The modern concept of the Abrahamic religions has roots in Christian theology, the academic study of the Near East, and the study of Islam. In the nineteenth century, Protestant theologians built on the idea of the ‘Abrahamic covenant’ in developing the idea of a spiritual connection among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. At the same time, students of the Near East understood the three religious traditions as sharing a common genealogical bond. Such recognition was enhanced by Islam’s own sense of the religion of Abraham, which was communicated to a broader public by western Islamicists. Although the concept of the Abrahamic religions does not preclude the privileging of one religion over the others, it has provided both scholars and laypeople with a useful way of exploring the common ground of the three faiths.
This chapter is a critical literature review of recent social science research describing and analyzing the participation of Christian churches in various phases of the human rights movement in Latin America. Spanning the period from 1964 to the present, such human rights activism took place in the contexts of authoritarian rule, civil war, democratic transitions, and the consolidation of democracy. The chapter focuses on the influence of Christian church leaders, laity, organizations, and resources on the origins, growth, and maturation of human rights-oriented social movement organizations (SMOs). Drawing on Douglas McAdam, Sidney Tarrow, and Charles Tilly’s work on political process theory, this literature emphasizes the invaluable role of religious organizations in providing space, resources, protection, and framing to nascent human rights movements in the region during the 1960s-70s. Even so, the literature also grapples with the diverse range of political stances taken by Christian church leaders and activists, both within and across national-level cases. With the maturation of the movement and the transition to democracy, political process theory remained relevant, but failed to capture some of the key challenges and opportunities experienced by Christian activists, as opposed to social activists in general. Thus, scholarship shifted focus to organized religion’s capacity to build social capital and sustain meaningful Christian social and human rights activism.
Emily Suzanne Clark
The typical story of African American religions narrates the development and power of the Protestant black church, but shifting the focus to the long nineteenth century can reorient the significance of the story. The nineteenth century saw the boom of Christian conversions among African Americans, but it also was a century of religious diversity. All forms of African American religion frequently pushed against the dominance of whiteness. This included the harming and cursing element of Conjure and southern hoodoo, the casting of slaves as Old Israel awaiting their exodus from bondage, the communications between the spirit of Abraham Lincoln and Afro-Creoles in New Orleans, and the push for autonomy and leadership by Richard Allen and the rest of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. While many studies of African American religions in the nineteenth century overwhelmingly focus on Protestantism, this is only part of the story.
This chapter analyzes African American religious identity and practice in the twentieth century. Shaped by the Great Migration and the rise of mass culture, modern African American religious practice was both inventive and entrepreneurial. Although mainline denominations continued to dominate, Pentecostal and Holiness churches gained popularity through the rise of storefront churches, a refuge for southern migrants in the urban North. In addition, new religious movements such as the Moorish Science Temple of America, the Nation of Islam, and Father Divine’s Peace Mission Movement offered followers the opportunity to create entirely new religious and ethnic identities for themselves. The rise of radio and television transformed African American evangelism and eventually produced the era of the megachurch exemplified by the careers of Reverend Ike and T. D. Jakes. Modern African American religions competed in a spiritual marketplace that cultivated imaginative faith practices and met the material needs of their followers.
This chapter chronicles the relationship between African religious practices on the continent and African American religion in the plantation Americas in the era of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. A new generation of scholars who emerged in the 1960s and 1970s have demonstrated not only that African religious practices exhibit remarkable subtlety and complexity but also that these cultures have played significant roles in the subsequent development of religious practices throughout the world. Christianity, Islam, and traditional African religion comprised a set of broad and varied religious practices that contributed to the development of creative, subtle, and complex belief systems that circulated around the African Diaspora. In addition, this chapter addresses some of the vexed epistemological challenges related to discussing and describing non-Western ritual and religious practices.
Marthinus L. Daneel
In the post-chimurenga years of independent Zimbabwe, the African Initiated Churches (AICs) heeded the prophetic call to earth-keeping. They joined forces with practitioners of traditional religion—the chiefs, headmen, spirit mediums, and ex-combatants of the country's liberation struggle—and formed their own wing of the green army. Thus, under the auspices of the Zimbabwean Institute of Religious Research and Ecological Conservation, two religiously distinct movements—the Association of Zimbabwean Traditionalist Ecologists and the Association of African Earthkeeping Churches—joined forces to wage a new chimurenga, a struggle for the liberation of creation, particularly the rehabilitation of the degraded environment of Zimbabwe's overcrowded communal lands, under the banner “war of the trees.” In Zimbabwe and much of southern Africa today, the AICs total between 50 percent and 60 percent of African Christianity. This article focuses on Africa's green movement and ecotheology as well as earth-keeping initiatives such as tree planting.
This chapter analyzes a wide range of African customs and legends. It demonstrates that African traditional religion offers notions of a thriving spirit world which provides “sacred warriors” ritualized protections and martial enhancements when defense of community is urgent. African traditional religion remains primarily an African phenomenon and, as a result, is tightly associated with the cultures and realities of the continent. The role of religion in motivating violence and its role in carrying out the violence are addressed. The Lord's Resistance Army has revealed that a spiritual agenda and rhetoric is not enough to win the support of the people. A proliferation of news stories and images from across Africa of persecuted albino communities, victims of ritual sacrifice or magically empowered rebels might give the impression that traditional religion and violence are more intertwined than ever.
Erik J. Wielenberg
This chapter examines the question of whether key features expected from moral conduct, such as freedom, choice, agency, and responsibility, can sufficiently exist within the natural world as understood by science. A secular, naturalistic view of the universe excludes the existence of nonphysical souls standing outside of the physical universe yet able to causally influence it, and it excludes the existence of a nonphysical deity that could be responsible for human agency and responsibility. Absent those possibilities, this chapter considers the prospects for freedom in a naturalistic universe, together with the issue of what sort of freedom (if any) is required for agency and moral responsibility. Three models of naturalistic agency are explained and discussed: compatibilism, event-causal libertarianism, and agent-causal libertarianism.
This article discusses the emergence of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi; the AK Party) as a center-right political movement with Islamic and national roots. It examines the AK Party’s political ideology of “conservative democracy” within the context of the new dynamics of twenty-first-century Turkish politics. It evaluates the AK Party’s performance in government since taking office in 2002. Finally, the AK Party’s foreign policy and its struggle to overcome oppositional identities are considered.
American Jewish history as a field of scholarly inquiry takes as its subject-matter the experience of Jews in the United States and places it within the context of both modern Jewish history and the history of the United States. Its practitioners see their intellectual project as inextricably connected to both histories. At the beginning of the twenty-first century the enterprise of American Jewish history enjoys a condition of robust health. By the 1990s American immigration history had generally declined in favour within the ranks of American historians. That Jews, outsiders to American culture upon their arrival in the United States, were able to penetrate barriers and enter the mainstream clashes with the way historians want to see the American past. As a group who craved both economic security and respectability, their story lacks the dramatic punch of resisters and rebels to the American ethos.
Thinking about American Jews, race, and religion entails confronting the instability of those terms. This chapter examines the history of Jews and race in the United States through three lenses. First, it looks at the history of how Eastern European Jews have been “raced” in America, and in particular how they became “white.” Second, it considers Jewish interactions with other groups, such as blacks, Native Americans, and Asians, and how Jewish identity has been co-constituted with and against that of other groups. Third, the chapter looks at internal Jewish diversity and the challenges presented by Euro-centric models of Jewishness. The chapter concludes by considering Jews, race, and religion in the age of Ferguson.
When Europeans came to the Americas, they brought with them both Christian missionaries and notions of racial difference. Since that early encounter, the story of American missions has been intertwined with issues of race. Although some might suspect a rather simple story of missionary racism and others an account of the egalitarian effects of the Christian message, the history of missions and race is a story of competing impulses and unexpected consequences. Missionaries participated in the construction of race, they challenged racism, and they reified it. In some cases, racism twined with cultural imperialism, leading to a message and to methods that valorized Anglo-American, largely Protestant, culture. In others, concerns about racism led to larger critiques of missionary practice and US presence abroad.
What has been called secular government in the United Kingdom and North America emerged from a series of debates about religious freedom and toleration, which reached their climax in seventeenth-century England. John Locke is often considered the hero of that climax, and his resolution to religion–politics conflict is now taken for granted as the basis of secular government in the United States, England, and Canada. It continues to influence Anglo-American political thought for both good and ill. Despite its success, the solution is imperfect. Subsequent modifications—including minor tweaks by various American Founders and a more recent re-appropriation by John Rawls—have failed to perfect it. Its most notable imperfection is a naïve hope that all imaginable future theopolitical disputes will be solved by abstract, neutral principles, specifiable-in advance of the disputes themselves. This leads to animosity and accusations of bias and call for ad hoc compromises.
The chapter examines the feminization of elite pagan men in Apocryphal Acts of Andrew. It argues that the ancient author constructs ascetic Christianity as the ideal realization of masculinity, whereby male and female converts control their passions and appetites. Simultaneously, elite pagan men are portrayed as appetitive, passionately emotional, and lacking self-control. Such ethical weakness was commonly thought to be characteristic of women. While attributing such ethical “femininity” to pagan men trades on ancient notions that women are prone to moral weakness, the author’s portrayal also dislodges ethical character from biological sex. Thus, men and women who take up Christianity in its ascetic forms are superior in ethics and gender, compared to those who reject ascetic Christianity.
J. Rebecca Lyman
Although the teachings of Arius of Alexandria sparked a series of theological debates and church councils in the fourth century concerning the nature and redemptive activity of God, scholars share a slim consensus as to the origins and content of his teaching. In 325, for the first time, the adjudication of Christian controversy took the form of a council including the Roman emperor Constantine at the lake-side town of Nicaea. Arius, the theologian condemned at Nicaea, became the archetypal heretic; ‘Arianism’ thus became the archetypal heresy, which denied the saving divinity of Christ, and therefore essential Christian identity. The broadening of the study of ‘Arianism’ to examine questions of asceticism, spirituality, and liturgy reflects different historiographical concerns. This article reviews recent studies of Arius and non-Nicenes from the outbreak of the controversy to the conversions of the tribal peoples in the western empire.
This chapter discusses how the rise of interest in the materiality of religions that has taken place in the last twenty years or so has tended to focus on popular media, everyday life, and the material practices involving things, images, and devotional concerns of people facing the common problems of life. It is important to recognize that lived religion is not a degenerate form of refined religion, a corruption of theology, or the beliefs of simple people, but rather a range of practices and ideas that exhibit a discrete aesthetic that depends on objects. The disinterestedness that is vital for the evaluation of fine art does not capture the experiences of lived religion. This chapter explores the visuality of everyday religion.
John W. de Gruchy
This article examines visual art and its relationship with morality and justice. It first considers justice-related ethical issues raised by the relationship between art and morality, including censorship, plagiarism, and property rights. It then discusses the link between aesthetics and ethics, or beauty and morality, and situates art within particular historical contexts and cultures. It also analyzes the views of four post-Enlightenment philosophers toward aesthetics: Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Søren Kierkegaard. Furthermore, it comments on the extent to which bias of race, gender and class can influence the work of artists. The article also looks at the connections between art, beauty, morality, and social justice and the moral power of art to change society for the better. Finally, it describes the role of the arts in the struggle against apartheid and liberation.
This article explores an abstract concept, ‘asceticism’. Two obstacles immediately present themselves to an overview of the role of asceticism in shaping early Christian studies: the lack of a clear definition of asceticism and the ubiquity of the topic in both ancient sources and modern scholarship, especially in the past 35 years. Letters, hagiographies, homilies, even acts of councils all participate in the construction of an asceticism that was a central concern of Christians in late antiquity. To chart the shifts in the study of asceticism is to follow as well the major changes in the field from ‘patristics’ to ‘early Christian studies’. Asceticism is the means by which historians of early Christianity confront central methodological issues in investigating discourses, power, social relations, the body, and all the attendant current concerns of the construction of the self and society.
Anne M. Blankenship
This chapter charts the religious lives of South and East Asian Americans during the era of Asian exclusion—from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the implementation of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965—and those of non-Asians who adopted elements of Asian religions to shape new approaches to those traditions. Religious organizations provided immediate social aid and fellowship, leadership opportunities, and a connection to immigrants’ homelands. Religious beliefs provided strength to Asian immigrants by helping them cope with discrimination, while social realities in America reshaped many of those traditional beliefs and practices. White sympathizers reimagined aspects of Asian religions and utilized them in new ways. The chapter follows four major themes: adaptation of religious minorities from Asia, the experiences of Christian Asian immigrants, Asian American religious responses to discrimination, and the ways in which non-Asians were drawn to Asian religions prior to 1965.
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.