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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The life of Saint Patrick [part one]

Saint Patrick’s Day is a religious festival held on the traditional death date of Saint Patrick. Largely modernized and often viewed as a cultural celebration, Saint Patrick’s Day is recognized in more countries than any other national festival. To celebrate, we’ve pulled a two-part excerpt from Celtic Mythology: Tales of Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes, in which Philip Freeman tells the story of Saint Patrick. It is a tale of courage, survival, and deep faith. Remember to check back on 17 March for the second part of “The Life of Saint Patrick.”

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Can art save us from fundamentalism?

London, rain, and Rothko—each was foreign to the missionary encampment on the Navajo reservation where Jakob grew up, in the 1980s. Back then, he seized every opportunity to share the gospel with his Native American friends, even as they played endless games of cowboys and Indians in the deserts of Arizona:

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Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion

The civil rights movement, religion, and resistance

An excerpt exploring how the Civil Rights Movement might not have been successful without the spiritual empowerment that arose from the culture developed over two centuries of black American Christianity. In other words, religious impulses derived from black religious traditions made the movement move.

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Inequality and new forms of slavery

The issues of social justice, poverty, and all the forms of human trafficking, deployment, and oppression that can be grouped under the umbrella concept of “slavery” are problems that sorely affect the world today and urgently need concrete solutions.

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The problem with “liberalizing” Islam

Since the advent of the War on Terror, and perhaps now more than ever, calls for a liberal Islam and support for moderate Muslims echo loudly from both the left and right. They come from politicians, the public, as well as scholars.

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Iceland’s unruly terrain and hidden inhabitants

When people first learn about my travels to Iceland, the response I most often hear goes something like: “Iceland! That’s on my bucket list.” I understand. It’s hard to resist an arctic wonderland littered with flaming volcanoes and thundering waterfalls, where for months on end the sun barely sets on moss-crazed mountains and whale-infested waters. Maybe you’ve already been there.

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Is God on Facebook? [excerpt]

From the moment Jennifer sits down for our interview, I know I’m in for a treat. She’s a bright, bubbly senior at a conservative, southern, Christian university. A pretty redhead with freckles, she talks enthusiastically about all the things she loves about her studies, her experience at college (she’s made two “lifelong friends,” she immediately tells me), and how, during her four years here, she’s been “pushed in the best of ways.”

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Measuring belief?

Pop quiz: What do standing in a long line outside a temple on New Year’s Eve, kneeling alone in a giant cathedral, and gathering around with 10-15 friends in an apartment room all have in common? It’s kind of an unfair question but the answer is that each of these would qualify equally as a statistical instance of “having prayed” despite the glaringly different social context and relational ramifications of the action itself.

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Agatha Christie at mass

In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, Dame Agatha Christie, the renowned writer of detective fiction, added her name to a protest letter to Pope Paul VI. With over fifty other literary, musical, artistic, and political figures, Christie — who’d recently celebrated her eightieth birthday — expressed alarm at the proposed replacement of the old Mass rite, which used Latin and elaborate ritual, with a new rite in English with simpler ceremonial.

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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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