Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World


For the love of reason

As the political theorist Jane Bennett argues, the story is that there was once a time when God acted in human affairs and when social life, characterized by face-to-face relations, was richer; but this world then ‘gave way to forces of scientific and instrumental rationality, secularism, individualism, and the bureaucratic state – all of which, combined, disenchant the world’.

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No child left inside on the Holy Earth: Liberty Hyde Bailey and the spirituality of nature study

In the United States today there is a great push to get children outside. Children stay indoors more and have less contact with nature and less knowledge of animals and plants than ever before. When children do go outside, our litigious society gives them less freedom to explore. Educators and critics such as Richard Louv and David Sobel express a concern that without a real connection to the natural world, something vital will be lost in the next generation — and that the challenges of climate change may be unsolvable.

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Trick or treat – Episode 27 – The Oxford Comment

From baristas preparing pumpkin spiced lattes to grocery store aisles lined with bags of candy, the season has arrived for all things sweet-toothed and scary. Still, centuries after the holiday known as “Halloween” became cultural phenomenon, little is known to popular culture about its religious, artistic, and linguistic dimensions.

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Can we trust religious polls? [infographic]

Polls about religion have become regular features in modern media. They cast arguments about God and the Bible and about spirituality and participation in congregations very differently from the ones of preachers and prophets earlier in our nation’s history. They invite readers and viewers to assume that because a poll was done, it was done accurately.

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The Anglo-Saxons and the Jews

Anglo-Saxon England may seem like a solidly monochrome Christian society from a modern perspective. And in many respects it was. The only substantial religious minority in early medieval Western Europe, the Jews, was entirely absent from England before the Norman Conquest.

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Top ten facts about Buddhism

Damien Keown, author of Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction, tells us ten things we need to know about buddhism. From the Sangha to reincarnation, discover fascinating facts about Buddhism below.

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Beyond the ‘God Wars’

For many years – running into decades, even centuries – the idea of a fundamental opposition between believers and non-believers has anchored public discussion about religion. The metaphors are of battles: these are ‘God Wars’, with ‘zealous religionists’ mounting their defences against ‘militant atheists’.

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Separating Church and State

Since the 17th century Western thinkers have struggled with the problem of how to stop conflicts over religious differences. Not long ago, we mostly thought that the problem had been solved. Two rather different solutions served widely as paradigms, with many variations. One was the American Separation of Church and State, and the other French laïcité, usually if misleadingly translated as ‘secularism’.

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9780199890347 - A Storm of Witchcraft

Who was Giles Cory?

“Monday, Sept. 19, 1692. About noon, at Salem, Giles Cory was press’d to death for standing Mute; much pains was used with him two days, one after another, by the Court and Capt. Gardner of Nantucket who had been of his acquaintance: but all in vain.” Thus reads Judge Samuel Sewall’s terse account of one of the most gruesome incidents in early American history, one that continues to horrify yet fascinate. Who was Giles Cory? Why was he accused of witchcraft? And how did he come to such a horrible fate?

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How much do you know about pilgrimages?

Pilgrimage has been celebrated in literature from ‘The Canterbury Tales’> to Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Pilgrimage’. Test your knowledge of pilgrimages throughout history, across religions, and around the world.

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Lawrence+McCartney_Mathmeticians (2)

Yes, maths can be for the amateur too

A friend of mine picked an argument with me the other day about how people go on about the beauty of mathematics, but this is not only not obvious to non-mathematicians, it cannot be accessed by those outside the field. Unlike, for example, the modern art, which is also not always obvious, mathematical beauty is elusive to all but the mathematicians. Or so he said.

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Art across the early Abrahamic religions

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are considered kindred religions–holding ancestral heritages and monotheistic belief in common–but there are definitive distinctions between these “Abrahamic” peoples. The early exchanges of Jews, Christians, and Muslims were dominated by debates over the meanings of certain stories sacred to all three groups.

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Four myths about the status of women in the early church

There is a good deal of historical evidence for women’s leadership in the early church. But the references are often brief, and they’re scattered across centuries and locations. Two interpretations of the evidence have been common in the last forty years.

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Lawrence+McCartney_Mathmeticians (2)

Sects, witches, and wizards-from Pythagoreans to Kepler

To start a conversation based on mathematics may seem to some to be one of the tasks inevitably converging towards the plot-line of Mission Impossible. Well, certainly there are more pressing things that would occupy people’s minds, concerning international politics, the future of Europe, and the future of the Middle East. What’s new?

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