Purging Daily Demons: What’s Behind the Popularity of Exorcisms?

An exorcism being performed in Fafe, Portugal. Jose Manuel Ribeiro/Reuters The belief in demonic possession – often thought to be a relic of The Dark Ages and theSalem Witch Trials – remains surprisingly mainstream. By Dr. Joseph P. Laycock / 11.30.2015 Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Texas State University At Texas State University, I teach an honors course called “Demonology, Possession, and Exorcism.” It’s[…]

Get Literate in Myth, Religion, and Theology

We need to move beyond assumptions that religion is simply about dogmatism. Daniel Montemayor We need to move beyond assumptions that religion is simply about dogmatism, and should continue teaching religion within a secular educational structure. By Dr. Constant Mews / 03.19.2015 Director, Center for Religious Studies Monash University Myth and religion are terms re-entering public debate in Australia. Certainly, myth is a[…]

Islamic Spain in the 15th Century

The Great Mosque of Córdoba turned church after the Reconquista / Photo by Berthold Werner, Wikimedia Commons Was it a beacon of enlightened sophistication snuffed out by barbaric Dark Age Europeans, or the arena of a clash of eastern and western civilizations?  By Dr. Brian A. Catlos / 06.10.2018 Professor of Religious Studies University of Colorado at Boulder[…]

Why It’s Offensive to Offer a Lamb Dinner to the Hindu God Ganesha

The Hindu god Ganesha. Anant Nath Sharma, CC BY-NC-ND Offering food to deities in Hinduism has deep religious significance. And most Hindu deities are not served meat. By Dr. Jeffery D. Long / 09.19.2017 Professor of Religion and Asian Studies Elizabethtown College Animal sacrifice and Hinduism Vegetarianism is an important part of Hindu religious worship. To be sure, not all Hindus practice vegetarianism. According[…]

What Makes a Mountain, Hill, or Prairie a ‘Sacred’ Place for Native Americans?

A woman holds Pope Francis’ head during his meeting with representatives of indigenous peoples at the Vatican on Feb. 15, 2017. L’Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP Pope Francis, defending Native American protests on the North Dakota pipeline issue, said indigenous cultures have a right to defend ‘their ancestral relationship to the Earth.’ By Dr. Rosalyn R. LaPier / 02.16.2017 Associate Professor of Environmental Studies[…]

African Rhythms, Ideas of Sin and the Hammond Organ: A Brief History of Gospel Music’s Evolution

A choir sings traditional gospel music. Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller For the enslaved Africans, music – rhythm in particular – became a tool of communication about their conditions. Later, it laid the foundation for spirituals and gospel songs. By Dr. Robert Stephens / 02.28.2018 Professor of World Music University of Connecticut The enslaved Africans who first arrived in the British colony of Virginia in 1619 after being forcefully removed from their natural[…]

Why Did Some Early Human Societies Practice Violent Human Sacrifice?

Illustration of ritualised human sacrifice in traditional Hawaiian culture, as documented by the French explorer and artists Jaques Arago in 1819.Arago, Jacques. (1822). Promenade autour du monde: pendant les années 1817, 1818, 1819 et 1820, sur les corvettes du roi l’Uranie et la Physicienne, commandées par M. Freycinet Human sacrifice seems horrifying and costly. But there[…]

Religious Orders as Transnational Networks of the Catholic Church in the Early Modern World

Benedictine Abbey of Saint John / Photo by Wladyslaw, Wikimedia Commons The history of the Christian churches as transnational and global actors is reflected in the history of Christian religious orders and communities. By Dr. Joachim Schmiedl / 09.19.2011 Chair of Middle and New Church History Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule Vallendar Abstract The history of the Christian churches[…]

‘Let Us Adore and Drink!’: A Brief History of Wine and Religion

Caravaggio’s 1595 masterpiece Bacchus. Wikimedia Commons Wine, more than other beverage, is intimately connected to celebration and worship. By Dr. Robert Fuller / 12.23.2014 Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies Bradley University In a letter to the Abbe Morellet in 1779, Benjamin Franklin mused that the strategic location of the elbow is proof that God desires us[…]

Every God is Plural: Anthropology of Polytheism in Ancient Greece

The three Moirai. Relief, grave of Alexander von der Mark (de) by Johann Gottfried Schadow. / Old National Gallery, Berlin, via Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Marcel Detienne Basil L. Gildersleeve Professor of Classics Emeritus Johns Hopkins University The discovery that gods make good objects of research was not made by contemporary anthropology. The very first anthropologists never failed to recommend making an[…]

Archaeology is Revealing New Truths about the Origins of British Christianity

Centre for the Study for Christianity and Culture, University of York., Author provided New archaeological research on Glastonbury Abbey pushes back the date for the earliest settlement of the site by 200 years – and reopens debate on Glastonbury’s origin myths. By Dr. Roberta Gilchrist / 03.23.2018 Professor of Archaeology University of Reading New archaeological research on Glastonbury Abbey pushes back the date for[…]

The Ancient Greek Lament: From Paganism to Christianity

The Homeric Multitext, Creative Commons By Dr. Margaret Alexiou George Seferis Professor of Modern Greek Studies Professor of Comparative Literature Emerita Harvard University Introduction The function and purpose of the lament changed in accordance with the historical developments of antiquity. What was the impact of the economic, social and religious upheavals which accompanied the decline of[…]

The Evolving Judeo-Christian Concept of “Hell” from the Ancient World to Today

The abyss of hell. Sandro Botticelli The meaning of hell might have changed over the centuries, but for devout Christians it remains a core part of their faith. By Dr. Joanne M. Pierce / 04.18.2018 Professor of Religious Studies College of the Holy Cross The recent dispute over whether Pope Francis denied the existence of hell[…]

An Overview and History of Zoroastrianism, One of the World’s Oldest Religions

Plaque with a Priest from the Oxus Treasure, 500–330 B.C., Achaemenid. Gold, 5 7/8 x 2 15/16 in. The British Museum. Image courtesy of and © The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved Looking closely at the objects displayed with the Cyrus Cylinder to find symbols of the ancient religion of Persia—Zoroastrianism.[…]

The Early Medieval Rise and Spread of Islam

Medieval Persian manuscript depicting Muhammad leading Abraham, Moses and Jesus in prayer / From The Middle Ages. An Illustrated History by Barbara Hanawalt (Oxford University Press, 1998), via Wikimedia Commons Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 03.28.2018 Historian Brewminate Editor-in-Chief 1 – Pre-Islamic Arabia 1.1 – The Nomadic Tribes of Arabia The nomadic pastoralist Bedouin tribes inhabited[…]

Ancient Greek Mystery Cults and the Mother Goddess

Orphic Prayer Sheet, 350–300 B.C., Greek. Gold, 1 7/16 x 7/8 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 75.AM.19. Gift of Lenore Barozzi Mystery cults were an exception to the public and communal nature of ancient Greek religion. By Erin Branham / 03.20.2013 Education Specialist for Family Programs Getty Villa Ancient Greek religion was, by definition, public and[…]

Race, Difference, and Religion: Is There a Universal Humanity?

A review of Theodore Vial’s Modern Religion, Modern Race By Dr. Ruth Jackson / 03.16.2018 Research Fellow Sidney Sussex College University of Cambridge In an episode from the third season of Mad Men, which is set in the early 1960s and follows a fictional advertising firm on Madison Avenue, a young and forthright accounts man proposes a marketing strategy[…]

Volcano Eruption Influenced Medieval Iceland’s Conversion to Christianity

Memories of the largest lava flood in the history of Iceland, recorded in an apocalyptic medieval poem, were used to drive the island’s conversion to Christianity, new research suggests. 03.19.2018 A team of scientists and medieval historians, led by the University of Cambridge, has used information contained within ice cores and tree rings to accurately[…]

Philosophy and Religion: Often a Marriage of Inconvenience

Photo by David Evers, Flickr, Creative Commons Like academic philosophy itself, the idea that philosophy and religion are in conflict is recent, only gaining widespread appeal in modernity. By Samuel Loncar / 03.02.2018 PhD Candidate in Religious Studies Yale University We think of philosophy today as an austere, secular, and narrowly academic enterprise. Because of its secularity[…]

How Billy Graham Married Evangelism and Anthropology

In 1960, Billy Graham met with Maasai people while preaching throughout Africa. / James Burke, Getty Images “America’s Pastor” left behind a complex legacy built on Christian worldviews and a deep sense of racial injustice. But, he wished for more. By Dr. Brian Howell / 03.07.2018 Professor of Anthropology Wheaton College On March 2, millions[…]

Magic and Science in Medieval Ashkenaz

A review of David Shyovitz’s A Remembrance of His Wonders By Dr. Dana Fishkin / 03.02.2018 Assistant Professor of Medieval History Touro College The study of medieval Jewish history often yields examples of beliefs, practices, conventions or sensibilities shared by both the Jewish minority and non-Jewish majority populations. Inevitably, the question of primacy arises: which group originated[…]

The Story of Padma Angdu, Tibetan Buddhist ‘Rinpoche’

Padma Angdu was anointed as a Tibetan Buddhist rinpoche, or enlightened being, in 2010. He was 6 years old at the time. By Patrick Winn / 02.15.2018 After death comes for a rinpoche — a Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, imbued with supernatural powers — he or she may choose to reincarnate as an infant. Belief dictates that once these children grow old[…]

An Overview of the History of the Growth of Hinduism in the United States

Mahesh Yogi (seated in front) gained a following in the United States with musicians and artists, including members of The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Ben Merk (ANEFO) (GaHetNa (Nationaal Archief NL), via Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Vasudha Narayanan / 02.02.2018 Distinguished Professor of Religion University of Florida This week marks the death anniversary of Mahesh Yogi,[…]

Edom Divided: Jews and Christian Anti-Judaism in the Reformation

Jews in the Syngagoue by Rembrandt / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Lars Fischer / 10.27.2017 Honorary Research Associate, Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies University College London “The Reformation” is really an umbrella term that covers a whole range of partly distinct, partly overlapping reformations that emerged and unfolded (even narrowly conceived) over the best[…]

When Americans Tried – and Failed – to Reunite Christianity

LeventeGyori/Shutterstock.com By Dr. David Mislin / 11.08.2017 Assistant Professor, Intellectual Heritage Program Temple University Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther, a German monk, initiated a split in Christianity that came to be known as the Protestant Reformation. After the Reformation, deep divisions between Protestants and Catholics contributed to wars, hostility and violence in Europe and America. For centuries, each side[…]

Religions in Post-Secular Societies

Photo by Matthew Fearnley, Flickr, Creative Commons Religions offer an important cultural background for societies all over the world. In post-war Europe, however, religions have seemingly lost at least their public role. By Dr. Michael R. Reder / 08.23.2012 Director of the Joy Shechtman Mankoff Center for Teaching & Learning Connecticut College Of Religion and Secularization[…]

The Wittenberg Reformation as a Media Event

By Dr. Marcel Nieden / 07.27.2012 Professor of Protestant and Historical Theology Universität Duisburg-Essen Introduction Based on publishing statistics, this article traces the complexity of early Reformation processes of communication and depicts the most significant literary and nonliterary media with which the Wittenberg Reformation found its “public” (“Öffentlichkeit”) (pamphlets, illustrated handbills, Bible translations, sermons, performative[…]