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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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10 representations of Psalm 137 throughout history [slideshow]

Psalm 137 is the only one out of the 150 biblical psalms set in a particular time and place. The vivid tableau sketched by the opening lines has lent itself to visual representations over the millennia. Each interpretation brings something different to the story and shows the cultures which this psalm has touched.

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AAR/SBL Annual Meeting survival guide

The American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting is quickly approaching, and we couldn’t be more excited. This year, we thought we’d provide a survival guide of sorts, the “do”s and “don’t”s, from our perspective, for a successful AAR/SBL. Have anything to add? Let us know in the comments.

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Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion

Archaic and postmodern, today’s pagans challenge ideas about ‘religion’

Several people chuckled when they walked past Room 513B during 2009 annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, held in Montréal. The title of the session within was simply “Idolatry,” held by the AAR’s Contemporary Pagan Studies Group Papers such as “Materiality and Spirituality Aren’t Opposites (Necessarily): Paganism and Objects” were presented. The nervous laughter at the session’s title shows that even among scholars of religion, topics of polytheism and idolatry seem quaint, antique, and even trivial.

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9780190616816

The Reformation: a conversation about death

After studying the Reformation for over four decades, I’ve found myself alongside many other historians in pulling down one great Protestant myth: all you needed to do was put a little finger on the structure of the medieval Western Church, and it would fall over and collapse. Not so: the old religion satisfied most people and satisfied consumer demand.

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Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion

11 things about women in Ancient Israel you probably didn’t know

In a book that is mostly written by men and about men, what is the role of women? Over 90% of the names in the Hebrew bible are men. Most of the main actors of the text are men, and the books were originally written by and for men. Finding out about women’s experiences is not easy, but scholars have been able to figure out a lot by carefully combing through the text.

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Why is the Bible so much like a horror movie?

What does the Hebrew Bible have in common with horror movies? This question is not as strange as it might seem. It only takes a few minutes with the biblical texts to begin to realize that the Bible is filled with all kinds of horror. There are strange figures dripping blood (Isa. 63) and mysterious objects that kill upon touch (2 Sam. 6:7).

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Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion

Are God and chance compatible?

It has long been the unquestioned assumption of many religious believers that the God who created the world also acts in it. Until recent scientific discoveries, few challenged the idea of how exactly God interacts with the world. With the introduction of Newtonian science and quantum theory, we now know much more about how the world works, and the mode of God’s action has become a serious question for believers.

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9780190499006

Is there a war on Christmas? [excerpt]

Is there a war on Christmas? Historian Gerry Bowler argues yes—and that it’s been going on for over 2000 years. The following excerpt from Christmas in the Crosshairs discusses recent incidences of Christmas-time political correctness in America, while highlighting examples of “Merry Christmas legislation.”

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9780199361885

Holy crap: toilet found in an Iron Age shrine in Lachish

In September, the Israel Antiquities Authority made a stunning announcement: at the ancient Judean city of Lachish, second only to Jerusalem in importance, archaeologists have uncovered a shrine in the city’s gate complex with two vandalized altars and a stone toilet in its holiest section. “Holy crap!” I said to a friend when I first read the news.

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9780198783381

The University: past, present, … and future?

By nearly all accounts, higher education has in recent years been lurching towards a period of creative destruction. Presumed job prospects and state budgetary battles pit the STEM disciplines against the humanities in much of our popular and political discourse. On many fronts, the future of the university, at least in its recognizable form as a veritable institution of knowledge, has been cast into doubt.

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9780190609405

Sex, Pope Francis, and empire

Pope Francis recently said in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, and on several occasions over the last year, that Western nations are exporting an idea that gender is a choice. Pope Francis asserts that this “gender ideology” is the enemy of the family. Here the pope disappoints many in America and Europe, who hoped that he might free Catholics from the heritage of homophobia and repression of women that has been protected and promoted for millennia by the Roman Catholic Church.

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9780199468249

The different faces of Taliban jihad in Pakistan

All simplistic hypothesis about “what drives terrorists” falter when there is suddenly in front of you human faces and complex life stories. The tragedy of contemporary policies designed to handle or rather crush movements who employ terrorist tactics, are prone to embrace a singular explanation of the terrorist motivation, disregarding the fact that people can be in the very same movement for various reasons.

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9780190611675

6 common misconceptions about Salafi Muslims in the West

Salafism, often referred to as ‘Wahhabism’, is widely regarded as a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam that fuels Jihadism and subjugates women. Some even lump ISIS and Salafism together—casting suspicion upon the thousands of Muslims who identify as Salafi in the West. After gaining unprecedented access to Salafi women’s groups in London, I discovered the realities behind the myths.

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9780198754671

Seeing in the dark: Catholic theology and Søren Kierkegaard

In a candid interview with Stephen Colbert, Vice President Joe Biden gave a moving testimony about his faith amid the pain of recently losing his son to brain cancer. In the past, both Colbert and Biden have been open about their Catholic faith, but in this moment both men found themselves reflecting upon how they have struggled with their faith after losing loved ones very close to them.

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9780198718383

The Catholic Church and the visions of Fátima

Outbursts of popular interest in apparitions and miracles often lead to new devotional movements which can be uncomfortable for the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, contrary to the belief that they encourage them. Visionaries represent alternative sources of authority within the Catholic community; they claim to have encountered supernatural figures and understood divine imperatives in a way that is commonly thought to transcend the theological expertise of the Church magisterium.

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