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.
This article analyzes the character of Christian love in Agape and Eros. It considers some major themes on their own terms and whether those terms can bear the fullness of the Gospel vision to which Nygren would be faithful, in an effort to bring forth something of the power and the limits of this classic in Christian ethics. It is argued that agapē generally includes a self-concerned but non-egocentric desire for loving relation with another, for its own sake; that God's love for the sinner in her real individuality is also for a beloved child who lives in Christ and is called as such to participate in the divine life; that this participation may be an object of non-possessive desire fully encompassed by God's gracious mercy and power; and that the sinner as real covenant partner may respond out of that desire in self-giving love for God that corresponds to her God-given nature and thus to her good.
Richard S. Levy
This article addresses the phenomenon of organized antisemitism in the sixty years preceding the “Final Solution,” primarily in Germany but with comparisons to contemporaneous developments elsewhere in Europe. It assesses theories that attempt to account for the appearance of political movements aimed at disempowering Jews, profiles the creators and proponents of antisemitic ideology, identifies the social groups they sought to mobilize, and notes the widespread failure of these movements to achieve their goals prior to 1933. It shows that decades of organized antisemitism prepared the way for the Holocaust chiefly by eroding popular willingness to defend, and indeed to care about, the rights and fates of Jews.
This essay aims to explain what Aquinas does and does not mean when using the word ‘God’. It also tries to explain why Aquinas thinks it reasonable to conclude that God exists and how Aquinas can be compared and contrasted with certain thinkers both agreeing and disagreeing with this conclusion. The essay places emphasis on Aquinas’s notion of esse and on the fact that he consistently asserts that we do not know what God is.
This essay distinguishes three kinds of arguments for atheism: direct; indirect; and comparative. The article begins with a quick survey of direct arguments, and argues that the prospects for successful arguments of this kind are not good. It then sketches a comparative argument, and argues that, while its prospects are also not terrifically bright—though plainly brighter than the prospects for any argument for theism!—a successful argument for atheism would most likely look something like the comparative argument that it has sketched.
Michael A. Sells
This chapter, which looks at the actual or alleged cases of apocalypticism within contemporary Iranian Shi'ite, Saudi Sunni, and American Christian circles, evaluates the issue of contemporary militant apocalypticism, emphasizing the competition between its American Christian and Islamic versions. The hadith collections present contradictory reports regarding the end-time struggle between the Messiah Jesus and Dajjal. Militant near-term apocalypticism summons the power of religion, imagination, and personal conviction against any serious peace endeavor; demonizes those who work toward such endeavors; and sanctifies those who, once the tribulation or endtimes conflict is underway, kill the peacemakers. The apocalyptic messianism of American dispensationalists, and of the Salafi Sunni figures Safar al-Hawali and Ali al-Timimi, feature scenarios of Middle Eastern and global carnage ending with messianic triumph and theologically grounded rejection of Middle East peacemaking.
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.
Erik J. Wielenberg
This essay addresses two popular worries about morality in an atheistic context. The first is a psychological or sociological one: the worry that unbelief makes one more disposed to act immorally than one would be if one had theistic beliefs (of a certain sort) and, consequently, widespread atheism produces societal dysfunction. This essay argues that the relationship between atheism and human moral beliefs and behaviour is complex, and that highly secularized societies can also be deeply moral societies. The second worry is philosophical in nature: the worry that if there is no God or gods, then there are also no objective moral truths or facts. This essay make the case that the question of whether there are objective moral truths is independent of the existence or nonexistence of God. In the final section, the essay discusses the nature and possible grounds of objective morality in an atheistic context.
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.
Kimberly A. Blessing
Both theists and atheists have attempted to show that their opponent’s orientation towards religion prevents them from living truly meaningful lives. But exclusivists on both sides are wrong. For neither atheists nor theists are necessarily committed to meaninglessness. This essay focuses attention on two key components of theistic meaning of life theories that theists argue are importantly missing from atheistic theories, immortality and a Divine Plan. It also considers atheistic alternatives to theistic accounts of meaningfulness that involve subjectivism, intrinsic values, and Susan Wolf’s hybrid theory of meaning. We come to see that genuine meaning for either theists or atheists requires some conceptual commitments, and the dispute about which side can live meaningfully is yet another case of the two sides talking past each other. Alternatively, if we allow for the different kinds and degrees of meaning we may conclude that both theists and atheists are able to offer rationally acceptable theories of life’s meaning(s).
As in many other religious and ethical traditions, the status of suicide in Buddhism is contested and ambiguous, from the earliest Pāli record through to twentieth-century Mahāyāna praxes, and in a sense particular to Buddhist thought, paradoxical. This chapter will focus on three main areas: (1) the canonical accounts of suicide in the Śrāvakayāna and Mahāyāna traditions; (2) their theorization in a Buddhist psychological and phenomenological understanding of suicide; and (3) the ramifications of that understanding for contemporary social and medical practice, namely in assisted suicide and autothanasia, and for recent Buddhist history, above all for evaluating the Tibetan Buddhist self-immolations evident since 2009.
This chapter examines the legal details surrounding the full ordination of women into the Buddhist monastic traditions. These legal details need be appreciated in order to understand difficulties involved in current attempts to revive an order of female monastics, bhikṣuṇīs, where it has come to be extinct. The chapter begins with the account of the foundation of the bhikṣuṇī order in the way this is found in the Dharmaguptaka, Mūlasarvāstivāda, and Theravāda Vinayas. Next it surveys the legal parameters that emerge from one of these gurudharmas, which concerns bhikṣuṇī ordination, and how according to these three Vinayas subsequent ordinations were carried out. Then it turns to the transmission of the bhikṣuṇī ordination lineage until modern times to set the frame for appreciating the present situation.
M. Daniel Carroll R. and Darrell L. Bock
Christians have always believed that the Bible is the most important resource for thinking about the moral life of individual believers and their communities. Many different kinds of issues arise—theological, hermeneutical, exegetical, and historical—when we use the Bible to help answer ethical questions. Christopher Wright takes very seriously the shape of Israel's laws, social structures, and contextual realities, and avoids the vagueness of a disembodied set of supposed eternal principles. This article provides an overview of the most salient topics that are foundational for a proper appropriation of the Bible, both those of a more general sort and those most significant for the Old and New Testaments. First, it discusses the authority of the Bible for ethics, the study of ethics as it pertains to the Old Testament, social and textual reconstruction, virtue ethics, ethics and the canon, and New Testament ethics. It also examines different models for ethics in the New Testament, such as the imitation of Jesus, Jesus-centered character ethics, and the biblical Jesus in combination with a theological matrix.
Eryl W. Davies
This article begins with a discussion of the methodological issues faced by scholars of ethics in the Old Testament and New Testament. It then identifies the basis of Old Testament ethics in law, natural law, and the imitation of God. This is followed by a discussion of New Testament ethics covering Jesus and the law, Jesus and eschatology, the background of Paul's ethics, and Paul's Christology and eschatology.
This chapter has two major goals. The first is to introduce some of the major sets of bodhisattva precepts and to discuss their significance in both India and East Asia while paying attention to some of the areas that our current state of knowledge does not allow us to understand. Besides the contents of the precepts, bodhisattva ordinations and the expiation of wrongdoing are considered. The second part of the chapter, with particular emphasis on the Tendai school of Japan, focuses on how the bodhisattva precepts led to a more nuanced understanding of Buddhist ethics by focusing on such issues as killing and compassion.
The Buddhist tradition is justifiably known for its commitment to the primacy of ethical reflection. On the issue of nonhuman animals, the tradition-wide commitment to an undertaking to refrain from killing, known as the First Precept, offers a moving example of humans’ abilities to apply ethics to nonhuman animals on questions about animal protection for companion animals, food animals, entertainment animals, wildlife, and captive animals. Buddhist reflections on humans’ relationship to nonhuman animals, including questions of non-lethal harms, also have features that are illuminated, as is the First Precept, by a comparison with contemporary animal rights and animal protection debates.
Amy Paris Langenberg
In surveying the discursive landscape of ancient, classical, and medieval Indo-Tibetan Buddhist sexual ethics, this chapter takes a Foucauldian approach that holds Buddhist sexual norms and ideals to be an evolving discourse productive of a wide variety of sexual persons. It focuses on the manner in which Buddhist sexual ethics foster states of self rather than Buddhist ethics as a universally applicable set of moral obligations. Topics considered include the theory and practice of brahmacarya, representations of the Buddha as hyper-masculine, the sexual upāyas of bodhisattvas as articulated in Mahāyāna teachings, the revalorization of sexual union as a yogic practice in medieval Indian and Tibetan Tantra, and articulations of lay ethics in the scholastic traditions of classical and medieval India and Tibet. This chapter also contextualizes instances of sexual abuse in contemporary Western Buddhist saṅghas and notes the emergence of a distinctive queer Buddhist discourse.
This chapter addresses the question of whether it can ever be doctrinally or ethically appropriate in Buddhism to discriminate against women. It does this by assessing arguments for female inferiority that are found historically within the texts of the tradition. It attempts to demonstrate that such views are not doctrinally or ethically reinforced or substantiated, and therefore appear to have found their way into this religious literature through the ingestion of cultural mores and norms, rather than through advocacy of them as foundational and fundamental to the tradition. However, once engrained as part of revered texts, challenging such views can appear as sacrilegious if done by a practitioner, or as evidence of non-comprehension/lack of respect for tradition by an outsider. Anālayo discusses something akin to this in his chapter in this volume, in noting how differences in interpretation of texts can result in differing standpoints.
This chapter reviews Buddhist approaches to war and violence. Because ethics is the basis by which people make choices, the chapter’s focus is not purely on scriptures, but rather on the wider field of lived choices and the doctrine that relates to such choices. Buddhists have decided to go to war and have committed various acts of violence. The chapter begins with a brief chronological overview of Buddhist-inspired conflicts, wars, and the ethical debates and decisions surrounding these events. It then addresses the ambiguous subject matter of violence. Applying the Buddhist interdiction of ahimsa (non-harm/non-injury), it reviews doctrinal and historical cases in which Buddhist doctrine or Buddhists have justified harm/injury by means of murder, torture, capital punishment, and discrimination. The chapter ends with an examination of the ways in which Buddhists respond to war and violence.