Looking for the Antichrist: The Nortons and Mussolini in 1932

“Do you intend to reconstitute the Roman Empire?” It was a simple question, but Il Duce did not understand. By Sam Gee The question was posed during a 1932 meeting between the American evangelical missionaries Edith and Ralph Norton and the rising Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, also known as Il Duce (The Leader). The Americans[…]

Beatus of Liébana: An Early Medieval Apocalyptic Illustrator

Beatus was an early medieval monk who set down to illustrate a collection of writings he had compiled on the Book of Revelations. In a monastery in the mountains of northern Spain, 700 years after the Book of Revelations was written, a monk set down to illustrate a collection of writings he had compiled about[…]

How Translation Obscured the Music and Wordplay of the Bible

Translators of the Bible have rarely understood the need or made the effort to convey the literary dimension of the Hebrew works. An essential fact about the Hebrew Bible is that most of its narrative prose as well as its poetry manifests a high order of sophisticated literary fashioning. This means that any translation that[…]

Between Gods and Animals: Becoming Human in the Gilgamesh Epic

In short, the new fragment reveals a vision of humanity as a process of maturation that unfolds between the animal and the divine. The Epic of Gilgamesh is a Babylonian poem composed in ancient Iraq, millennia before Homer. It tells the story of Gilgamesh, king of the city of Uruk. To curb his restless and destructive[…]

A History of Hasidism: A Mystical Movement within Eastern European Judaism

Hasidism was called into existence by the charismatic figure Israel ben Eliezer (ca. 1700–1760), who was active in Poland. Introduction Hasidism is a mystical religious revival movement within Judaism, which draws from the Kabbalist tradition. It was called into existence by the charismatic figure Israel ben Eliezer (ca. 1700–1760), who was active in Poland. With[…]

How the Medieval Latin East Contributed to a Unique Cultural World

The Kingdom of Jerusalem did, in fact, make its own important cultural contributions. On 15 July 1099, the armies of the First Crusade, which departed from their European homelands about three years earlier, broke into Jerusalem and conquered it. This marked the beginning of an almost 200-year period in which the Holy Land was ruled[…]

Sacred to Secular: Religion in Ancient and Medieval China

Modern Taoists in China (and elsewhere) worship many gods at private altars and in public ceremonies which originated in the country’s ancient past. By Emily MarkHistorian Introduction Religious practices in ancient China go back over 7,000 years. Long before the philosophical and spiritual teachings of Confucius and Lao-Tzu developed or before the teachings of the Buddha came to China, the people worshipped personifications[…]

The Relationship between Church and State since the Ancient World

The relationship between church and state is the institutional form of the relationship between the religious and political spheres. This relationship has taken a variety of forms historically and in the modern world from the state dominating religion to religion dominating the state and recent attempts to separate them. In most ancient civilizations this relationship was not clearly[…]

Evangelical Religion and Evangelical Democracy in the 19th Century

The problem with mixing religion and politics was that political issues became moral issues and, therefore, more difficult to deal with in the political process. Evangelical religion and evangelical democracy reinforced each other in nineteenth-century America. The spread of evangelical Christianity and democracy across a continent justified the wars against Native Americans and Mexico, and[…]

Exploring the Religion of Ancient Carthage

Most Carthaginian gods were inherited from the Phoenicians, but these were adapted, and their names and functions evolved over time. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Carthage was founded by the Phoenician city of Tyre in the 9th century BCE, and along with many other cultural practices, the city adopted aspects of the religion of its founding fathers. Polytheistic in nature, such important Phoenician[…]

Ancient Phoenician Religion

The Phoenician Religion, as in many other ancient cultures, was an inseparable part of everyday life. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Phoenician Religion, as in many other ancient cultures, was an inseparable part of everyday life. Gods such as Baal, Astarte, and Melqart had temples built in their name, offerings and sacrifices were regularly made to them, royalty[…]

A History of the Shi’a-Sunni Divide

Examining the centuries’-old sectarian Shia-Sunni divide. Tensions between Sunnis and Shias have been flaring up, with several incidents of violence reported in recent months: Most recently a suicide bomber killed at least 29 people when he blew himself up at the largest Shiite Muslim mosque in Afghanistan’s Herat province on Tuesday, August 1. Earlier in June, the Islamic[…]

What Winter Solstice Rituals Tell Us about Indigenous People

For indigenous peoples, winter solstice has been a time to honor their ancient sun deity. Their rituals reveal a deep understanding of the natural world. On the day of winter solstice, many Native American communities will hold religious ceremonies or community events. The winter solstice is the day of the year when the Northern Hemisphere has[…]

Luther’s Musical Legacy is the Reformation’s Unsung Achievement

In the great reformer’s eyes, if you didn’t love a rousing tune you deserved only “the music of the pigs”. Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther triggered what would become the Protestant Reformation with a document protesting corruption in the Catholic Church. At its heart, his Reformation was a movement about the nature of sin[…]

Five of the Most Violent Moments of the Reformation

During the seismic religious changes of the 16th and 17th centuries, atrocities were committed and martyrs were made. It has been 500 years since what is seen as the “start” of the Reformation, when the German monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg, challenging practices in the[…]

From Mummification to ‘Sky Burials’: Why We Need Death Rituals

Death rituals help us to cope with loss and perhaps even feelings of guilt associated with disposing of a corpse. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Few liturgical phrases from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer are so familiar to so many, even those who have never darkened the doors of a church. This part of the[…]

“To Wait Together upon the Lord in Pure Silence”: Quakers in the 18th Century

Quaker worship services have always consisted of long periods of silent reflection. “The voices of the past are especially lost to us. The world of unrecorded sounds is irreclaimable, so the disjunctions that separate our ears from what people heard in the past are doubly profound.” When historians say they hope to retrieve the “lost[…]

A Psychological Perspective on the Source and Function of Religion

Exploring the dominant influence of religious notions in people’s worldview, providing meaning and powerfully influencing their cognitions, emotions and behaviour. By Dr. Karen van der MerweSchool of Psychosocial Behavioural SciencesNorth West University South Africa Abstract This article explored psychological perspectives on the following: the reasons for humans’ religiousness, the influence of religion on people’s perspective[…]

Ritual and Religion in Cultural Anthropology

Not all religions follow the same practices but there are some similarities between most, if not all, religions. Introduction Religion changes across the globe. Different parts of the world have different beliefs and rules that maintain their religion. Not all religions follow the same practices but there are some similarities between most, if not all,[…]

Canaanite Religion in the Ancient Levant

Early Israelite religion may once have shared the Canaanite belief in El and other gods, before the Jewish monotheistic tradition emerged. Introduction Canaanite religion describes the belief systems and ritual practices of the people living in the ancient Levant region throughout the Bronze Age and Iron Age. Until recently, little was known of these traditions outside[…]

Priestly Lineages in the History and Rhetoric of Ancient Israel

In the religious politics of the Second Temple period, the Aaronide priestly dynasties were the Mushite priesthood. Differentiating priestly families earlier in Israel’s history raises questions about methodology and purpose as well as evidence. A comparison of Cross’s reconstruction of the Oniad high priestly line with his Mushite theory lays the basis for re-evaluating historical[…]

Maximón, a Maya Saint in Sunglasses

Life-size effigies of the saint are distributed throughout the highlands. By Dr. Kathleen McCampbellArchaeologist He sits among gifts of flowers, bread, alcohol, and smoke. He hears pleas for wealth, safety, and luck, and is adored, feared, and hated. He is San Simón, Maximón, Rilaj Mam, Judas, El Tata. A caudillo, cultural ancestor, soldier, and folk saint,[…]

The Probable Pagan Origin of an Ancient Jewish Custom: Purification with Red Heifer’s Ashes

The Jewish red heifer ash ritual may have originated in surrounding pagan cultures reflecting the transition from pantheism to monotheism. Dr. Efraim LevAssistant Professor of Israel StudiesUniversity of Haifa Dr. Simcha Lev-YadunProfessor of BiologyUniversity of Haifa Abstract One of the most enigmatic of all ancient Jewish religious customs was the use of ashes of a[…]

Supernatural Sound: Science and Shamanism in the Arctic

The Arctic became a place beyond empirical grasp: the real/fantasy land of orality about which those living within the textual horizon of rational empiricism dreamed with fear and longing. Toolemak’s Voice Scanning the horizon off the coast of Greenland in 1822, William Scoresby witnessed the impossible: floating in the sky was an upside down ship.[…]

The Hearth, the Cloister, and Beyond: Religion and the Nineteenth-Century Woman

In the nineteenth century, domesticity and maternity became the primary cultural expectation for French women. In the nineteenth century, domesticity and maternity became the primary cultural expectation for French women. The new ideals, most of which could trace their roots back to Rousseauian rhetoric, supported the gendering of education and family life and consigned women[…]

The ‘Papal Aggression’ Controversy, 1850-52

An overview of the political, religious, and cultural response to the restoration of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in England. By Dr. Miriam Elizabeth BursteinProfessor of EnglishCollege of BrockportState University of New York Abstract This article provides an overview of the political, religious, and cultural response to the restoration of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in England.[…]

Classical and Christian Conceptions of Slavery and Gender, and Their Influence on Germanic Gaul

Roman honor and shame became Christian virtue and shame. The Christian reinterpretation of the classical Roman dichotomy of “honor” and “shame” into “virtue” and “shame” in Late Antiquity did not benefit enslaved men and women equally. Enslaved men experienced a moral elevation of their suffering, which allowed them to recast their vulnerability as a strength[…]

Liars, Atheists, and Libertines: The Politics of Dishonor in the Wars of Louis XIV

Calling the French liars, atheists, and libertines, undoubtedly evoked a general sense of immorality and disrepute. In 1684, an anti-French propaganda pamphlet featured a conversation between a German and an Englishman, who were both curious to hear the latest news from a French acquaintance. Their conversation began with a parody of French politeness and refined[…]

The Yazidi: Religion, Culture, and Trauma

The future of Yazidism is unclear, but it will certainly never be the same again. Abstract The Yazidi are Kurdish speakers who have lived for centuries as farmers and cattle breeders, scattered about in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and the former Soviet Union. They shared the same fate as the Kurds when the areas were Islamized[…]