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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Easter rites of initiation bring good news for American Catholics

By David Yamane
For many Catholics in America, waking up in the morning to find no news about the church is a relief. They won’t have to deal with stories about the lingering stench of the priest sexual abuse scandal, the consolidation of parishes and closing of schools, controversy over Catholic hospitals and the loss of Catholic youth, fewer and older nuns and more and younger “nones.”

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Passover in Jewish Eastern Europe

By Glenn Dynner
Today, observant Jews the world over are selling off their leavened foodstuffs (chametz) in preparation for the Passover holiday, which begins with a seder this evening and is followed by eight days of eating matzah, macaroons, and other unleavened products.

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The Mexican-American War and the making of American identity

By John C. Pinheiro
Few Americans today would have difficulty imagining a United States where the citizens disagree over the wisdom of immigration, question the degree to which Mexicans can be fully American, and dispute about the value of religious pluralism. But what if the America in question was not that of 2014 but rather the 1830s and 1840s?

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Does torture really (still) matter?

By Rebecca Gordon
The US military involvement in Iraq has more or less ended, and the war in Afghanistan is limping to a conclusion. Don’t the problems of torture really belong to the bad old days of an earlier administration? Why bring it up again? Why keep harping on something that is over and done with? Because it’s not over, and it’s not done with.

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The American Noah: neolithic superhero

By William D. Romanowski Reports suggest that Hollywood’s sudden interest in Bible movies is driven by economics. Comic book superheroes may be losing their luster and the studios can mine the Bible’s “action-packed material” without having to pay licensing fees to Marvel Entertainment. Maybe this explains why director Darren Aronofsky’s pitch to studio executives was […]

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A question of consciousness

By Susan Blackmore
The problem of consciousness is real, deep and confronts us any time we care to look. Ask yourself this question ‘Am I conscious now?’ and you will reply ‘Yes’. Then, I suggest, you are lured into delusion – the delusion that you are conscious all the time, even when you are not asking about it.

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‘You can’t wear that here’

By Andrew Hambler and Ian Leigh
When a religious believer wears a religious symbol to work can their employer object? The question brings corporate dress codes and expressions of religious belief into sharp conflict. The employee can marshal discrimination and human rights law on the one side, whereas the employer may argue that conspicuous religion makes for bad business.

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Reflections on Son of God

By William D. Romanowski
2014 is being heralded Hollywood’s “Year of the Bible.” The first film to reach theaters is Son of God, a remix of material by the same producers of the History Channel’s successful miniseries, The Bible. It seems hardly a coincidence that Son of God opened on Ash Wednesday, ten years to the day after Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was released. The promotional campaigns for both movies relied less on broad market advertising in favor of creating grassroots awareness in religious circles.

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Leaning in

By Katie Day
I am one of the last professional women I know to read Lean In by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (Knopf, 2013). If you are also among the laggards, it is an inspiring call to women to lean into leadership. Too often, Sandberg shows through research and life story, women are not considered “leadership material,” and not just by men.

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Spiritual but not religious: knowing the types, avoiding the traps

By Linda Mercadante, Ph.D.
Many religious people think—or hope—that all those who self-identify as “spiritual but not religious” (SBNR) are “seekers” looking for a spiritual home. And many non-religious people assume that SBNRs are routinely hostile to religion and probably have been hurt by it. In fact, after speaking with hundreds of SBNRs all across North America over a five-year period, I have found neither of these assumptions to be accurate or widely representative.

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The Press stands firm against the French Revolution and Napoleon

By Simon Eliot
With the French Revolution creating a wave of exiles the Press responded with a very uncharacteristic publication. This was a ‘Latin Testament of the Vulgate Translation’ for emigrant French clergy living in England after the Revolution. In 1796, the Learned (not the Bible) side of the Press issued Novum Testamentum Vulgatae Editionis: Juxta Exemplum Parisiis Editum apud Fratres Barbou.

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Martin Luther, music, and the Seven Liberal Arts

By The Very Revd Dr Andreas Loewe
It was the German reformer Martin Luther who famously said that ‘music was next to theology’. Why did Luther claim that music was ‘next’ to theology, and what did he mean? In the past, scholars have explained that music had a unique capacity to touch the human heart in a way that the spoken word, or other sounds may not do.

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Super Bowl ads and American civil religion

By Peter Gardella
The two most controversial, apparently contradictory Super Bowl ads—Bob Dylan’s protectionist, “American Import” Chrysler ad and Coca-Cola’s multilingual rendition of  “America the Beautiful”—show the breadth of American civil religion. As religion scholars have long observed, it belongs to the nature of religious language to self-destruct.

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