Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World


The value of knowledge

Traditionally, the story that opens chapter three of Genesis is called The Fall. In the Christian tradition, both the name and the interpretation of the story associated with it were made canonical by Saint Augustine in the first decades of the fifth century AD, about fourteen hundred years after Genesis was written down.

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Will we ever need maths after school?

What is the purpose of mathematics? Or, as many a pupil would ask the teacher on a daily basis: “When are we going to need this?” There is a considerably ruder version of a question posed by Billy Connolly on the internet, but let’s not go there.

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Does ‘divine hiddenness’ belong to theists or to atheists?

Theistic literature is full of references and allusions to a self-concealing deity. The psalm writer whose poems are included in the Hebrew Bible regularly calls out, in alternating notes of perplexity, impatience and despair, to a God whose felt presence apparently seemed frustratingly inconstant. But he or she still assumes that God is there.

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Commemorating Sri Aurobindo’s anniversary, the birth of a nation, and a new world

The fifteenth of August commemorates Sri Aurobindo’s birthday, and the birth of independent India, a historical landmark where he played a significant role. Aurobindo, the founder of Purna, or Integral Yoga, is a renowned and controversial poet, educationist, and literary critic, a politician, sociologist, and mystic whose evolutionary worldview represents a breakthrough in history. Nevertheless, what is the relevance of Aurobindo nowadays?

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Faith and conflict in the 21st century

As another summer is overcast by reports of religious conflicts and atrocities around the world, I have been thinking about faith, and how the way we understand it affects our response to some of the global challenges we face.

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How much do you know about the history of myth? [quiz]

Myths have been applied to the arts and sciences for thousands of years and been used in seminal works by prominent figures such as Sigmund Freud, Claude Levi-Strauss, and Roland Barthes. How much do you know about the history of myth? Test your knowledge in the following quiz, based on Robert Segal’s Myth: A Very Short Introduction.

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OUP Philosophy Creast

Philosopher of the month: Lao Tzu

Lao (Laozi) Tzu is credited as the founder of Taoism, a Chinese philosophy and religion. An elusive figure, he was allegedly a learned yet reclusive official at the Zhōu court (1045–256 BC) – a lesser aristocrat of literary competence who worked as a copyist and archivist. Scholars have variously dated his life to between the third and sixth centuries BC, but he is best known as the author of the classic Tao Te Ching (‘The Book of the Way and its Power’).

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Selfies in black abayas

Today, when worlds collide with equal force and consequence as speeding cars on a California highway, can we imagine escaping the impact of even a single collision? Is the option of being miraculously air-lifted out of the interminable traffic log-jams available for us, even if we are spared physical injury? Just as avoiding California highways is an impossibility (given the systemic destruction of public transportation system), meeting head-on forces of neoliberal globalization with its unique technological, financial, and ideological structures is an inevitability.

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A different Pioneer Day

On 24 July 1847, Brigham Young, the Mormon prophet, entered the Salt Lake Valley with the first company of Latter-day Saint pioneers. They had endured an arduous trek across the American plains after having been forcibly driven from Nauvoo, Illinois. Entering the Salt Lake Valley, Latter-day Saints expressed both bitterness and joy.

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Five unexpected areas influenced by the Christian Reconstruction

Beginning in the early 1960s, a Calvinist scholar named Rousas John Rushdoony started a movement called “Christian Reconstruction.” Rushdoony sought to develop a “biblical worldview” in which every aspect of life is governed by biblical law from the Old and New Testaments. The movement has been influential in some very conservative corners of American Christianity, especially the religious right.

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Smuggling for Christ the King

Guns, ammunition, bootlegged liquor, illegal drugs, counterfeit cash—these are the most common objects that generations of smugglers have carried across the US-Mexico border. Historians of the borderlands, as well as residents of the area, know that government agents on both sides of the line have never been able to gain complete control over this type of trafficking, despite their best efforts. And so, from the late nineteenth century to the present day, the borderlands have been portrayed in popular culture as a site of sin and dissolution, contraband and illicit trade.

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Persecuted Christians in America

Are Christians persecuted in America? For most of us this seems like a preposterous question; a question that could only be asked by someone ginning up anger with ulterior motives. No doubt some leaders do intentionally foster this persecution narrative for their own purposes, and it’s easy to dismiss the rhetoric as hyperbole or demagoguery, yet there are conservative Christians all across the country who genuinely believe they experience such persecution.

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Love before logic: politics, persuasion, and the Puritans

Election Day is more than a year away, yet already the presidential campaigns have begun. Given previous contests, we should most likely expect a good deal of disingenuous diatribes and debates—some of it from the candidates, and even more of it from their supporters. In anticipation of the coming ugliness, it seems as good a time as any to learn something about civil disagreement and the possibilities of persuasion from an unlikely source: the Puritans.

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Contemporary Muslims and the challenge of modernity

In my 22 years of teaching and writing about Arabic and Islamic Studies, I have probably heard every kind of naive and uninformed comment that can possibly be made in the West about Islam and Muslims. Such remarks are not necessarily all due to ill will; most of the time, they express bewilderment and stem from an inability to find accessible, informed sources that might begin to address such widespread public incomprehension. Add that to the almost daily barrage of news and media commentary concerning violence in the Middle East and South Asia, two regions viscerally connected with Islam and Muslims.

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“Are there black Mormons?”

In the months leading up to the 2012 presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, a few media outlets reinforced the public perception that Mormons (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) were mostly white. Jimmy Kimmel asked on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, “Are there black Mormons? I find that hard to believe.”

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Insights into traditionalist Catholicism in Africa

Since the promulgation of the revised missal, popularly known as the Novus Ordo by Pope Paul VI, with the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanun in 1969, a growing call for either a return to the Tridentine Mass or recognition of the legitimate place of such a rite alongside the Novus Ordo has gained an international status.

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