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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The “Greater West” and sympathetic suffering

At its root, Islam is as much a Western religion as are Judaism and Christianity, having emerged from the same geographic and cultural milieu as its predecessors. For centuries we lived at a more or less comfortable distance from one another. Post-colonialism and economic globalization, and the strategic concerns that attended them, have drawn us into an ever-tighter web of inter-relations.

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Is there an evolutionary advantage to religion?

Few can deny the sheer significance of religious belief to human society, a topic of study that has provided much insight into how we lived previously, how we live today, and how we will live in the future. However, for what purpose, exactly, did religion originate?

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The origins of the Religious Right: a Q & A with Neil Young

Neil J. Young traces the interactions among evangelicals, Catholics, and Mormons from the 1950s to the present day to recast the story of the emergence of the Religious Right. We sat down with him to find out a bit more about his process researching the book, what role Mormons have in the rise of the Religious Right, and what the Religious Right’s relationship with Ronald Reagan was.

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An educated fury: faith and doubt

Novelists are used to their characters getting away from them. Tolstoy once complained that Katyusha Maslova was “dictating” her actions to him as he wrestled with the plot of his last novel, Resurrection. There was a story that after reading Mikhail Sholokhov’s And Quiet Flows the Don, Stalin praised the work but advised the author to “convince” the main character, Melekhov, to stop loafing about and start serving in the Red Army.

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How conservative are married priests?

Following the Episcopal Church’s 1976 decision to ordain women, Catholic leaders in America and Rome were approached by Episcopal clergy who opposed the decision and sought conversion as a result.

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The legacy of the New Atheism

The ten-year anniversary of the publication of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion is approaching, and it has already been over ten years since Sam Harris published The End of Faith. These two figures, along with the late Christopher Hitchens, are the most important in the anti-religious movement known as the New Atheism.

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Key events and writings in contemporary Mormon feminism

Mormon feminism may seem to some a recent phenomenon, but events and writings in the history of Mormon feminism date back to the early 1970s. Here we have compiled these key moments in when Mormon women have engaged with question about gender in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a timeline of the pre-history and history of the Mormon feminist movement.

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How much do you know about Mormon feminists?

No issue in Mormonism has made more headlines than the faith’s distinctive approach to sex and gender. From its polygamous nineteenth-century past to its twentieth-century stand against the Equal Rights Amendment and its twenty-first-century fight against same-sex marriage, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has consistently positioned itself on the frontlines of battles over gender-related identities, roles, and rights.

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The future of married priests

“Western clerical celibacy is in an unprecedented crisis,” says the conservative Catholic canon lawyer Edward Peters. The reason? Since the 1960s, the Catholic Church has permitted married men to be ordained as deacons, an order of clergy just below that of priests; and in the past 35 years about 100 married converts, all former Episcopal priests, have been ordained to the Catholic priesthood.”

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Pressing Giles Cory

Giles Cory has the dubious distinction of being the only person in American history to be pressed to death by a court of law. It is one of the episodes in the Salem witch trials that has captured the American imagination.

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An ‘in-spite-of’ joy

The Armenian genocide and the Holocaust took place decades ago, but the novelist William Faulkner was right when he said that “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.” It had been hoped that “Never again!” might be more than a slogan, but in April 1994, the Rwandan genocide began and was soon in full cry.

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In defense of myth

I approach myth from the standpoint of theories of myth, or generalizations about the origin, the function, and the subject matter of myth. There are hundreds of theories. They hail from anthropology, sociology, psychology, politics, literature, philosophy, and religious studies.

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Arabia: ancient history for troubled times

In antiquity, ‘Arabia’ covered a vast area, running from Yemen and Oman to the deserts of Syria and Iraq. Today, much of this region is gripped in political and religious turmoil that shows no signs of abating.

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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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