What is African American religion? Scholars have written a lot about the difficulties in the study of religion generally. Those difficulties become even messier when we use the words black or African American to describe religion. The adjectives bear the burden of a difficult history that colors the way religion is practiced and understood in the United States. They register the horror of slavery and the terror of Jim Crow as well as the richly textured experiences of a captured people, for whom sorrow stands alongside joy.
My uncle used to believe in God. But that was before he served in Iraq. Now he’s an atheist. How could a God of perfect power and perfect love allow the innocent to suffer and the wicked to flourish? Philosophers call this the problem of evil. It’s the problem of trying to reconcile two things that at first glance seem incompatible: God and evil. If the world were really governed by a being like God, shouldn’t we expect the world to be a whole lot better off than it is?
The fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council fell two years ago in October 2012. In December next year it will be the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Council. There is bound to be much discussion in the coming months of the meaning and significance of the Council, its failures, its successes, its misinterpretations, its distortion and exaggerations, its key seminal texts, its future developments.
Although basilisks, griffins, and phoenixes summon ideas of myth and lore, they are three of several fantastic beings displayed in a Christian context. From the anti-Christian Roman emperor Diocletian to the legendary Knights of the Templar, a variety of unexpected subjects, movements, themes, and artists emerge in the history of Christian art and architecture.
Wilderness backpacking is full of surprises. Out in the wilds, the margin between relentless desire and abject terror is sometimes very thin. One night last fall, I lay in a hammock listening to water tumbling over rocks in the Castor River in southern Missouri. I’d camped at a point where the creek plunges through a boulder field of pink rhyolite. These granite rocks are the hardened magma of volcanic explosions a billion and a half years old…
Recently, a journalist asked me how I convinced the Poor Clare Colettine nuns, back in 2005, to let me write a book about their lives, and how I convinced them to help me in that endeavor. I explained that was not my approach. I asked the Mother Abbess if I could undertake a long-term project about their lives; I said that although I did not know the outcome, I would keep the community apprised.
In Rublev’s icon of the Trinity, all three figures have blue in their clothing: a bright azure blue which stands out from the predominant warm golden yellows. Commentaries on the icon refer to this as the blue of the sky, representing divinity.
Britain and the United States have been suffering from intervention fatigue. The reason is obvious: our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven far more costly and their results far more mixed and uncertain than we had hoped. This fatigue manifested itself in almost exactly a year ago, when Britain’s Parliament refused to let the Government offer military support to the U.S. and France in threatening punitive strikes against Syria’s Assad regime for its use of chemical weapons.
At first glance atheism and feminism are two sides of the same coin. After all, the most passionate criticism of patriarchy has come from religious (or formerly religious) female scholars. First-hand experience of male domination in such contexts has led many to translate their views into direct political activism. As a result, the fight for women’s rights has often been inseparable from the critique of organised religion.
It is a well known fact that the Christian church has, in the course of its 2,000-year long history, often been torn with controversy over how to understand those four simple words, ‘This is my body.’ The Orthodox have never been entirely comfortable with the label ‘transubstantiation.
To understand China, it is essential to understand Confucianism. There are many teachings of Confucianist tradition, but before we can truly understand them, it is important to look at the vision Confucius himself had. In this excerpt below from Confucianism: A Very Short Introduction, Daniel K. Gardner discusses the future the teacher behind the ideas imagined.
We all know that asking questions is important. Asking the right questions is at the heart of most intellectual activity. Questions must be encouraged. We all know this. But are there any questions which may not be asked? Questions which should not be asked?
A set of related satirical poems, probably written in the early thirteenth century, described an imaginary church council of English priests reacting to the news that they must henceforth be celibate. In this fictional universe the council erupted in outrage as priest after priest stood to denounce the new papal policy. Not surprisingly, the protests of many focused on sex, with one speaker, for instance, indignantly protesting that virile English clerics should be able to sleep with women, not livestock. However, other protests were focused on family.
Over the summer of 1582 a group of English Catholic gentlemen met to hammer out their plans for a colony in North America — not Roanoke Island, Sir Walter Raleigh’s settlement of 1585, but Norumbega in present-day New England. The scheme was promoted by two knights of the realm, Sir George Peckham and Sir Thomas Gerard, and it attracted several wealthy backers, including a gentleman from the midlands called Sir William Catesby.
Everyone knows about Saint Patrick — the man who drove the snakes out of Ireland, defeated fierce Druids in contests of magic, and used the shamrock to explain the Christian Trinity to the pagan Irish.
Being a generous person and donating a part of one’s income is something many people—and many religions—believe is important. In their Science of Generosity Survey, Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson took a closer look at this practice, particularly concerning Americans, to find not only how much of their income they donated, but how much they said they donated, as illustrated in this infographic.