The Women of Athena’s Ancient Cult

The cult of Athena allowed women to fully participate in the life of the city from the time they were young girls. By Dr. Joshua J. MarkProfessor of PhilosophyMarist College Introduction In ancient Athens, women had no life outside the home unless they were prostitutes or were engaged in religious activities such as festivals. Every Greek deity in every city-state had their[…]

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A refusal to remove outdated language from state Constitutions perpetuates prejudice.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[…]

Constantine’s Conversion to Christianity

Although Constantine is acclaimed as the first emperor to embrace Christianity, he was not technically the first to legalize it. Introduction Constantine I (Flavius Valerius Constantinus) was Roman emperor from 306-337 CE and is known to history as Constantine the Great for his conversion to Christianity in 312 CE and his subsequent Christianization of the Roman Empire. His conversion was motivated in part[…]

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[…]

Listen and Learn: Gods and Goddesses in Ancient Greek Mythology

Archaeological findings provide a principal source of detail about Greek mythology. Video Presentation Hosted by Joe Fielderman Greek Mythology is the body of myths and teachings that belong to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. It[…]

Who Was Homer, the Epic Recorder of Ancient Greek Mythology?

The Iliad and the Odyssey are two of the world’s most famous poems but very little is known about their creator. By Dr. Daisy DunnHistorian and Author The Greek hero Odysseus spent 10 long years striving to return home after the Trojan War. The stories of how he tricked the one-eyed Cyclops, evaded the flesh-eating[…]

Sacrilege!: The Desecration of Statues of Hermes in Ancient Athens

On the morning of June 7, 415 BCE, the denizens of Athens awoke to vandalism causing mass fear and outrage. By Philip Mathew Introduction On 7 June 415 BCE, various statues of the god Hermes were desecrated in Athens. The Peloponnesian War (431-404 BCE) had been raging for decades as one of the biggest civil wars in Ancient Greece, and the[…]

A Brief Visual Guide to Ancient Egyptian Gods

Even today, the gods of Egypt loom large in the imagination, and are easily recognized by their iconic features. By Arienne King Introduction This image gallery is a visual guide to the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt. It includes depictions of many of Egypt’s more iconic and widely worshipped deities, along with brief descriptions of their[…]

Death, Burial, and the Afterlife in Ancient Celtic Religion

In the ancient Celtic religion, there was a belief in an afterlife in the ‘Otherworld’, a place like this without disease and suffering. Introduction The ancient Celts who occupied large parts of Europe from 700 to 400 CE displayed a clear belief in an afterlife as evidenced in their treatment of the dead. In the absence of extensive written[…]

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[…]

Francis Xavier and the Arrival of Christianity in Japan in 1549

In July 1549, Francis Xavier arrived in Japan, hoping to find success converting the Japanese to Christianity. A Discovery in Takatsuki In 1920, researchers from the Kyoto Imperial University in Japan made a miraculous discovery. They found a locked chest—seemingly unopened for centuries—tied to a beam in the ceiling of an old house. When they[…]

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[…]