case studies. While the authors acknowledge the role of religion in generating conflict, they emphasize the part religion can play in conflict resolution. Addressing the centrality of conflict to the human condition, they recognize the consequent difficulty in teasing out the exact role of religion. Overall, the authors assert the necessity of frank, knowledgeable dialogue to understanding sources of, finding grounds for resolving, and managing conflict. Many of the essayists offer creative solutions for building peace. Employing examples and viewpoints drawn from diverse faith traditions, academic traditions, and cultural backgrounds, contributors seek to foster respectful dialogue and debate by exploring the complex dynamic that interconnects religion, violence, and peace.
Religion in Human Evolution
Robert N. Bellah Harvard University Press, 2011 Library of Congress BL256.B435 2011 | Dewey Decimal 200.89009
This ambitious book probes our biological past to discover the kinds of lives that human beings have imagined were worth living. Bellah’s theory goes deep into cultural and genetic evolution to identify a range of capacities (communal dancing, storytelling, theorizing) whose emergence made religious development possible in the first millennium BCE.
Market globalization, technology, climate change, and postcolonial political forces are together forging a new, more modern world. However, caught up in the mix are some powerful religious narratives that are galvanizing peoples and reimagining – and sometimes stifling – the political and social order. Some are repressive, fundamentalist imaginations, such as the so-called Islamic Caliphate. Others could be described as post-religious, such as the evolution of universal human rights out of the European Christian tradition. But the question of the compatibility of these religious worldviews, particularly those that have emerged out of the Abrahamic faith traditions, is perhaps the most pressing issue in global stability today. What scope for dialogue is there between the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian ways of imagining the future? How can we engage with these multiple imaginations to create a shared and peaceful global society? Religious Imaginations is an interdisciplinary volume of both new and well-known scholars exploring how religious narratives interact with the contemporary geopolitical climate.
Today, and historically, religions often seem to be intolerant, narrow-minded, and zealous. But the record is not so one-sided. In Religious Tolerance in World Religions, numerous scholars offer perspectives on the "what" and "why" traditions of tolerance in world religions, beginning with the pre-Christian West, Greco-Roman paganism, and ancient Israelite Monotheism and moving into modern religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. By tolerance the authors mean "the capacity to live with religious difference, and by toleration, the theory that permits a majority religion to accommodate the presence of a minority religion."
The volume is introduced with a summary of a recent survey that sought to identify the capacity of religions to tolerate one another in theory and in practice. Eleven religious communities in seven nations were polled on questions that ranged from equality of religious practitioners to consequences of disobedience. The essays frame the provocative analysis of how a religious system in its political statement produces categories of tolerance that can be explained in that system’s logical context. Past and present beliefs, practices, and definitions of social order are examined in terms of how they support tolerance for other religious groups as a matter of public policy.
Religious Tolerance in World Religions focuses attention on the attitude "that the ’infidel’ or non-believer may be accorded an honorable position within the social order defined by Islam or Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism, and so on." It is a timely reference for colleges and universities and for makers of public policy.
Over the course of his twenty-five-year career, Jeffrey J. Kripal’s study of religion has had two major areas of focus: the erotic expression of mystical experience and the rise of the paranormal in American culture. This book brings these two halves together in surprising ways through a blend of memoir, manifesto, and anthology, drawing new connections between these two realms of human experience and revealing Kripal’s body of work to be a dynamic whole that has the potential to renew and reshape the study of religion.
Kripal tells his story, biographically, historically and politically contextualizing each of the six books of his Chicago corpus, from Kali’s Child to Mutants and Mystics, all the while answering his censors and critics and exploring new implications of his thought. In the process, he begins to sketch out a speculative “new comparativism” in twenty theses. The result is a new vision for the study of religion, one that takes in the best of the past, engages with outside critiques from the sciences and the humanities, and begins to blaze a new positive path forward. A major work decades in the making, Secret Body will become a landmark in the study of religion.
"This provocative and timely book challenges Americans to rethink what it means to take democracy and religious freedom seriously in public education. Emile Lester takes the reader beyond culture war conflicts rooted in religious divisions and offers bold, new solutions for addressing our differences with fairness and robust toleration. Instead of battlegrounds, he argues, public schools can and should be places that include all voices in ways that prepare citizens to engage one another with civility and respect. Teaching about Religions is essential reading for all who care about the future of public schools---and the health of American democracy."
--- Charles C. Haynes, Senior Scholar, Freedom Forum First Amendment Center
"More than simply a synthesis of existing scholarship, [this book is] an original contribution to the field. [The] major themes are timely, and this book might well contribute to public discussion of important issues in our culture wars."
---Warren Nord, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill
"Arriving in the wake of a bitter battle over the place of Islam in America and in the midst of calls for greater understanding and civility, Emile Lester's new book is a timely contribution to the debate about the best ways to teach about religion in our nation's public schools. A pioneering researcher in this field, Lester offers thoughtful critiques of existing proposals as well as fresh ideas. His recommendations reflect painstaking efforts to understand the concerns of groups (most notably, conservative Christians) to which he does not belong, and a firm grasp of the difference between fostering understanding of other faiths and pressing for acceptance of them. Lester's prescriptions, always informed and fair-minded and sometimes provocative, should drive the debate forward in productive ways."
---Melissa Rogers, Director, Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University School of Divinity and Nonresident Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution
Frequent news stories about the debates waged between secularists and religious conservatives have convinced most Americans that public schools must choose between promoting respect for religious minorities and respecting the interests of conservative Christians. As a result, public schools fail to teach students about the meaning and value of protecting religious liberty and consequently perpetuate mistrust across the cultural divide, further empower extremists, and obscure the fact that most Americans of all religious backgrounds share a commitment to basic democratic principles.
In response, the public schools in the religiously diverse and divided community of Modesto, California, have introduced a widely acclaimed required world religions course. Drawing on groundbreaking research on the creation of and response to the Modesto course as well as on political philosophy, Emile Lester advocates a civic approach to teaching about religion in public schools that at once emphasizes respect for all views about religion and provides a special recognition of conservative Christian beliefs.
Every religion acknowledges certain spiritual principles and records them in its sacred literature and traditions. This book curates these ancient teachings and shows how they apply to modern life with the help of parables, quotations, and commentaries.
By reading Wisdom from World Religions, people from all walks of life will be inspired to pursue their own spiritual growth and to contemplate questions central to our existence, such as how, through love and creativity, can we be agents of divinity on earth?
Uplifting and instructional, this is a book to be treasured, studied, and practiced.
In 2002, the University of Alabama's Department of Religious Studies established the annual Aronov Lecture Series to showcase the works of nationally recognized scholars of religion capable of reflecting on issues of wide relevance to scholars from across the humanities and social sciences. Writing Religion:The Case for the Critical Study of Religion is an edited collection of essays that highlights critical contributions from the first ten Aronov lecturers.
Section one of the volume, “Writing Discourses,” features essays by Jonathan Z. Smith, Bruce Lincoln, and Ann Pellegrini that illustrate how critical study enables the analysis of discourses in society and history. Section two, “Riting Social Formations,” includes pieces by Arjun Appadurai, Judith Plaskow, and Nathan Katz that reference both the power of rites to construct society and the act of riting as a form of disciplining that both prescribes and proscribes. The writings of Tomoko Masuzawa, Amy-Jill Levine, Aaron W. Hughes, and Martin S. Jaffee appear in section three, “Righting the Discipline.” They emphasize the correction of movements within the academic study of religion.
Steven W. Ramey frames the collection with a thoughtful introduction that explores the genesis, development, and diversity of critical analysis in the study of religion. An afterword by Russell McCutcheon reflects on the critical study of religion at the University of Alabama and rounds out this superb collection.
The mission of the Department of Religious Studies is to “avoid every tendency toward confusing the study of religion with the practice of religion.” Instruction about—rather than in—religion is foundational to the department’s larger goal of producing knowledge of the world and its many practices and systems of beliefs. Infused with this spirit, these fascinating essays, which read like good conversations with learned friends, offer significant examples of each scholar’s work. Writing Religion will be of value to graduate students, advanced undergraduates, and scholars interested in the study of religion from a critical perspective.