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.
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.
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.
T. J. Mawson
This essay begins by remarking that the broad understanding of atheism (‘absence of belief in a God or gods’) is not a position that theism per se commits one to claiming is unreasonable. The essay then, however, proceeds to present an argument against atheism being reasonable. This constitutes a variant of the fine-tuning version of the Design Argument, and contends that both the universe’s fine-tuning to us, and our fine-tuning to the universe, are better explained by the ‘God hypothesis’ than by a range of alternatives (including the ‘maximal multiverse hypothesis’). While admitting that there is no single ‘killer argument’ against atheism, the essay argues that a persuasive, cumulative case for the God hypothesis—with cosmic fine-tuning as its strongest suit—can nevertheless be constructed.
This chapter concentrates on the mimetic theory of Rene Girard in evaluating foundational myths of violence. It shows Girard's notion of the scapegoating mechanism, whereby a substitute victim absorbs the mimetic animosities of the entire group and thereby promotes peace, as applicable to the disturbing tendency to direct violence outward toward exogenous groups. According to Girard, competition is the main source of human violence. His explanation, that violence has its roots in competition or mimetic rivalry, contributes to Thomas Hobbes, who also highlighted this cause of violence at the beginning of the modern era. The Abrahamic solidarity with the victim easily becomes an aggressive weapon if taking the side of the victim is not connected with the forgiveness of persecutors. Girard interprets the imitation of Christ in the context of rivalries prohibited in the tenth commandment of the First Testament.
Michael L. Peterson
The problem of evil is considered to be the most formidable objection to theism and a central element in the case for atheism. This essay surveys and evaluates the two key formulations of the problem expressed as an argument: the logical argument and the evidential argument. It also analyzes two types of defences offered in response to the argument from evil: the Free Will Defence against the logical argument and Skeptical Theist Defence against the evidential argument. Also treated are several greater-good theodicies that are generally employed as responses to the evidential argument: free will theodicy, natural law theodicy, and soul-making theodicy. Because it sounds a slightly different note from traditional greater good approaches, the theodicy of Open Theism—which argues that the theistic God could create a universe in which there is the possibility of evil occurring that does not serve some greater good—is examined.
Aaron S. Gross
What do animals have to do with religion? This article answers this broad question with special attention to issues related to animal ethics and animal philosophy. Topics covered include the religious dimension of human-animal relationships; the role of animals in human self-imagination; the formation of religions based on human-animal relationships, especially in responding to the dilemmas and tensions raised by killing animals for food and sacrifice; and central issues in the method and theory of critically studying animals and religion. Working at the intersection of the history of religions and animal studies, this essay provides grounding in the subfield of “animals and religion,” as well as references to a wide range of work on the study of animals. The article also cites studies of the subject in both the religions of traditional peoples, including the Cree, Koyukon, Naxi, Nivkhi, and Tuvan, and the so-called world religions, including Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions; Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist traditions; and Daoist traditions.
Leonard J. Swidler
In the past, every civilization always had at its heart a religion, “an explanation of the ultimate meaning of life, and how to live accordingly, based on some notion of the transcendent.” The religion both shaped and reflected the values of the civilization: Islam for the Islamic civilization, Christianity for Christendom, Hinduism for Indian civilization, Marxism (ideology, as the functional equivalent of religion) for the Soviet civilization, and so on. However, in the now emerging global civilization, the question asks itself: What will be the religion at its heart? The answer can only be that religion (ideology)-in-dialogue will be the religion at the heart of the emerging global civilization. Religion (ideology) has five elements: the four C's of creed, code, cult, and community structure; and some notion of the transcendent. There are four main dimensions to dialogue, four H's corresponding to the structure of our humanness: dialogue of the Head, dialogue of the Hands, dialogue of the Heart, and dialogue of Holiness. This article examines religious diversity and proposes a Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic.
This chapter provides some of the answers as to how evil is experienced and why it exists. Evil explodes into the everyday world unasked and unwelcome, and has little underlying meaning other than in relation to culturally contrived notions of orderliness, goodliness, or legality. Three major reasons or rhetorics are routinely raised by evil-doers when called upon to account for their acts: arguments from affect, from custom, and from rationality. Human evil is always “reasonable” even if it seems at first glance to be crazy. Mankind becomes the occasion of evil; not out of craven malignity, but out of a yearning to triumph over evil. Albert Camus reported on the human response to “plague,” a metaphor for the evils he had just witnessed during the Second World War. However, he failed to determine exactly what a disillusioned grappling with evil might mean.
This chapter presents a survey of several contemporary, major definitions of sacrifice as forms of symbolic and performative violence. A modest discussion of patterns in the sacrifices of animals and their symbols in various traditions is reported. The chapter then turns to an interpretation of the more troubling topic of actual human sacrifices in various cultures. The role of emotion and aggression in sacrifice appears in a number of Greek rituals and cultural expressions. Human sacrifice has been practiced in Mesoamerica for over 1500 years. It has increased, and the amount of territory controlled in Mesoamerica has increasingly expounded, assuring a tremendous growth in tributary payments to the capital and its royal families. The Mesoamerican religious traditions did not only seek substitutes for human “debt payments” or sublimate in rituals their aggressive drives toward humans in ways that eliminated human sacrifice, as many other peoples did.
The most interesting thing about sceptical theism is its sceptical component. When sceptical theists use that component in responding to arguments from evil, they think it is reasonable for their non-theistic interlocutors to accept it, even if they don't expect them to accept their theism. This article focuses on that sceptical component. The first section explains more precisely what the sceptical theist's scepticism amounts to and how it is used in response to various sorts of arguments from evil. The next section considers and responds to objections to sceptical theism. It is shown that just as there are non-theists who accept the sceptical theist's scepticism, so also are there theists who reject it.