Cronus and Rhea: The Second Dynasty of Greek Gods and Goddesses

The rise of Zeus. By E.M. Berens / 05.21.2014 Cronus (Saturn) Cronus was the god of time in its sense of eternal duration. He married Rhea, daughter of Uranus and Gaea, a very important divinity. Their children were, three sons: Aïdes (Pluto), Poseidon (Neptune), Zeus (Jupiter), and three daughters: Hestia (Vesta), Demeter (Ceres), and Hera[…]

Like a Virgin? The Medieval Origins of a Modern Ritual

The medieval – and modern – Catholic practice of consecrating women as virgins who has lost their virginity. By Dr. Katherine Harvey / 07.20.2018 Wellcome Trust Research Fellow Birkbeck College University of London Although well-behaved women seldom make history, they do sometimes make the news. Over the past few days, numerous news outlets have reported on a[…]

The Religious Wars of Europe, 1524-1648

Battle of Rocroi, 1643, attributed to Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau / Wikimedia Commons During the period of 1524 until 1648, Europe was plagued by wars of religion. Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 07.29.2018 Historian Brewminate Editor-in-Chief During the period of 1524 until 1648, Europe was plagued by wars of religion. It is important to recognize, however, that[…]

Rejecting Church and State in Medieval Anatolia

The Great Mosque of Divriği, photograph by Avniyazici The Paulicians were seeking an area out of the reach of contemporary states.  By Hugh Jeffery / 01.16.2017 PhD Student in Classical Archaeology Lincoln College University of Oxford The Çaltısuyu, a tributary of the Euphrates, flows through the dramatic canyons of eastern Anatolia. At around 1,225 meters[…]

Ignosticism and Referential Justification

By Tristan D. Vick / 10.11.2017 A Short Recap of the Ignostic Position Ignosticism is the philosophical position that most descriptions and definitions of God are incoherent, incomplete, discrepant, or contradictory (if not all of the above) and so cannot be discussed meaningfully. What this means is that asking questions about God, or ruminating on[…]

The Strange, Short Career of Judeo-Christianity

FDR / Library of Congress By Dr. Gene Zubovich / 03.22.2016 Visiting Lecturer in History University of California, Berkeley President Barack Obama insists that the United States defines itself by civic principles rather than by religious affiliation. In an otherwise unremarkable press conference in Turkey in 2009, he said: ‘[A]lthough… we have a very large Christian population,[…]

Inside the Sacred Danger of Thailand’s Caves

Family members pray in front of a Buddhist statue near the cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach were trapped in northern Thailand. AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit A scholar, who has conducted research on the Thai caves in which 12 children were recently trapped, explains their power and appeal, including the rituals and myth surrounding these sacred sites. By Dr. Andrew Alan Johnson / 07.09.2018 Assistant[…]

A History of Religion in the U.S. South

The American River Ganges, Harper’s Weekly, September 1871 by Thomas Nast. The original image of Nast’s most famous anti-Catholic image, Tweed was safely out of the picture, , literally and figuratively when the image was republished on 8 May 1875 along with other minor modifications. Library of Congress Investigating how “the South” has been an ideological[…]

Religious Belief, Fundamentalism, and Intolerance in the Early Modern and Modern Eras

Procession de la Ligue 1590 Carnavalet. / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Desmond M. Clarke / 01.16.2016 Late Professor of Philosophy University College, Cork Religious belief has been allied, for centuries, with fundamentalism and intolerance. It’s possible to have one without the other, but it requires a degree of self-criticism that is not easily acquired. When Calvin[…]

The Reformation and Sola Scriptura: Dividing a Movement

By Dr. Bruce Gordon / 10.27.2017 Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History Yale Divinity School Yale University Perhaps the most well-known aspect of the Reformation was how it made the Bible available in the languages of lay people, an achievement iconically represented by Luther’s full translation that appeared in 1534. In 1950, the Yale historian[…]

Translating the Bible in the Reformation

William Tyndale / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. David Lyle Jeffrey / 10.14.2017 Distinguished Professor of Literature and the Humanities Director of Manuscript Research in Scripture and Tradition Baylor University The extraordinary popular excitement produced by the first printed vernacular translations of the Bible can seem rather a distant imagination for us today. It has, however,[…]

Saint of Science: The Religious Life of Isaac Newton

Peter Harrison reviews Rob Iliffe’s Priest of Nature: The Religious Worlds of Isaac Newton. By Dr. Peter Harrison / 02.02.2018 Australian Laureate Fellow Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities University of Queensland When Isaac Newton died on March 31, 1727, his estate included a massive amount of unpublished material. Almost 2000 short manuscripts, haphazardly[…]

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[…]