Past and Present: Religious ‘Dones’ and Lingering Faith

Religion affects how people regard qualities like benevolence, kindness, conformity and fairness even after they stop practicing religion. By Dr. Philip SchwadelProfessor of SociologyUniversity of Nebraska-Lincoln By Dr. Sam HardyProfessor of PsychologyBrigham Young University Introduction Religion forms a moral foundation for billions of people throughout the world. In a 2019 survey, 44% of Americans – along with[…]

Listen and Learn: 7 States Banning Atheists from Public Office

A refusal to remove outdated language from state Constitutions perpetuates prejudice. By Kristina M. LeePh.D. Student in RhetoricColorado State University Introduction Tennessee’s Constitution includes a provision that bars three groups from holding office: atheists, ministers and those engaging in duels. Efforts are under way in the state legislature to remove this exclusion for ministers, but not for[…]

Featured Scholar: Thomas Coleman on Atheism, Nonreligion, and Life Meaning

Atheists and theists differ on the source of life’s meaning but share having meaning itself. Curated/Reviewed by Matthew A. McIntoshPublic HistorianBrewminate About Thomas Coleman Thomas J. Coleman III graduated with a Master of Science in Psychology in August 2016 from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Currently, he is continuing his education as a Psychology Ph.D.[…]

The Separation of Christianity from Judaism in the Second Century CE

Some Jews accepted the claim that Jesus was their messiah, while the majority did not. By Dr. Rebecca DenovaEmeritus Professor of Early ChristianityUniversity of Pittsburgh Introduction In the mid-2nd century CE, Christianity began a gradual process of identity-formation that would lead to the creation of a separate, independent religion from Judaism. Initially, Christians were one of many groups of Jews[…]

Philadelphia 1844: When Protestants Burned Catholic Churches in the Name of “Religious Liberty”

Political anti-Catholicism gained new adherents in the 1830s that culminated in violence. By Dr. Zachary M. SchragProfessor of HistoryGeorge Mason University Former U.S. senator Rick Santorum has deservedly lost his position at CNN for his April speech in which he described all of Native American culture as “nothing.” But he made that remark in service[…]

Art and Religion: The Investiture Controversy in the Holy Roman Empire

The investiture dispute grew gradually in the 11th century between the Catholic Church and the German Salian Dynasty. By Michael GriffithHistorian Introduction The Investiture Controversy, also referred to as the Investiture Contest or Investiture Dispute, was a conflict lasting from 1076 to 1122 between the papacy of the Catholic Church and the Salian Dynasty of German monarchs[…]

Betrayed with a Kiss: Biblical Stories and Historicity of Judas Iscariot

We can find no earlier evidence than Mark of a story of betrayal or this individual. Introduction Judas Iscariot was one of the original disciples of Jesus of Nazareth (d. c. 30 CE), one of the twelve apostles. For handing Jesus over to the authorities, as described in the gospels, he has become the epitome of the act of betrayal in[…]

An Overview of the Ancient Celtic Pantheon

We have a reasonable picture of at least some of the vast number of deities the ancient Celts worshipped, often described as a ‘fertile chaos’. The ancient Celtic pantheon consisted of over 400 gods and goddesses who represented everything from rivers to warfare. With perhaps the exception of Lugh, the Celtic gods were not universally worshipped across Iron Age Europe but were very[…]

Common Ground: People and Religion in Times of Crisis

Traumatic events can make people question assumptions about their lives, including their spiritual beliefs. By Rev. Dr. Danielle Tumminio HansenAssistant Professor of Pastoral Theology & Director of Field EducationSeminary of the Southwest Introduction Organized religion has been on the decline for decades in the United States. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers found that online searches for[…]

Evangelical Cancel Culture in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries

They wanted to cleanse the body politic of content and behavior deemed offensive and “damaging”. By Dr. Christopher SchelinAssistant Professor of Practical and Political TheologiesStarr King School for the Ministry Church Discipline Extensive debate has swirled around the purpose, effectiveness and even the very existence of what has been called “cancel culture.” The phrase itself may[…]

Anne Wentworth and Apocalyptic Prophecy in the 17th Century

While millenarian prophecy dominated in the 1640s and 1650s, apocalyptic prophecy in general dwindled after the 1660s. Apocalyptic prophecies such as those of Anne Wentworth were not anomalous in seventeenth-century England. In fact, when Wentworth predicted the date of the arrival of the Apocalypse, she participated in a tradition that stretched back at least into[…]

The Influences of Islam on Medieval West Africa

Exploring how Islamic faith and culture influenced West African culture. Introduction During the 7th century, the religion of Islam spread quickly through the Middle East and North Africa. In the 8th century, trans-Saharan trade brought Muslim merchants and traders to West Africa. Over the next few hundred years, Islam spread among West Africans. The new[…]

Maypole Mayhem: Puritan Canceling of May Day, and Attacking Native Americans, in 1628

The Puritans had little tolerance for those who didn’t conform to their vision of the world. Introduction Ever since the ancient Romans decided to honor the agricultural goddess Flora with lewd spectacles in the Circus Maximus, the beginning of May has signaled the coming of spring, a time of revival after a long, dark winter. In[…]

‘Secret Knowledge’: A History of Christian Gnosticism in the Ancient World

Gnostics promoted concepts of radical dualism that govern the universe. Introduction Gnosticism is the belief that human beings contain a piece of God (the highest good or a divine spark) within themselves, which has fallen from the immaterial world into the bodies of humans. All physical matter is subject to decay, rotting, and death. Those bodies and[…]

666: Christianity, Revelation, and Gematria in Ancient Rome

Why the biblical reference in Revelation should be considered in its first-century context. By Dr. Eric M. Vanden EykelAssociate Professor of ReligionFerrum College Introduction The mark of the beast – a cryptic mark in Revelation which indicates allegiance to Satan – has been invoked by fringe Christian figures throughout the pandemic in reference to what[…]

Religion and State: The Influence of the Tokugawa in Japan, 1600-1868

Buddhism, Shintoism, and Neo-Confucianism and how the Tokugawa state used these religions to their advantage. The Tokugawa period in Japan began in 1600 and lasted until 1868, and was an era of peace throughout the realm. Before this time, Japan had experienced years of warfare between the different provinces, with various daimyo, or lords, fighting[…]

The Curious Whispers of Shakespeare’s Musings on Religion

Scholars have scoured the works of the great playwright for clues about his faith. A scholar of theology and Shakespeare’s works says it isn’t as simple as that. By Dr. Anthony D. BakerProfessor of Systematic TheologySeminary of the Southwest Introduction William Shakespeare’s role as a religious guide is not an obvious one. While the work[…]

The Role of Magic in the Development of Early Christianity

Although many modern people tend to see ‘magic’ and ‘religion’ as separate, magic was actually integral to the development of Christianity. By Dr. Shaily Shashikant PatelAssistant Professor of Early ChristianityVirginia Tech Introduction Americans are fascinated by magic. TV shows like “WandaVision” and “The Witcher,” books like the Harry Potter series, plus comics, movies and games about[…]

Religious Beliefs and Superstition in Colonial America

The New England Colonies each insisted their interpretation of Christianity was correct and others were wrong Introduction Religion and superstition went hand in hand in Colonial America, and one’s belief in the first confirmed the validity of the second. The Anglican settlers who established Jamestown Colony of Virginia in 1607 and the Puritans who settled the New England Colonies 1620-1630 were Protestant[…]

Religion in Colonial America

Interpretations of the Bible and practices differed between one settlement or colony and another. Introduction Religion in Colonial America was dominated by Christianity although Judaism was practiced in small communities after 1654. Christian denominations included Anglicans, Baptists, Catholics, Congregationalists, German Pietists, Lutherans, Methodists, and Quakers among others. The New England Colonies had been founded by separatists – Anglicans who advocated separation from[…]

“Shall the Fundamentalists Win?”: Harry Emerson Fosdick Defending Liberal Protestantism in 1922

He saw the history of Christianity as one of development, progress, and gradual change as a modernist in the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy. Introduction Harry Emerson Fosdick (May 24, 1878 – October 5, 1969) was an American pastor. Fosdick became a central figure in the Fundamentalist–Modernist controversy within American Protestantism in the 1920s and 1930s and was one of the[…]

A History of Liberal Christianity since the 19th Century and Its Impact in the United States

In the context of theology, the word liberal does not refer to political liberalism, and it should be distinguished from progressive Christianity. Introduction Liberal Christianity, also known as liberal theology, is a movement that interprets and reforms Christian teaching by taking into consideration modern knowledge, science and ethics. It emphasizes the importance of reason and experience over doctrinal[…]

Ancient and Medieval Dance, It’s Death during the Christian Reformation, and It’s Revival

Despite opposition from the early church, dance was an integral part of Christian devotion for many centuries before falling out of favor. By Dr. Kathryn DickasonVisiting Scholar, School of ReligionDornsife College of Letters, Arts and SciencesUniversity of Southern California Introduction In the PBS documentary series “The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our[…]

Sacred Sites and Rituals in the Ancient Celtic Religion

The religious leaders in Celtic communities were the druids. Introduction In the religion of the ancient Celts who lived in Iron Age Europe from 700 BCE to 400 CE, certain natural sites like springs, river sources, and groves were held as sacred. These places, as well as some urban sites, often had purpose-built temples, shrines,[…]

A History of Ancient Celtic Religion

Besides gods, animals were also important to the Celts and were perhaps themselves regarded as sacred. Introduction The polytheistic religion of the ancient Celts in Iron Age Europe remains obscure for lack of written records, but archaeology and accounts by classical authors help us to piece together a number of the key gods, sacred sites, and cult practices. Variations existed across regions and the[…]

A History of the Christian Gospels

The gospels were produced from c.70 CE to perhaps 100 CE. Introduction The New Testament contains four gospels attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The four gospels are not biographies of Jesus, nor are they history as we define it. What each gospel attempted to do was write a theological explanation for the events[…]

Heimdall: Guardian of Asgard in Medieval Norse Mythology

The main literary source for Heimdall’s role in Norse mythology as a forefather would be the poem Rigsthula. By Irena Manea Introduction Heimdall is a mysterious deity of Norse mythology whose main attribute refers to guarding the realm of the gods, Asgard, from his high fortress called Himinbjörg found at the top of Bifröst, the rainbow bridge. He has the[…]

Biblical Accounts of the Immigrant Experience in Ancient Rome

Looking at how foreigners were treated under the Roman Empire during the time of Jesus. By Rodolfo Galvan Estrada IIIAdjunct Assistant Professor of the New TestamentLabi College Biblical Stories The truth is, the Bible has many stories of migration, beginning in the book of Genesis with Adam and Eve migrating from the Garden of Eden and concluding[…]

Christianity as the State Church of the Late Roman Empire

The legacy of the idea of a universal church carries on, directly or indirectly, in today’s Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church, as well as in others. Introduction The state church of the Roman Empire refers to the Nicene church associated with Roman emperors after the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 by Theodosius I which recognized Nicene Christianity as the Roman Empire’s state religion.[1][2] Most historians refer to[…]