Religion

The Talmud and Rabbi Akiva

Barry W. Holtz— What does it mean to live in a culture that is rooted in a foundational document, a document from an earlier time written in a language that is both archaic and at times obscure? Americans have grappled with this question for over two centuries and the prospect

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A Time for Russian-U.S. Repentance

Johh P. Burgess— Tens of thousands of people gathered in Orthodox churches throughout Russia on Sunday, February 26th. In the church that I attended, the priest spoke of a God who invites humans to confess their sins and make a new start. As dozens of flickering candles cast gentle shadows

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The Gift Economy of the Earliest Christians

Thomas R. Blanton IV— The apostle Paul, a Jewish preacher of the “good news” of Jesus of Nazareth, promoted a “spiritual economy” within the small groups of the early Christian movement in the middle of the first century CE. Although at first blush the phrase “spiritual economy” might appear to be

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Translating a Sixteenth-Century Sufi Advice Book

Adam Sabra— Most of what Western readers know about Islamic political thought pertains to institutions such as the caliphate and sultanate or to the role of Islamic law in the construction of an Islamic society and polity. But if we examine texts that are older than our daily newspapers, we

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Buddhism for a Secular Age

Stephen Batchelor— Our current use of the terms “religious” and “secular” are determined by the senses they have acquired in modernity. Since they have no equivalents in any of the classical Buddhist languages, we must use them with caution when talking of premodern Buddhism. The same is true of the

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Material Theology and Christian Religion

Terry Eagleton— One of the greatest of all Christian theologians turns out to be in some respects a full-blooded materialist. This is not entirely surprising, since Christianity itself is in some sense a materialist creed. The doctrine of the Incarnation means that God is an animal. He is present in the

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The View from the Postcolonial Caucasus

Rebecca Gould— High in the mountains running along the border between Azerbaijan and Georgia, in the garrison town of Zaqatala, former outpost of the famed Imam Shamil who in the mid-nineteenth century led the longest resistance to Russian rule, I meet an elderly woman crossing the street. “Come inside and

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Religion and the State in China

Chloë Starr— Religion in China is closely managed by legislation. Unlike the U.S., where church and state are technically separate, the Chinese state governs religion just as it governs other areas of life. So when new legislation on religion comes out, everyone gets a little nervous. (“Everyone” means those in

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From Sinophobia to Sinophilia

Albert Wu— Consider the following stereoscopic photograph, taken by the famous travel photographer James Ricalton in 1900 and published by the popular distributor Underwood and Underwood in a box set called China Through the Stereoscope. On first glance, the photograph appears to be a typical example of orientalist travel photography

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The Success Gospel of Norman Vincent Peale and Donald Trump

Christopher Lane— “Trust God, have faith, stick it out.” In the depths of the Great Depression, following years of worry and instability, these words by Norman Vincent Peale were a balm to millions of Americans. They offered hope and encouragement, paired belief in oneself with a sunnier future for all,

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