The chapter examines adherence and conversion in the Daoist religious tradition. In addition to discussing “conversion” as a comparative category and as a cultural phenomenon in China, this study investigates Daoist views on the subject and the ways in which Daoists have set parameters for religious affiliation. This is followed by an examination of domestic conversion, by people of both Chinese (“Han”) ethnic identity and ethnic minorities, to Daoism in Chinese history. The final section presents information on foreign conversion to Daoism. This includes brief discussions of Daoist conversion in Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, and the modern West. Here the chapter suggests that Daoism has become a global cultural and religious phenomenon. Throughout this chapter, specific attention is given to the ongoing process of voluntary conversion to Daoism as well as to the diverse motivations of potential converts.
William B. Gravely
The eighteenth-century evangelical revival in the American colonies gave Africans settings to claim some free space in their lives. Evangelists were delighted that their converts responded so powerfully to the Christian gospel. Such a reaction confirmed their capacity for spiritual experience and contradicted the racist cynics who denied that Africans had souls. Africans in North America became active participants in the Methodist system as members and leaders of classes. They earned tickets to love feasts, welcomed the itinerants on their rounds, and contributed to support the preachers. When quarterly conferences came around they attended in large numbers, despite the practice of racial separation during services. This article discusses the following: African Methodism in Methodist studies and Black Church research, the African Methodist counterculture (1786–1881), host environments and counter-racism on a world Methodist stage (1881–1931); and African-American Methodists, civil rights, and South African apartheid.
Isa Blumi and Gezim Krasniqi
Albanians in the Balkans present a unique socio-political case of how an ‘ethnic’ group’s collective identity is not formed by religion alone. Constituting the majority population in the independent and sovereign states of Albania and Kosovo, and large minorities in Montenegro, Serbia, and Macedonia, scholars choose to identify Albanians firstly as Muslims. However, this association with faith often obscures other factors that contributed to Albanians’ long history of state persecution and the periodic inter-communal conflicts that animate much of the scholarship on Islam in the Balkans today. Albanian Muslims constitute a diffuse and complex set of stories that make any understanding of the larger issues under study dependent on differentiating distinctive Muslim (and ethno-national) communities using various tools. This chapter will help scholars and policy-makers to differentiate between Albanian Muslims and situate their political, socio-economic, and spiritual diversity in the larger context of state and regional life over the last century of European and Balkan life.
This chapter analyzes important approaches in anthropology that have dealt with religious change. The central question is how anthropologists identify and analyze the main factors in the conversion process. The chapter deals with the approaches in chronological order, describing their main authors and ideas, their conceptualization of religious conversion, and their methodologies. The main conclusion is that anthropologists have struggled to come to terms with religious conversion, but currently they are improving quickly. Most anthropologists have criticized modernity but have been unable to escape its gravitational pull. Another challenge for the future is developing comparative approaches to conversion to a host of religions in ways that include the indigenous understandings of the religions and explore their interactions with globalization processes. Anthropologists should capitalize on the main strengths of their discipline: their long-term perspective, their ethnographic approach, their theoretical flexibility, and their focus on the cultural context in understanding conversion cross-culturally.
Melanie Elyse Brewster
The present article explores scholarship regarding links between atheism, gender, and sexuality. A review and analysis of available theory and research is presented through a social scientific lens. Specifically, research suggesting that more men than women identify as atheist is contextualized through reviews of gender role socialization, structural location, personality, and evolutionary theories. Ties between atheism, women’s issues, and feminism are also discussed. Moreover, data about atheism and religiosity amongst lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) groups is presented. Findings regarding rates of atheist identification and sexual orientation indicate that atheism may be higher among LGBTQ individuals than heterosexually identified people; such research is discussed in the context of anti-LGBTQ religious stigmatization and oppression. Lastly, in an effort to deconstruct ‘coming out’ as atheist identity development processes, parallels between LGBTQ and atheist movements are examined and critiqued. Directions for future research are proposed.
Ellen T. Armour
This chapter considers analyses offered by three important feminist scholars, working in different religious traditions, who attend to specific forms of women's religiosity. In Changing the Subject: Women's Discourses and Feminist Theology, Mary McClintock Fulkerson attempts to carve out a place within feminist theology for Christian women who do not consider themselves feminist. In The Hammer and the Flute: Women, Power and Spirit Possession, Mary Keller's analysis of the phenomenon of spirit possession, which affects many more women than men, becomes a site in which to reflect anew on questions of gender and religious subjectivity. In Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject, anthropologist Saba Mahmood finds that the issues raised by her study of Egyptian women involved in an Islamic renewal movement challenge certain feminist orthodoxies. Taking each author in turn, the chapter first traces the particular contours of the religious phenomenon each analyzes and shows how they reframe religious subjectivity. The final section brings the three essays together and describes what avenues they open up for constructive feminist theology in a global context.
Beyond Theology of Religions: The Epistemological and Ethical Challenges of Inter-religious Engagement
Sharon D. Welch
For the past one hundred years, the primary form of scholarly inter-religious encounter has been inter-religious dialogue. While fruitful, such an approach is also severely limited, reflecting as it does Western assumptions about the nature of religious knowledge itself, about the bearer of religious knowledge, and about the nature of the self. The problem now being examined in the postcolonial comparative study of religion is quite straightforward: the categories for defining religion were taken from Western traditions and then applied to other traditions, a process in which the other traditions were often found wanting, or, even if seen as complex and worthy of appreciation, were still misunderstood by Western scholars. This chapter considers the following question: In a postcolonial world, how do we see and value differences, those that are forced, those that are self-generated, and those that are an ambiguous combination of both coercion and creativity? The impetus to postcolonial comparative work and postcolonial critique of religious traditions has been initiated by those who have borne the costs of colonization and domination, who criticize its legacy, and who call for new forms of critique and interaction. The impetus for new forms of interaction and fundamental critique is not primarily the West's deconstruction of its own forms of domination, but is a response to the work of those, who albeit colonized, resisted colonization from its beginning, and have continuously asserted their subjectivity and agency.
Although bisexuals make up over half of sexual minority people, theology has not adequately addressed the experiences of bisexual people, nor the bisexual theory and theology that we have produced. The diversity and social locations within which concepts of bisexual theory, such as compulsory monosexism, emerge are described, drawing on data from psychology and the social sciences. Through a systematic review of Christian discourse on bisexuality, this chapter demonstrates how bisexuality has been constructed as immature, promiscuous, and as morally and politically inadequate. Key themes are identified in the bisexual theologies of scholars such as Marcella Althaus-Reid, Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajajé, and Debra Kolodny, and their significance for broader faith communities and justice movements is clarified. Finally, directions for further bisexual theological work are identified.
This article uses the term ‘equivocation’ to describe the sense in which Christian incarnational theology appears to have provided a resource or way of thinking about the embodied human condition. For British literary works produced across a period of over a thousand years, that is not wholly negative. Christian convictions about God's investment in the materiality of human existence bear witness to the perception of infinite human longings and seemingly endless possibilities, as well as our fearful limitations. British artists and commentators during this period have not all accepted the authority of a Christian approach, and in the last two or three centuries many have aspired to challenge the more negative or limiting emphases of its teaching. Arguably, the paradigm remains significant, yet it continues to provide both impetus and challenge to ongoing reflections on the nature of unavoidable human incarnation.
Rita M. Gross
Because Buddhism is a non-theistic religion, its concepts of ultimate reality do not include the kind of deity familiar from most religions. Instead, one does find anthropomorphic representations of key Buddhist virtues, such as wisdom and compassion, but they have no independent, eternal existence. As a religion that has always valued celibate monasticism, Buddhism has multiple evaluations of sexuality. For monastics, it must be avoided because of the imprisoning entanglements to which it leads, but laypeople can enjoy the pleasures of sexuality without guilt so long as they observe basic sexual ethics. Regarding gender, Buddhism has always had male-dominated institutions, but its philosophy or world view is completely gender-neutral and gender-free. Modern commentators on Buddhism and gender are seeking to alleviate this internal contradiction by changing Buddhism’s institutions.
Dan Smyer Yü
Buddhism is one of the fastest growing religions in the world. The increasing number of new Buddhists is often found in modern communities of the West and Asia. Existing scholarly literature on modern Buddhist changes rarely utilizes conversion theories to interpret the ongoing growth of Buddhism. On the ethnographic level, this chapter attempts to illustrate that modern Buddhist conversion especially outside Asia is the result of local cultural elites’ efforts to disseminate Buddhist teachings. On the theoretical level, it argues that modern Buddhist conversion, in a concurrent rather than linear, fashion, involves deconversion from one’s existing belief system(s), syncretization of Buddhist teachings and social conditions of the given society, and possibly transference of the individually manifested but collectively patterned psychological issues.
Sharon D. Welch
Assaults on truth and divisions about the nature of wise governance are not momentary political challenges, unique to particular moments in history. Rather, they demonstrate fundamental weaknesses in human reasoning and core dangers in ways of construing both individual freedom and cohesive communities. It will remain an ongoing challenge to learn to deal rationally with what is an intrinsic irrationality in human cognition and with what is an intrinsic tendency toward domination and violence in human collectivities. In times of intense social divisions, it is vital to consider the ways in which humanism might function as the social norm by, paradoxically, functioning in a way different from other social norms. Humanism is not the declaration that a certain set of values or norms are universally valid. At its best and most creative, humanism is not limited to a particular set of norms, but is, rather, the commitment to a certain process in which norms are continuously created, critically evaluated, implemented, sustained or revised. Humanism is a process of connection, perception, implementation, and critique, and it applies this process as much to itself as to other traditions.
Globalization has brought with it many benefits “from above” with respect to opening up employment and trade opportunities on a massive scale, and has facilitated, in some cases, a generation of wealth that has trickled down to ordinary citizens, thereby enabling greater freedom of choice with respect to raising the standard of living. However, by and large, such small gains have come at a tremendous cost to those who do not constitute the elite, especially in developing countries (often termed countries at the periphery). At the same time, globalization has facilitated, “from below,” nativist resistance movements, often couched and presented in religious terms, which turn to identity politics and greater control over women's morality, comportment, and role in society, ostensibly to address broader social inequities, but which concomitantly exercise a restrictive effect on the attainment of gender justice. This chapter presents a brief discussion of Muslim hermeneutics on gender in order to understand how nativist resistance movements have been able to draw upon women's comportment and dress as symbols for the authenticity and integrity of the Islamic tradition in an attempt to withstand what they perceive as Western hegemonic practices. It then discusses Muslim feminist hermeneutics, economic privation and gender violence, and capitalist practices and women's bodies.
At the centre of the clerical vocation was the conundrum of balancing the clergy’s commitment to chastity with the many aspects of their professional training and responsibilities that either tacitly or overtly concerned sex. On a pedagogical level, there were pagan authors, like the sexually savvy Ovid, who were at the cornerstone of the acquisition of letters. But biblical tradition, theology, and ascetical literature also treated sexuality and sexual temptation very explicitly. Such concerns loom even larger on a practical level. The clergy had always assumed the responsibility of monitoring lay mortality. But the sexually explicit nature of their pastoral obligations would increase exponentially when the Church established a hegemony over marriage and made auricular confession mandatory for the laity in the high Middle Ages. This chapter provides an overview of the many different kinds of sources that lend insight into this, at times, fraught aspect of the clerical vocation.
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.
The churches of the Anglican Communion discussed issues of sex and gender throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. Arguments about gender focused on the ordination of women to the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate. Debates about sexuality covered polygamy, divorce and remarriage, and homosexuality. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, these debates became intensely focused on homosexuality and were particularly fierce as liberals and conservatives responded to openly gay bishops and the blessing and marriage of same-sex couples. By the second decade of the twenty-first century, the sex and gender debates had become less acrimonious, the Anglican Communion had not split on these issues as some feared, but the ‘disconnect’ between society and the Church, at least in the West, on issues such as the Church of England’s prevarication on female bishops and opposition to gay marriage, had decreased the Church’s credibility for many.
This essay examines conflicts concerning sex, sexuality, and gender within Black churches. Black churches are American Protestant churches with a predominantly Black leadership and congregation. Often serving the oppressed and underprivileged, Black churches have a history not only of providing for the spiritual needs of Black Americans, but also of fighting for social justice. Increasingly, controversies have begun to emerge within these churches, about gender equality, HIV/AIDS and safer sex education, and, perhaps the most controversial, about homosexuality and same-sex marriage. This essay discusses how Black churches have responded to these issues and the impact that HIV/AIDS has had on this response. Additionally, examples of the role of women and sexual minorities in Black church denominations and congregations will be provided.
This chapter situates the controversies about sex and gender in the Roman Catholic Church within the context of ongoing debates about the nature of the Church, the dynamism of the tradition, and the authority of the magisterium. It argues that underlying many of the most contentious of these disagreements, including those about reproductive rights, same-sex relationships, and gender-based violence, one can discern fundamentally different theological understandings about the nature of the human body, the relationships between the sexes, and the malleability of sexuality. Having examined these underlying theological controversies, this chapter considers the contours of the contemporary debates about reproductive rights and same-sex relationships. It notes moreover that these controversies are not abating. Rather, the positions are becoming more polarized and the divisions more intractable.
Colleen M. Conway
This chapter begins with a brief overview of the theorists who have shaped gender analytical work on the New Testament, especially the application of gender theory in classical studies. It then concentrates on gender analyses on New Testament writings that demonstrate the differing approaches of masculinity studies, queer theory, and intersectional analysis. The primary focus is on gender construction in Paul’s letters and the canonical gospels, with additional discussion of symbolic and metaphorical uses of gender in other writings of the New Testament. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of future directions for gender criticism.
Simon Coleman and Anna Stewart
This chapter provides an overview of anthropological research on the ways in which religions both construct and constrain gender and sexuality. Using examples drawn from a wide range of cultures, we divide our overview into three main sections, dealing with issues of ‘discipline’, ‘reproduction’, and ‘protest and change’ respectively. We therefore show how these themes raise questions relating to reinforcement or challenges to social and political systems, as well as to biological necessity. We explore reasons why gender and sexuality may be both linked and distinguished from each other. Some reflections on the role of gender in the writing of ethnographic texts are also provided, alongside considerations of the complementary roles of anthropology and theology in analysing gender and sexuality.