This article examines the strong correlation that currently exists between high levels of secularity in a given society positive societal well-being. By looking at the most and least theistic nations on earth, as well as the most and least theistic states in the United States, and by taking into consideration a wide array of indicators of societal well-being, the correlation is clear: the most secular societies on earth with the highest rates of non-belief fare much better, on average, than the most religious, strongly-believing societies. While understanding that correlation does not equal causation, this article still maintains that theism is clearly not the societal panacea many claim it to be, nor is atheism a source of societal degradation.
In addition to summarizing key concerns in Theravāda Buddhist Economics by scholars such as E. F. Schumacher and the Thai monk Payutto, this essay explores how descriptions of the West, Western development, and the “science” of economics serves in that literature to construct Occidentalist versions of Southeast Asian traditionalism and religious orthodoxy. It then introduces the previously unstudied work of Shérab Tendar, a prominent Tibetan Buddhist scholar in the contemporary People’s Republic of China who has written prodigiously on what he considers to be a scripturally based Mahāyāna and Tantric Buddhist Economics. Comparing these three influential iterations of Buddhist Economics, this essay argues that this movement has less to do with economics proper than with what I call trans-Buddhist “scales of value”: site-specific desires and measures of sought after outcomes that here privilege the economy and economic behavior as a technique for individual, social, and environmental well-being and emancipation.
Maxwell E. Johnson
To study the rites of Christian initiation in the early church is to encounter not one but several liturgical traditions in development. This article seeks to provide an introductory overview of the sources, issues, and problems encountered in the development and interpretation of the rites of Christian initiation within early Christianity. It proceeds in two parts: from the first century to the Council of Nicaea; and from the Council of Nicaea to Augustine of Hippo. Augustine of Hippo serves as a fitting conclusion to this focus since, as a result of his controversies with both Donatism and Pelagianism, a new article in Christian initiation begins and continues throughout the medieval and even Reformation periods of church history.
For more than half a century, Rousas John Rushdoony and his followers have articulated and disseminated what they understand to be a biblical worldview, based in aspects of traditional reformed theology and both the Old and New Testaments. This worldview seeks to apply biblical law to every aspect of life and to transform every aspect of culture to establish the Kingdom of God. While some components of their vision are so extreme that Christian Reconstructionists are often dismissed as an irrelevant fringe group, other aspects of their vision have taken root in conservative American Protestantism, especially in the Christian homeschool movement, and therefor influenced American conservatism more broadly. This essay outlines that worldview and points to some of those areas of influence.
This chapter covers the question of organized religions in the complex global modernity. It explores a range of interactions between the rise of cities as key global spaces for economic, political, and cultural conditions, and the rise of religion as a major force in setting where it was not quite so in the twentieth century, which saw the rise of the secularizing state. The chapter develops the urbanizing of war, as it feeds a particularly acute and violent bridging of cities with religious conflicts, and then takes two specific instances of asymmetric war, one in Mumbai and one in Gaza, to investigate the variable and contradictory elements in this bridging. Religion has emerged as one key organizing and legitimating passion, even as it is often not the cause. The Mumbai attacks had succeeded in drawing a conventional inter-state conflict into the specifics and momentary event that was that attack. Gaza displays the limits of power and the limits of war. The chapter makes visible the territorial conflict driving some of the current religious conflict, even as both sides make use of this long history to justify their actions.
Patrick S. Cheng
This chapter provides an overview of what Christian theologians need to know about queer theory, which is a critical approach to sexuality and gender that challenges the ‘naturalness’ of identities. Based upon developments in queer theory since the early 1990s, the chapter proposes the following four marks of queer theory: (1) identity without essence; (2) transgression; (3) resisting binaries; and (4) social construction. The chapter then discusses four strands of queer theology that correspond with each of the four marks of queer theory. The chapter concludes by suggesting six issues for future queer theological reflection: (1) queer of colour critique; (2) queer post-colonial theory; (3) queer psychoanalytical discourse; (4) queer temporality; (5) queer disability studies; and (6) queer interfaith dialogue.
Sociologists are concerned with the way human behaviour is patterned. They look for plausible explanations of phenomena that strike them as important due to their objective prevalence in social life. This chapter outlines the social scientific tools for studying religion, gender, and sexuality. Drawing on a range of examples from sociology of religion it explores the significance of individuals’ dispositions on the one hand and opportunities they encounter in their everyday lives on the other. The overall argument emphasizes the need for more collaboration between social scientists and theologians, or religious studies scholars. It suggests that secular sociologists would do well to consider the possibility of change in gender relations within religious contexts, and religious scholars could learn from the sociological method of inquiry to understand better the structurally determined mechanisms which make the symbolic gender order so resistant to change.
Sergio Della Pergola
The scientific study of the Jewish population, also known as demography of the Jews or Jewish demography, does not actually claim the status of a distinct discipline. It is an area of specialization focusing on the changing size and composition of Jewish populations and on the determinants and consequences of such changes. This article outlines some of the main concepts, interpretative frameworks, and methodological issues in the field, followed by a short outline of substantive patterns and applied uses of available knowledge. The main scientific rationale for the study of Jewish populations rests with the growing interest in understanding the demography of religious, ethnic, and cultural groups and minorities. Demographic changes provide an important and occasionally indispensable background for an appraisal of Jewish history and cultural experience. Hence, the study of Jewish demography is organically tied to the development of Jewish studies.
Harvey Whitehouse and Brian McQuinn
This chapter investigates one of the most powerful mechanisms by which groups may be formed, inspired, and coordinated—ritual—which may be defined as normative behavior with an irretrievably opaque causal structure. The divergent modes of religiosity (DMR) theory is applied to armed groups engaged in civil conflicts, some of which explicitly incorporate “religious” traditions while others vehemently repudiate supernatural beliefs of any kind. It is argued that the DMR theory can be extended to explain recurrent features of ritual traditions which lack many or all beliefs typically marked “religious.” Unlike many religions, rebel groups tend to display the predictions of only one mode, although this may be an effect of small sample size. It is believed that the DMR theory can possibly clarify broad patterns in intergroup violence and the dynamics of contemporary civil wars.
Harvey E. Goldberg
The social-scientific study of Judaism is a modern phenomenon just as are the social sciences themselves. Several themes run through various efforts to study Jews and Judaism in social-scientific terms. First is the need to understand the socio-political and ideological backgrounds to making Jews the object of scientific study. Another question is whether the impetus to a study of the Jews comes from a particular interest in their situation and development. Related to both of these issues is the question whether those undertaking the research are Jews or Gentiles. Another significant dividing line is the sociology of modern communities in the diaspora in contrast to the sociology of Israeli society that took shape at the time the state was established. A related topic that is worth tracing is the degree to which historians or other scholars of Jews and Judaism have adopted social-scientific modes of thought into their writings.
Allan D. Fitzgerald, OSA
The study of penance in the early church can be challenging because of the variety of opinions among scholars; it can also be difficult because of the apparent diversity in penitential practices among the Christian communities in the first 600 years. Studies of penance have often described it in terms of its severity, rigour, or laxity. Hence, the terminology for this period should stay as close to the texts of that time as possible, so as to allow frameworks and descriptions to be the result of careful study. Some interpretations of the history of penance have presumed an individualistic appreciation of the penitential experience. Liturgy, however, was a significant dimension of the earliest Christian experience, and the communitarian and liturgical contexts for Christian penance need to be given greater importance than they have yet received.
Early Christian pilgrimage involved a journey to a place in order to gain access to sacred power, whether manifested in living persons, demarcated spaces, or specific objects. Movement towards the sacred site, as well as ritualized movements once at the destination, shaped pilgrimage. Places associated with the Bible drew large numbers of pilgrims from throughout the Empire. Yet, local martyrs' shrines and pilgrimage centres with international appeal drew visitors to Italy, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt. Travel to sacred centres was common in Mediterranean religions. The Jewish pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles drew large crowds to Jerusalem until the Temple's destruction in 70
Lorne L. Dawson
Millennial movements are almost always focused on prophecies predicting future events. This article deals with the issue of prophetic failures and their ramifications. The social standing of the movement determines the response to such an eventuality. Factors such as degree of internal socialization, mutual synergy, swift response of the leadership, are some that determine the internal response to a failure. The degree of conviction is instrumental in the survival of the group, which otherwise could be so conformist so as to refute the prospects of a failure altogether. Specificity of the belief allows for unequivocal refutation. The degree of attrition often corroborates to that of the group's social exposure. Post-refute, the strategy is one of “rationalization” and “reaffirmation” to the end that the failure be projected as a victory.
Heinz Streib and Constantin Klein
An enormous change in the semantic field of religion has occurred, by which ‘spirituality’ has emerged as a serious competitor for ‘religion.’ This chapter presents selected results of a recently completed research project about the semantics and psychology of spirituality. Regarding the semantics of spirituality, this research has identified ten components of ‘spirituality’ that characterize a variety of rather contradictory meanings: While ‘spirituality’ can be associated with a theistic worldview for some, it is associated with a non-theistic worldview by others; some understand ‘spirituality’ as lived religion, while others associate it with opposition to religion. The chapter concludes with a discussion of whether spirituality should be a concept in the scientific study of religion. While spirituality should not be established as a scientific concept (to compete with or replace ‘religion’), spirituality as self-attribution of the people on the street needs to be studied.
John R. Hall
This chapter investigates the circumstances of violence in a way that identifies alternative “domains” in which religious concatenations of violence arise. Despite the fluidity of empirical trajectories and theoretical transitions among analytic types, diverse situations are not so idiosyncratically historicist as to prevent theorization of alternative patterns. Religious communities “contained” by a state may raise countercultural ideologies. The structural circumstances of violence have been modified by apocalyptic war. In social processes, the link of religion to political power differentiates a variety of hegemonic and counterhegemonic conditions in which religion and violence become concatenated. Theorizing relationships between religion and violence should not be an exercise in differentiating “ideal” and “material” causes but rather an effort to understand their complex interplay in social processes.
Mark Juergensmeyer and Mona Kanwal Sheikh
This chapter tries to illustrate that there has been a “sociotheological turn” in contemporary scholarship which encourages social scientists to take stock of the religious justifications for social action, and theologians and scholars of religious studies to be more aware of the social significance of spiritual ideas and practices. Sociotheology takes religious thinking and social context seriously. The approximation of the fields of psychology and theology and sociology as poles in the same discursive dynamics contributes to eroding a stonewall dichotomy between theology and the social sciences. Guidelines for sociotheological studies include demarcating an epistemic worldview, bracketing assumptions about the truth of a worldview, entering into an epistemic worldview, conducting informative conversations, identifying narrative structures, and locating social contexts. The revival of religion in world politics and the rising value of transnational religious movements have offered an analytic dispute that sociotheology has risen to meet.
This chapter examines the continuities, development, and diversity found among evangelical Christians as they explore different patterns of evangelical response to new and challenging questions relating to sexuality and gender. Evangelicals have generally accepted contraception although there has been some recent opposition. Understandings and responses to divorce and remarriage vary from prohibition to generous accommodation with general acceptance of diverse genuinely evangelical views. Issues of gender and women in church leadership have, however, caused tensions and divisions between more restrictive ‘headship’ views and more egalitarian understandings, raising issues related to biblical inspiration and authority as well as hermeneutics. In contrast to diversity in these areas, most evangelicals remain committed to a sexual ethic focused on marriage and abstinence for the unmarried, and thus opposed to any approval of homosexual partnerships. Although some evangelicals are questioning this, most see change here as unbiblical and going beyond evangelicalism.
Sexuality is a domain of experience that has been variously described as embodied, deeply personal, intimate, ecstatic, and even sacred. Yet, precisely because of some of these qualities and the emotions associated with them, it is also a domain that entails not only pleasure but also the possibility of violation, even terror. It is a ground on which wars are fought (including intrapsychic, familial, social, political, and military). This chapter explores multiple aspects and causes of sexual violence, in particular interrogating the saying from the rape crisis movement: ‘Rape is about power, not sex’. Additional statements will be proposed, including ‘Rape is about power, and sex’; ‘Rape is about power, using sex’; and ‘Rape is about power, gender, and race’. The chapter concludes with an ethic of sexual justice that addresses the ethics of sexuality and of power, drawing on a Trinitarian theology that emphasizes relationality and abundant life.
Thomas Knieps-Port le Roi
The chapter provides an overview of recent developments in the theology and ethics of marriage. It places the debates first in a sociocultural context of deinstitutionalization and individualization which has rendered marriage more optional and more fragile, but not weakened its symbolic meaning. It is then shown how the Christian churches have responded to the challenges of late modern society, in particular the Roman Catholic Church with its new emphasis on conjugal love at the Second Vatican Council. Three main strands have marked the theological and ethical discourse subsequently: a revisionist position which defends the subjective and interpersonal aspects of marriage, a traditionalist position which insists on a divine plan for marriage and a corresponding theology of the body, and the approach of a new generation of scholars who accuse the traditionalists of an abstract and idealistic description of the spousal relationship and criticize the revisionists for their narrow focus on private interiority. In a third and final section three major trends are explored and perspectives developed: first, possible arguments for commending marriage over alternative forms of living together are assessed; second, it is argued how heterosexual marriage can still be proclaimed as the ethical norm without discriminating against deviant forms of sexual expression; third, the tension between interpersonal and institutional approaches to marriage is explored and the search for a balance between both poles suggested as a future challenge for the theology of marriage.