In 2021, our authors published new research, analysis, and insights into topics ranging from religious tolerance to taboo, atheist stereotypes to the appeal of religious politics, and much more. Read our top 10 blog posts of the year from the Press’ authors featured in our Religion Archive on the OUPblog:
1. Stereotypes of atheist scientists need to be dispelled before trust in science erodes
Coping with a global pandemic has laid bare the need for public trust in science. And there is good news and bad news when it comes to how likely the public is to trust science. Our work over the past ten years reveals that the public trusts science and that religious people seem to trust science as much as non-religious people. Yet, public trust in scientists as a people group is eroding in dangerous ways. And for certain groups who are particularly unlikely to trust scientists, the belief that all scientists are loud, anti-religious atheists is a part of their distrust.
Read the blog post from David R. Johnson and Elain Howard Eckllund, authors of Varieties of Atheism in Science.
2. Corona and the crown: monarchy, religion, and disease from Victoria to Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family have featured prominently in the British state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The expectation that the monarch should articulate a spiritual response to the threat of disease has deep roots. It took its modern form with Queen Victoria, whose reign decisively transformed the relationship between religion, the sovereign, sickness, and health.
Read the blog post from Michael Ledger-Lomas, author of Queen Victoria: This Thorny Crown.
3. Theodore Roosevelt’s religious tolerance
Theodore Roosevelt is everywhere. Most famously, his stone face stares out from South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore. One of the most important but least recognized aspects of Roosevelt’s life are his ecumenical convictions and his promotion of marginalized religious groups. Through Roosevelt’s influence, Jews, Mormons, Catholics, and Unitarians moved a little closer toward the American religious mainstream.
Read the blog post from Benjamin J. Wetzel, author of Theodore Roosevelt: Preaching from the Bully Pulpit.
4. The power of pigs: tension and taboo in Haifa, Israel
It might be an exaggeration to say a boar broke the internet. But when someone posted an image of wild boar sleeping on a mattress and surrounded by garbage from a recently-raided dumpster in Haifa, Israel in March, Twitter briefly erupted. In a recent article in The New York Times, Patrick Kingsley documented the uneasy relationship, not only between people and pigs, but also between the people who want the animals eliminated and those who welcome them. But Kingsley curiously omits an important detail: the drama over the fate of Haifa’s boar plays out against a backdrop of taboo and religious law.
Read the blog post from Max D. Price, author of Evolution of a Taboo: Pigs and People in the Ancient Near East.
5. A pre-9/11 action movie with a Muslim hero shows what could have been
In the fall of 1999, another action movie came and went, garnering disappointed reviews and a pittance in ticket sales. The 13th Warrior isn’t a great movie, nor is it even very good. But while the movie isn’t great, there’s no denying how cool it is, which is why viewers continue to revisit it. The Vikings are intimidating, the bad guys are scary, the hero rises to the occasion, and there are some intense action sequences, including a death-defying underwater escape from a cave. At its heart, it’s a story of people from different backgrounds learning to respect and value one other.
What has added to the film’s appeal over the years is its choice to center a devout Muslim in a macho American action movie.
6. Margaret Mead by the numbers
The life of anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978) spanned decades, continents, and academic conversations. Fellow anthropologist Clifford Geertz compared the task of summarizing her to “trying to inscribe the Bible—or perhaps the Odyssey—on the head of a pin.
Discover Margaret Mead’s life by the numbers in this list post from Elesha J. Coffman, author of Margaret Mead: A Twentieth-Century Faith.
7. Putting transphobia in a different biblical context
As right-wing and reactionary forces across the UK and USA increasingly incite panic about trans people and gender and sexual variation, so their arguments are relying on false assumptions about sexuality, especially in regards to history and religion.
In this new blog post, Joseph A. Marchal explains that these assumptions can be challenged simply by understanding that gender has never been fixed, both today and in the context of the ancient biblical texts that are frequently referred to by those who object to trans and queer people on supposed religious grounds.
8. The continuing appeal of religious politics in Northern Ireland
One of the most curious features of sudden-onset secularisation on the island of Ireland has been the revitalisation of religious politics. This is most obvious in Northern Ireland, where this past year, the chaotic introduction of the Brexit protocol, loyalist riots, and a controversy about banning so-called “gay conversion therapy” have been followed by dramatic declines in electoral support for and leadership changes within the largest unionist party that can only be described as chaotic.
Read the blog post from Crawford Gibben, author of The Rise and Fall of Christian Ireland.
9. Rehabilitating the sacred side of Arthur Sullivan, Britain’s most performed composer
November 2018 saw the release of the first ever professional recording of Arthur Sullivan’s oratorio, The Light of The World, based on Biblical texts and focused on the life and teaching of Jesus. The critical reaction to this work, which had been largely ignored and rarely performed for over 140 years, was extraordinary.
Learn more about Arthur Sullivan’s religious music in this blog post from Ian Bradley, author of Arthur Sullivan: A Life of Divine Emollient.
10. Can skepticism and curiosity get along? Benjamin Franklin shows they can coexist
No matter the contemporary crisis trending on Twitter, from climate change to the US Senate filibuster, people who follow the news have little trouble finding a congenial source of reporting. The writers who worry about polarization, folks like Ezra Klein and Michael Lind, commonly observe the high levels of tribalism that attends journalism and consumption of it. The feat of being skeptical of the other side’s position while turning the same doubts on your own team is apparently in short supply. The consequences of skepticism about disagreeable points of view for the virtues of intellectual curiosity are not good.
Find out what Benjamin Franklin’s relentless curiosity can teach us in this blog post from D. G. Hart, author of Benjamin Franklin: Cultural Protestant.