Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The feminist roots of modern witchcraft [excerpt]

Throughout modern history, witchcraft has been predominately practiced by women. Historically, women were considered more likely than men to partake in magic due to their inherent moral weakness and uncontrolled sexual nature. Unsurprisingly, as witchcraft spread throughout the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, it captured the interest of the growing feminist movement.

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Buddhist nationalists and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar part II: the rise of religious nationalism and Islamophobia

Since August over 420,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar, citing human rights abuses and seeking temporary refuge in Bangladesh. In part one we looked at the background and context of the Rohingya crisis. In this second part of Sarah Seniuk’s and Abby Kulisz’s interview with Michael Jerryson, they look at the role of Buddhist nationalism and the impact of Islamophobia in the developing crisis.

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Can marriage officers refuse to marry same-sex couples?

Freedom of religion and same-sex equality are not inherently incompatible. But sometimes they do seem to be on a collision course. This happens, for instance, when religiously devout marriage officers refuse to marry same-sex couples. In the wake of legal recognition of same-sex marriage around the world, states have grappled with civil servants who cannot reconcile their legal duties with their religious beliefs.

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Energy and contagion in Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life

Emile Durkheim was a foundational figure in the disciplines of sociology and anthropology, yet recapitulations of his work sometimes overlook his most intriguing ideas, ideas which continue to have contemporary resonance. Here, I am going to discuss two such ideas from Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (originally published in 1912 and then in English in 1915), his concept of energy and contagion.

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American personhood in the era of Trump

After the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia on 12 August, 2017, the people of the United States waited anxiously for a response from their president. Sure enough, the first response came that day, denunciatory but equivocal. He condemned the violence coming from “many sides,” a response many found dissatisfactory considering that it was not counterprotesters but the alt-right who were responsible.

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Why do so many people believe in miracles?

Belief in miracles is widespread. According to recent surveys 72% of people in the USA and 59% of people in the UK believe that miracles take place. Why do so many people believe in miracles in the present age of advanced science and technology? Let us briefly consider three possible answers to this question. The first possible answer is simply that miracles actually do take place all the time.

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Buddhist nationalists and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar part I: an introduction to the current crisis

Who are the Rohingya and what is exactly happening to them right now? Since August over 420,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar, citing human rights abuses and seeking refuge in Bangladesh. Sarah Seniuk and Abby Kulisz interview Michael Jerryson, a scholar who works on Buddhist-Muslim relations in Southeast Asia, in order to learn more about the background to this current crisis.

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Mapping Reformation Europe

Maps convey simple historical narratives very clearly–but how useful are simple stories about the past? Many history textbooks and studies of the Reformation include some sort of map that claims to depict Europe’s religious divisions in the sixteenth century.

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The death of secularism

Secularism is under threat. From Turkey to USA, India to Russia, parts of Europe and the Middle East, secularism is being attacked from all sides: from the left, from the right, by liberal multiculturalists and illiberal totalitarians, abused by racists and xenophobes as a stick with which to beat minorities in diverse societies, subverted by religious fundamentalists planning its destruction.

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Stoicism, Platonism, and the Jewishness of Early Christianity

The last few decades have taught us that speaking of Stoicism, Platonism, and Judaism as constituting a single context for understanding Early Christianity is not a contradiction (Stoicism and Platonism here; Judaism there), but rather entirely correct. The roots of Christianity are obviously Jewish, but in the Hellenistic and Roman periods Judaism itself was part of Greco-Roman culture.

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From Saviors to Scandal: Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker [timeline]

The history of American televangelism is incomplete without the Bakker family, hosts of the popular television show the PTL Club. From their humble beginnings to becoming leaders of a ministry empire that included their own satellite network, a theme park, and millions of adoring fans. Then they saw it all come falling down amidst a federal investigation into financial mishandling, charges of fraud, and a sex scandal with a church worker.

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1617: commemorating the Reformation [excerpt from 1517]

Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg is one of the most famous events in Western history – but did it actually happen on 31 October 1517? In this shortened excerpt Peter Marshall looks at the commemoration of the Reformation’s centenary in 1617 that further cemented the idea that Martin Luther posted his theses on the 31 October 1517 precisely.

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Q&A with editors Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler

“Jews are becoming increasingly familiar with the New Testament as a source of Jewish history.” Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler are the editors of the new second edition of The Jewish Annotated New Testament. We caught up with them to discuss and ask questions related to the editing process, biblical studies, and the status and importance of Jewish-Christian relations.

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Moses Mendelssohn’s Hebrew politics

How tolerant and diverse should a society be? Are there limits to the views that a society should accept? Can individuals from diverse backgrounds join together to contribute to the common good, and what happens when tensions arise between different groups? Given the events of 2016-2017, such questions stand at the forefront of American civic life. Questions relating to diversity and tolerance loomed large in Mendelssohn’s life.

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Taxing or exempting the church

Religious entities pay more taxes than many people believe. Moreover, churches and other religious organizations are treated quite diversely by different taxes and by different states. Sometimes churches and other religious entities are taxed in the same fashion as secular organizations and persons are.

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PTL and the history of American evangelicalism

Over the course of fourteen years, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker built their local TV broadcast into an empire, making them two of the most recognizable televangelists in the United States. But their empire quickly fell when revelations of a sex scandal and massive financial mismanagement came to light. In the following excerpt John Wigger demonstrates the power of religion on American culture by tracing the fall of the PTL.

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