Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Wounded religious sentiments and the law in India

We live in world suffused with offended religious sentiments: depictions of Muhammad in newspaper cartoons and hackneyed films spark violent global protests; courthouse officials in the US South refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses in defiance of the Supreme Court; and in India, authors threatened by thugs on the Hindu Right “die” publicly in order to avoid a less metaphorical demise.

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What do we talk about when we talk about ‘religion’?

Let us start at the Vatican in Rome. St. Peter’s Basilica has a strict dress code: no skirts above the knee, no shorts, no bare shoulders, and you must wear shoes. At the entrance there are signs picturing these instructions. To some visitors this comes somewhat as a surprise. Becky Haskin, age 44, from Fort Worth, Texas, said: “The information we got was that the dress code only applied when the pope was there.”

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Christmas in Nazi Germany

Christmas is the most widely celebrated festival in the world but in few countries is it valued as deeply as in Germany. The country has given the world a number of important elements of the season, including the Christmas tree, the Advent calendar and wreath, gingerbread cookies, and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, “Es ist ein Ros` entsprungen,” or “Vom Himmel Hoch.”

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The NHS and the Church of England

Politicians are more than anxious over negative public opinion on the National Health Service, falling over backwards to say that the NHS is “safe in our hands.” Meanwhile, the Church of England is concerned about losing “market-share,” especially over conducting funerals. One way of linking these two extremely large British institutions is in terms of life-style choices.

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Fascinating facts about man’s best friend

Dogs have historically performed many roles for humans, such as herding, protection, assisting police, companionship, and aiding the handicapped. The tale of “man’s best friend” is a lengthy and intimate history that has lasted for thousands of years, and transcends modern cultural boundaries. Canines appear as poignant characters with symbolic meaning in mythological stories, famous works of art, and religious texts.

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Dodgy dossiers in the Middle Ages

Government advisers don’t regularly admit to handling doctored evidence. The extent to which the actions of recent governments may have depended on documents which had been ‘sexed up’ have—quite rightly—become matters for close scrutiny in recent decades. But the modern world has no monopoly over the spurious, the doubtful, and the falsified.

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Why Christmas should matter to us whether we are ‘religious’ or not

There are many aspects of Christmas that, on reflection, make little sense. We are supposed to be secular-minded, rational and grown up in the way we apprehend the world around us. Richard Dawkins speaks for many when he draws a distinction between the ‘truth’ of scientific discourse and the ‘falsehoods’ perpetuated by religion which, as he tells us in The God Delusion, “teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding” (Dawkins 2006).

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The Devil’s best tunes

It’s been said that the Devil has all the best tunes. If this is true, he likes to keep a conspicuously low profile. While songs of praise for Jesus, God, Krishna, Buddha, the Virgin Mary, and a host of other deities, saints, and semi-deities abound, Satan is seldom properly hymned.

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Was Anton LaVey serenading Satan in his cover of “Answer Me”?

Anton Szandor LaVey was the most outspoken and most notorious apostle of Satan in the twentieth century. On his life before founding the Church of Satan in 1966, LaVey liked to spun wild tales, but he did actually work as a professional and semi-professional musician in the carnival circuit. The High Priest of Satan was fond of bombastic classic music in the Wagnerian mould and popular tunes from the thirties, forties, and fifties, the period in which he himself had been young.

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The purse and the sword

Jewish identity – the Israeli paradoxes

Is Judaism a religion and a culture or is it also a nationality? To this question the Zionist movement, which led to the establishment of the State of Israel, gave a clear positive answer. This approach has been adopted by Israel.

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Ethical change in the Catholic Church

In just a little more than three years as the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis appears to have disrupted what many thought was a straight and unchangeable course of moral teaching in the Catholic Church. Some of the more conservative members of the church are worried that the fundamentals of that teaching are being ignored, or worse, thrown overboard. Francis’s call for a ‘poorer’ church and a world that cares about the environment displays a significant turn in Catholic politics.

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The influence of premodern theories about sex and gender

Have you ever wondered why women are having such a hard time achieving equality with men in the church and the world? Or why intersex and transgender people are having such a hard time to be accepted as they are? Or why same-gender attraction still evokes visceral reactions among millions of straight people?

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Songs of exile: a playlist for Psalm 137

Psalm 137 begins with one of the more lyrical lines in the Hebrew Bible: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” It ends eight lines later with one of the thorniest: “Happy shall he be, who taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.” Partly because it deals with music—another famous verse asks, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”—the psalm has been like poetic catnip, a siren song luring musicians and composers.

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Blessings of Business

7 things you may not know about conservative Christian businesses

Corporations became places for evangelical activity and expression and businessmen—sometimes working individually, sometimes collaboratively—shaped what we think of today as conservative “Christian” culture and politics. Here are 7 facts you may not know about the culture and history of Christian business.

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