Religion

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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Theories of Liberation

Michael Walzer— National liberation is an ambitious and also, from the beginning, an ambiguous project. The nation has to be liberated not only from external oppressors—in a way, that’s the easy part—but also from the internal effects of external oppression. Albert Memmi, the Tunisian Jew who wrote perceptively about the

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Bound Together by Law

Jessica M. Marglin— Terrorism; attacks on a kosher supermarket in Paris; fights over who can pray on the Temple Mount, known in Arabic as the Haram al-Sharif. When we juxtapose Jews and Muslims today, these are the sorts of associations that usually come to mind. The conflict in Israel/Palestine, and

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The Artful Religion of William Blake

Leo Damrosch— Religion was profoundly important to Blake, in a questing and questioning way that is thought-provoking even for readers and viewers who are not religious at all. One of his first experiments in relief etching was a little pamphlet entitled All Religions Are One, which asserts that however much

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