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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Defending God in Sixteenth-Century India

Beyond polemics: debating God in early modern India

The early modern period in India (roughly from 1550 to 1750) has been increasingly understood as a time of heightened religious self-awareness—the fertile soil from which Hinduism emerged as a unified world religion. Yet it was also a tumultuous period of intense rivalry across scholarly and religious communities.

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Women and Gender in the Qur'an

The Qur’an on Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the Nativity

A mention of the infant Jesus’s birth would likely not, for most Muslims, conjure up manger scenes, a shining star, or visits from shepherds. Instead, a more likely image would be of Mary alone and in labor at the foot of a palm. Rather than a swaddled infant resting in the hay among manger animals, the Qur’an describes mother and child resting next to a spring.

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Scientism, the coronavirus, and the death of the humanities

The cause of the humanities’ current crisis is far older than critics of postmodern relativism allow—and more baked into the heart of the modern American university. In fact, one must look back to very creation of the American universities in the late nineteenth century to see why their triumph precipitated the marginalization of the modern humanities. The scientizing of our higher education amounts to the root of the problem, and without a deep-seated revolt against this process, the humanities will continue to wither.

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Eastern Medieval Architecture

The reconversion of Hagia Sophia in perspective

At the beginning of January 1921, a special service was held in the cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, with Orthodox and Episcopal clergy offering prayers in six languages—Hungarian, Greek, Arabic, Russian, Serbian, and English—for the restoration of Hagia Sophia as a Christian sanctuary. As reported in the New York Times, the […]

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Gottfried Leibniz: the last universal genius

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German seventeenth-century philosopher, an incredible logician, and one of the most important contributors to the philosophy of metaphysics, philosophical theology, mathematics, and ethics. His metaphysical career spanned over thirty years, and he was an inspiration to other contemporary philosophers from the Enlightenment period. Born in 1646 in Leipzig, Germany, Leibniz’s […]

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What face masks and sex scandals have in common

While Donald Trump’s legacy will be marked by many things, we can add to the list his resistance to wearing a face mask in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which up until recently he had not done in public. The overt reason for his hesitancy to follow this mainstream medical advice is that Trump […]

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How Buddhist monasteries were brought back from destruction

In Beijing in 1900, as the chaos of the Boxer Uprising raged on, a Buddhist monk arrived at Dafo Monastery, seeking master Datong to make him an offer. The visitor was abbot of Cihui Monastery and wanted to offer Cihui Monastery to Datong. Datong agreed, and he arrived at his new monastery to find it […]

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How ancient Christians responded to pandemics

Ancient Christians knew epidemics all too well. They lived in a world with constant contagion, no vaccines, medieval medical practices, and no understanding of basic microbiology. Hygiene was horrendous, sanitation sickening. People shared “toilette paper”(a sponge-on-a-stick). Besides that, in the second and the third centuries CE, two pandemics rocked the Roman World. The first, the […]

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Inspirational TV shows to watch during this pandemic

There are many ways people are passing time with staying home during the pandemic. Some are taking up new hobbies. Some are exploring virtual museums. Some may even be preparing for a neighborhood sing-along out their windows. But many people are turning to television to provide entertainment, comfort, and/or escape. Since the late 1990s, as […]

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How religious sects can be a force for good

On Sunday, 29 March, Russell M. Nelson, president of the 16-million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, released a video from Salt Lake City calling on church members everywhere to join in a fast “to pray for relief from the physical, emotional, and economic effects of this global pandemic.” Some 71 years before, on […]

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Why an Irish Buddhist resisted empire in Burma

On 2 March 1901, during the full moon festival at Rangoon’s Shwedagon pagoda, the Buddhist monk U Dhammaloka confronted an off-duty colonial policeman and ordered him to take off his shoes. Burmese pagodas are stupas, containing relics of the Buddha, so wearing shoes on them (as white colonials did) was a serious mark of disrespect. […]

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How religion affects global pandemics

People sometimes see religion as an unwelcome infection affecting the secular politics of international relations. Such attitudes easily present themselves in consideration of terrorism and violence. Religion is seen to distort and hamper the healthy peaceful progress of secular politics, operating as an outside pathogen that inflames tensions and challenges already present in global affairs. Religion […]

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How Roman skeptics shaped debates about God

More than a third of all millennials now consider themselves atheist, agnostic or “religiously unaffiliated.” But this doesn’t mean that they have all given up on spiritual life.  Some 28% of the unaffiliated attend religious services at least once or twice a month or a few times a year (and 4% go weekly). 20% of them […]

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