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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The music and traditions of Candlemas

Many of us argue about whether Twelfth Night is the evening of 5 or 6 January, anxious that it is considered unlucky to leave Christmas decorations hanging after this. In fact, a more ancient feast of the Church counts the forty days after Christmas as the whole season of Christmastide, ending with the celebration of Candlemas.

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Spiritual surgeries: a radical alternative medicine?

Why are so many people in the West, who have access to the best biomedicine, turning to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)? Naturopathy, homeopathy, Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, meditation, reiki, massage, yoga, all have experienced a surge in the twenty-first century.

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Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion

How much do you know about the prophets in the Old Testament?

The ancient prophets were said “to possess an intimate association with God” and spoke on behalf of God as divine messengers. Revealing his divine will as “mouthpieces,” the prophets did not claim to possess special powers in predicting the future, but rather simply relayed a message from the omnipotent, omniscient Being. Test your knowledge to see how much you know about the ancient prophets with this quiz.

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The year Bob Dylan was born again: a timeline

On November 17, 1978, while playing a gig in San Diego, an audience member apparently threw a small silver cross onto the stage, and [Bob] Dylan felt impelled to pick it up and put it into his pocket. The following night, in Tucson, Arizona, he was feeling even worse and reached into his pocket, pulled out the cross, and put it on.

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American Christians and the Trump vote: what’s law got to do with it?

The 2016 US election is over, and now begins the elaborate work of attempting to understand why Americans voted the way they did last year. Amid soul-searching about media bias, liberal smugness, and misleading data, many commentators have begun to set themselves to the task of making sense of the surprising proportion of American Christians who ultimately cast their ballots for a candidate such as Donald Trump.

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The Millennials’ God

The Millennial Generation— consisting of those individuals born between 1980 and 2000—is an oddity when it comes to religion. On the one hand, its members are leaving organized religion in unprecedented numbers. On the other hand, they are not exactly unbelievers.

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Marital love and mourning in John Winthrop’s Puritan society

Puritans did not observe birthdays as we do, but the occasion–John Winthrop’s twenty-ninth birthday–in January 1617 may well have been a time for greater reflection than normal. Winthrop was in mourning for his wife, Thomasine Clopton Winthrop, who had died on 8 December. Four hundred years later, it is appropriate to reflect on what Winthrop’s experience and his Thomasine’s protracted death tells us about love and

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Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion

Salafism and the religious significance of physical appearances

Because of a combination of these reasons, several European countries have adopted laws to partially ban facial veils in public. However, very little has been said about what the niqab or other forms of physical appearances among Salafis actually mean and what their religious origins are. Despite the fact that most Salafis not only refrain from engaging in such acts themselves but also actively condemn them, politicians from various Western countries have called for banning Salafi organisations or even Salafism altogether.

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The role of family values in the 2016 presidential election

I have recently returned from the national meeting of the American Academy of Religion where much was made of the effectiveness of Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” and, in particular, its skillful invocation of an imagined 1950s America. A time when many Americans believe that White (Christian) men modeled effective leadership qualities to build an “exceptional” nation founded in the Christian doctrine of “A City on a Hill”.

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A tragic necessity? The Reformation approaches 500

Pope Francis recently visited Lund, Sweden to acknowledge with Lutherans the religious significance of the coming year leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on 31 October 2017. This is the customary date given when Martin Luther placed his 95 Theses on the Castle Church door of Wittenberg, Saxony. A plethora of events across the globe are in the works to commemorate the epochal event.

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Curious Christmas celebrations around the world

Celebrated as both a sacred religious holiday, as well as a commercial phenomenon, Christmas has been observed, denounced, and defended for two thousand years by people all around the world. The long history of battles fought in the war on Christmas

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Christmas on the radio

Back in 1944 the Archbishop of York, Cyril Garbett, wrote in the Radio Times that “the wireless and the English tongue are means by which God’s message of love and peace can spread through the world”. We may find it difficult these days to construe the BBC’s output over Christmas as taking on such a missiological flavour, but certainly in its early days Lord Reith, saw religion as one of the four principal pillars.

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What does myth have to do with the Christmas story?

There are two contrary ways of characterizing myth. By far the more common way is negative: a myth is a false or delusory belief or story. Here the aim is to expose the myth and be done with it. To take an innocuous example, the story that young George Washington was so honest that he could not deny to his father that he, the son, had chopped down the cherry tree is a myth because it never occurred.

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Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion

9 fascinating facts about festivals in ancient Greece and Rome

The ways in which the ancient people chose to express themselves on these special calendar days is fascinating. In examining both its contrasts and similarities to today, studying ancient culture can be seen as the study of our own humanity. To demonstrate some of the unique aspects of culture in ancient Greece and Rome, we compiled a list of these 9 facts about some festivals in ancient Greece and Rome.

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Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion

Religion and the Second Redemption

A tense, volatile electoral season. Accusations of “voter fraud,” and real instances of thuggery on the campaign trail. Documented instances of real voter suppression due to newly instituted state policies attempting to restrict voting disproportionately by race. Real or implicit threats of violence against minority voters. Surging anti-immigrant and exclusionist sentiment, particularly against relative newcomers who practiced seemingly strange religions. Some might describe the recent electoral campaign that way, but I have in mind the election campaign of 1876.

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Preventing the next flight from Bethlehem

A part of the Christmas story tells how the Holy Family fled Bethlehem, warned in a dream of the vengeful plans of a mad monarch. In recent years, Christians have once again found cause to flee the town of his birth. The case study of Palestinian Christians is emblematic of the larger problems faced by Christian populations in the Middle East.

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