The English Reformation: Tradition and Change

Introduction The English Reformation was part of a European-wide phenomenon to reform the church which began in 1517 when legend has it that the German monk and theologian Martin Luther nailed 95 theses (propositions for discussion) to the door of the castle church at Wittenberg to be debated publicly. Chief among these was the church[…]

The Crusades: Consequences and Effects

Many exaggerated claims have been made concerning the effects and consequences of the crusades on life in the Middle Ages and later. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The crusades of the 11th to 15th century CE have become one of the defining events of the Middle Ages in both Europe and the Middle East. The campaigns[…]

The Crusades: Causes and Goals

What were the motivating factors for crusaders, from the Pope to the humblest warrior? By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Crusades were a series of military campaigns organised by Christian powers in order to retake Jerusalem and the Holy Land back from Muslim control. There would be eight officially sanctioned crusades between 1095 CE and 1270[…]

Religious Developments in Ancient India

Hinduism stood for a wide variety of related religious traditions native to India. Introduction For well over 1,000 years, sacred stories and heroic epics have made up the mythology of Hinduism. Nothing in these complex yet colourful legends is fixed and firm. Pulsing with creation, destruction, love, and war, it shifts and changes. Most myths occur in several different[…]

The Initiation of Religions in Ancient India

The Upanishads are the philosophical account deemed to be the earliest source of Hindu religion. Introduction The religious practices of the early Indo-Aryans, known as the Vedic  religion (1500 BCE to 500 BCE) were written down and later redacted into the Samhitas, four canonical collections of hymns or mantras, called the Veda, in archaic Sanskrit. The Late Vedic age[…]

Religious Change and the Ottoman Empire, 1450-1750

How did the Ottomans shape the political and religious history of early modern Europe? Introduction The Ottoman Empire was one of the largest and longest-lasting empires in world history, stretching across the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Northern Africa at its zenith in the sixteenth century. Many European observers of the time experienced and depicted[…]

Religious Wars in Early Modern Europe

The splintering of the medieval church ushered in a volatile new era of increased anxiety, tension, and religious fervor during. Introduction For nearly 150 years, the battle for “true” Christianity tore early modern Europe apart. The spiritual divisions created by the Protestant Reformation led to a series of international and domestic conflicts that caused incalculable destruction and[…]

The Dissolution of the Monasteries and the Democratization of Magic in Post-Reformation England

How monks, friars and monastic sites became associated with magic in popular tradition, resulting in a lasting stereotype of medieval monks and friars as the masters of occult knowledge. Abstract The dissolution of the monasteries in England (1536–1540) forced hundreds of former inmates of religious houses to seek livelihoods outside the cloister to supplement meagre[…]

“Such Fictitious Evil Spirits”: Adriaan Koerbagh’s Rejection of Biblical Demons and Demonic Possession, 1668

The devil, once a part of the sacred truth, could now be seen as a fragment of a human cultural heritage. Introduction This paper traces Adriaan Koerbagh’s interpretation of biblical devils and scriptural instances of demonic possession in his 1668 Een Ligt Schijnende in Duystere Plaatsen (A light shining in dark places). Koerbagh’s book is a radical[…]

Design Principles of Early Stone Pagodas in Ancient Korean Architecture

The ancients constructed the pagodas complying with design principles based on the arithmetic and geometric proportional systems. By Dr. Juhwan Cha, Professor of Architecture, Tsinghua UniversityBy Dr. Young Jae Kim, Professor of Architecture, Korea National University of Cultural Heritage Abstract Ancient books on East Asian mathematics introduced to the Korean Peninsula enrich our understanding of[…]

Six Great Heresies of the Middle Ages

So-called heresies offered the opportunity for religious expression outside of the narrowly defined and self-serving precepts of the Church. Introduction The medieval Church established its monopoly over the spiritual life of Europeans in the Early Middle Ages (c. 476-1000 CE) and consolidated that power throughout the High Middle Ages (1000-1300 CE) and Late Middle Ages[…]

‘Donation of Constantine’: A Medieval Forgery for Authority

The Donation of Constantine was most likely written, and almost certainly used, to coerce Pepin the Short to give up land. Introduction The Donation of Constantine (Donatio Constantini or the Donatio) is a medieval forgery dated to the 8th century CE purporting to be an original 4th-century CE document in which the Roman emperor Constantine the Great (r. 306-337 CE) granted[…]

Religious Change and Print Culture in the Reformation

The period of the Reformation (roughly 1500-1700) witnessed an unprecedented wave of changes in religion, thought, society, and politics throughout the world. Introduction When Martin Luther circulated ninety-five theses criticizing various practices of the Roman church in October of 1517, his only intention was to start a productive debate with his academic colleagues. Much to[…]

Monastic Orders of the Middle Ages

Monasteries in the Early Middle Ages already had rudimentary rules and guidelines. Introduction The monastic orders of the Middle Ages developed from the desire to live a spiritual life without the distractions of the world. Men and women who took religious vows were seeking a purity of experience they found lacking as lay people. Their[…]

The Medieval Church

The Church regulated and defined an individual’s life, literally, from birth to death and was thought to continue its hold over the person’s soul in the afterlife. Introduction Religious practice in medieval Europe (c. 476-1500 CE) was dominated and informed by the Catholic Church. The majority of the population was Christian, and “Christian” at this time meant[…]

Ten Should-Be Famous Women of Early Christianity

Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Christianity has heard the term ‘Church Fathers’ but far less so ‘Church Mothers’. Introduction Women feature prominently in the gospels and Book of Acts of the Christian New Testament as supporters of Jesus’ ministry. The most famous of these is Mary Magdalene, most likely an upper-class woman of means instead[…]

A Voodoo Pilgrimage in Haiti

A scholar went on a Voodoo pilgrimage in Haiti and learned how an oppressive slave past has shaped its religious present. By Guilberly LouissaintPhD Student in AnthropologyUniversity of California, Irvine Introduction In July, hundreds of pilgrims make their way to an isolated town in the northwest of Haiti, called Anse-à-Foleur or Ansafolè. The journey celebrates[…]

Theocratic Tyranny: The Late Medieval to Early Modern Inquisition

Originally established in the 13th century to combat heretical groups, the Inquisition became a sophisticated, global operation in the early modern period. Introduction From movies to metal bands to Monty Python (“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”), the Holy Office of the Inquisition has retained a powerful place in popular imagination. For many, this image is[…]

Unam Sanctam: Spiritual Authority and the Medieval Church

The medieval Church developed and retained its power by encouraging the innate human fear of death and the Church’s vision of itself as the only path to salvation from hell. Introduction The pagan systems of the past all had some version of judgment after death whereby ‘good’ people were rewarded and ‘bad’ people punished, but[…]

The Origins and Growth of Yazidism since the Ancient World

For thousands of years, Yazidism incorporated elements of Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Gnosticism, Christianity, and Islam. By Seth EislundStudentCarleton College Introduction Yazidism is a syncretic, monotheistic religion practiced by the Yazidis, an ethnoreligious group which resides primarily in northern Iraq, northern Syria, and southeastern Turkey. Yazidism is considered by its adherents to be the oldest religion in[…]

The Kellogg Brothers, Breakfast, and Religion

Informed by their religious faith, the siblings merged “spiritual” with physical health. The popular singer and movie star Bing Crosby once crooned, “What’s more American than corn flakes?” Virtually every American is familiar with this iconic cereal, but few know the story of the two men from Battle Creek, Michigan who created those famously crispy,[…]

Archaeology and Religion in Late Bronze Age Canaan

Numerous excavations and a fairly large number of contemporary written documents give us a good picture of the religious system and cult practices in Canaan. Abstract Dozens of temples were excavated in the Canaanite city-states of the Late Bronze Age. These temples were the focal points for the Canaanites’ cultic activities, mainly sacrifices and ceremonial[…]

Why Spinoza Was Excommunicated

He was an upstanding member of the Talmud Torah congregation – until he wasn’t. Bento de Spinoza was a young merchant in Amsterdam, one of many Sephardic Jews in that city involved in overseas trade in the early 1650s. The specialty of his family’s firm, which he and his brother Gabriel had been running since their father’s death in 1654,[…]

Ancient Monasticism and the Quest for Silence

Monasticism developed in part because people were seeking the solace of quiet places But finding solitude was a struggle. In our contemporary world, noise pollution has reached dangerous levels. The World Health Organization has argued that “excessive noise” is a serious threat to human health. Studies have shown that excessive exposure to noise not only causes hearing loss but also leads to heart[…]

Atheism Has Been Part of Many Asian Traditions for Millennia

It might appear to many that atheism is a modern idea. However, in parts of Asia, particularly in India, atheism has been part of beliefs for thousands of years. A group of atheists and secularists recently gathered in Southern California to talk about social and political issues. This was the first of three summits planned[…]

The Religion–Politics Divide in Sikh Politics from Pre- to Post-Colonial India

Examining the intersection of religion and politics in the evolution of the Sikh tradition in the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial periods in the Indian subcontinent. Introduction The purpose of this essay is to look at the changing dynamics of the intersection of religion and politics at various historical junctures in the evolution of the Sikh[…]

The Wild, the Innocent, and the Quaker’s Struggles

It made sense for the Quakers to cultivate an exaggerated presence in order to make their voices heard. By Dr. Brooke Palmieri Although they were notorious for appearing naked in marketplaces, interrupting sermons, and calling for the overthrow of the church, the Quakers were extraordinarily disciplined about running riot. It made sense for the Quakers[…]

Jewish Cosmology in its Ancient Near Eastern Context

Considering the spread of Judaism from the viewpoint of other cultures in the Ancient Near East. Introduction The cosmology of the Hebrew Bible is basic not only to Judaism but also to Christianity, and its central features are accordingly well known to all of us. Our familiarity with the subject has a drawback, however. It necessarily makes us[…]