The persistence of poverty, the decline of social mobility and rising inequality in the U.S. all demand new departures in policy and politics. Yet the electorate and Congress are polarized and trust in government is at an all-time low. Religious Americans have been essential to the success of movements for justice throughout American history. Today, they have an opportunity to sustain a movement for economic justice.
The authors of the above report are E.J. Dionne Jr., William A. Galston, Korin Davis, and Ross Tilchin.
An inquiry that seeks truth by accepting only natural answers excludes the possibility of the sacred or supernatural, building a wall that forecloses a complete exploration for the truth it seeks. Without analysis, critics dismiss sources presenting supernatural explanations, and those who believe sacred works have no factual foundation accept without investigation any popular theory that appears attractive. The rules of evidence expressly seek truth, wherever it lies. Noted legal scholar Simon Greenleaf used evidentiary principles to demonstrate the factual credibility of the Gospels in his Testimony of the Evangelists. This Article examines Greenleaf’s analysis, applying current rules of evidence and updated understanding of the historical record. It challenges blind acceptance of popular works proclaimed as truth, applying the same evidentiary analysis to the Gospel of Judas. Finally, it addresses the dissonance created when demonstrated facts cannot be fully explained on the natural side of the wall.
The author of the above article is Nancy J. Kippenhan.
Blogs have given occasion to a whole new set of conversations about religion in public life. They represent a tremendous opportunity for publication, discussion, cross-fertilization, and critique of a kind never seen before. In principle, at least, the
Internet offers an opportunity to break down old barriers and engender new communities. While the promise is vast, the actuality is only what those taking part happen to make of it.
This report surveys nearly 100 of the most influential blogs that contribute to an online discussion about religion in the public sphere and the academy. It places this religion blogosphere in the context of the blogosphere as a whole, maps out its
contours, and presents the voices of some of the bloggers themselves. For those new to the world of blogs, there is an overview of what blogging is and represents (section 1). The already-initiated can proceed directly to the in-depth analyses of
academic blogging (section 2), where religion blogs stand now, and where they may go in the future (sections 3 and 4).
The purpose at hand is to foster a more self-reflective, collaborative, and mutually-aware religion blogosphere. Ideally, this report will spark discussion among religion bloggers that will take their work further, while also inviting new voices from outside existing networks to join in and take part.
The author of the above report is Nathan Schneider.
Is there any moral justification for the way American law singles out of religion for special protection? What is the appropriate moral attitude to take toward religion?
In two recent papers,1 Brian Leiter argues that there is no good reason for law to single out religion for special treatment, and that religion is not an apt candidate for respect in the ?thick? sense of being an object of favorable appraisal. Special treatment would be appropriate only if there were some ?moral reason why states should carve out special protections that encourage individuals to structure their lives around categorical demands that are insulated from the standards of evidence and reasoning we everywhere else expect to constitute constraints on judgment and action.?2 Favorable appraisal would be called for ?[o]nly if there were a positive correlation between beliefs that were culpably without epistemic warrant and valuable outcomes.
Both arguments depend on a radically impoverished conception of what religion is and what it does.
In this paper, I will explain what Leiter leaves out, and offer an hypothesis about why. I will also engage with some related reflections by Simon Blackburn and Timothy Macklem, both of whom influence, in different ways, Leiter‘s analysis.
The author of the above paper is Andrew Koppelman, Northwestern University.
Critics of constitutional originalism have often described originalists as “fundamentalists” or “literalists” as a way of discrediting originalism. This comparison has obvious rhetorical force because it tends implicitly to taint originalism with guilt by association, given views in the academy of Protestant fundamentalism. But originalism’s critics are not the only ones who appear to have noticed the similarities between the two interpretive approaches; when they have entered the arena of policy and judicial politics, proponents of biblical literalism have generally embraced originalism as the correct approach to constitutional interpretation.
It is not surprising that both critics of constitutional originalism and proponents of biblical literalism have noted a connection between the two interpretive approaches, as there are some obvious similarities. Indeed, the similarities go beyond the caricatures that both critics and proponents have tended to offer. Literalism and originalism share a core commitment to the idea that their relevant texts have a timeless, fixed meaning that is readily ascertainable. In addition, both interpretive approaches are in significant part projects of restoration; both are deeply concerned about the loss of constraint that results from interpretation that is untethered to text; both have a strong, self-consciously populist impulse and an equally strong and self-conscious disdain for elite opinion, both with respect to interpretive norms and cultural values; and both maintain that all other approaches to their relevant texts are fundamentally illegitimate because they breach a duty of fidelity.
Yet if we are to understand the force of the critics’ comparison and, more important, the continuing attraction of originalism to conservative Protestants, we need not only a more nuanced appreciation of the similarities between the two approaches but also a better understanding of the differences. And, indeed, both critics of originalism and literalists who urge originalism as an approach to constitutional interpretation have failed to identify the fundamental differences between the two approaches. For literalism, interpretation is an act of faith in a God who is just and good. Accordingly, for the literalist, obedience to the biblical text - the Word of God - is the highest human good. Originalism, in contrast, demands loyalty to the text regardless of its moral quality; just or good results are accidental rather than necessary features of originalist interpretation.
Originalism’s critics have been perhaps too quick to assign to originalists assumptions that, even to literalists, are unique to the project of biblical interpretation. More important, literalists who have been attracted to originalism - including those whose attraction is instrumental - might want to take a closer look at the approach, and its amoral character, before giving an unqualified endorsement to a theory that could just as well produce results anathema to their most deeply held (and biblically ordained) beliefs.
The authors of the above paper are Peter J. Smith and Robert W. Tuttle, George Washington University Law School.
This Article contends that excluding apparently religious perspectives from public debate may inadvertently exclude non-religious perspectives as well, consequently impoverishing public discussion. This contention is demonstrated through an examination of the current debate over embryonic stem cell research, in which the pro-life position is often declared unacceptably religious. The truth is that those who envision the unborn as under construction in the womb do not find a human being present when gestation has just begun, while those who understand the unborn to be developing see an identity of being from conception. But neither view is based on religion. To disqualify the pro-life view as religious would exclude from public debate an important secular perspective.
The author of the above article is Richard Stith, Valparaiso University School of Law.
This is an essay about Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882). He is a man about whom vast amounts (of very varying quality) have been published. There are some good detailed biographies of Darwin, and this will not attempt to parallel them. Rather it seeks to sketch some of the scientific and religious backgrounds against which Darwin came, and to explore his own changing views on religion (including his oft reputed “death-bed conversion”).
Various sections will deal with useful background (scientific and religious) against which Darwin must be seen. His own scientific and personal development will be very sketchily dealt with, and the focus kept on his religious development.
The author of the above essay is Paul Marston, University of Central Lancashire.
The world is in the grip of an idea: that burning fossil fuels to provide affordable, abundant energy is causing global warming that will be so dangerous that we must stop it by reducing our use of fossil fuels, no matter the cost.
Is that idea true?
We believe not.
We believe that idea—we’ll call it “global warming alarmism”—fails the tests of theology, science, and economics. It rests on poor theology, with a worldview of the Earth and its climate system contrary to that taught in the Bible. It rests on poor science that confuses theory with observation, computer models with reality, and model results with evidence, all while ignoring the lessons of climate history. It rests on poor economics, failing to do reasonable cost/benefit analysis, ignoring or underestimating the costs of reducing fossil fuel use while exaggerating the benefits.
The author of the above report is the Cornwall Alliance.
Our era is one of the resurgence of religion: one of the most significant and enduring transformations of the twentieth century has been the rapid growth of religion – specifically Pentecostalism, Roman Catholicism, indigenous Christianities, and Sunni Islam – throughout the Two Thirds World. This great transformation has perhaps more lasting significance than the rise of fascism and communism to replace an earlier era of globalisation based on a combination of liberal market economy and
empire. Yet the passing of the century has also been characterised by a fresh engagement with religion by some of the most radical, critical and secular of European philosophers: one thinks primarily of Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jean-François Lyotard, Alain Badiou, Giorgio Agamben, Slavoj Žižek, Michel Henry, François Laruelle, and perhaps even Antonio Negri. While this emergence of a ‘religion without religion’ may seem surprising for those educated into a secular culture for whom traditional religious faith amounts to self-deception, superstition and servitude, such an interest in and attraction to religion follows in a long line of modern philosophers from Pascal and Descartes, through Kant, Schelling and Hegel, to Bergson, Heidegger and Jaspers. Indeed, what may require explaining is less the ‘return of the religious’ in critical thought so much as our very element of surprise itself: the assumption of a secular modernity, against much evidence, that it is due to replace earlier religious forms of life throughout the globe.
The author of the above paper is Philip Goodchild, University of Nottingham.
This article argues that futurology is a new religious movement. Futurologists propose that the changes taking place in technology will radically alter human nature in the near future. The movement has its share of charismatic leaders, authoritative texts, and notions of salvation. I do not attempt to refute the vision of the future put forth by the futurologists themselves, but assume that their view of the future will unfold as they see it. This allows me more easily to gauge futurology’s future
relationship with religion. Rational choice theory is employed as a tool to discern whether futurology has the potential to be competitive when it enters the market-place of religions. I argue that, if the science behind it is perfected, futurology poses a real challenge to traditional religion.
The author of the above article is Amarnath Amarasingam, Doctoral Candidate, Laurier-Waterloo PhD in Religious Studies, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
Prior research has shown that individuals living in Southern areas express significantly less tolerant attitudes than the rest of the nation, while individuals residing in urban areas express significantly more tolerant attitudes than their rural peers. We seek to explain these generally unspecified Southern and urban effects by identifying demographic contextual factors that affect individuals? tolerance levels. Using 1976?2000 General Social Survey and 1990 Census data, we find that net of individual factors, residing in an area with a larger proportion of college graduates significantly increases individual levels of tolerance, while residing in an area with a larger proportion of evangelical Protestants significantly decreases tolerance. We also find that the Southern and urban effects on tolerance become non-significant once contextual-level controls are added.
The authors of the above article are Laura M. Moore, Hood College and Seth Ovadia, Towson University.
In the summer of 1845, William Wines Phelps—Joseph Smith’s political clerk, amanuensis, ghostwriter, and linguistic coach—published a piece of very short science fiction “to counterbalance the foolish novel reading of the present generation.” His creative and heavily theological work, entitled “Paracletes” (his plural for Parakletos, the “Advocate” or “Comforter” of the King James New Testament) and published under a pseudonym—Joseph’s Speckled Bird—drawn from his first patriarchal blessing, provides stunning vistas on the nature of Mormonism among Joseph Smith’s inner circle around the time of his murder.
Within Judeo-Christian theism many of the initially-sounding paradoxical and counter-intuitive expressions—such as Martin Luther’s description of the Christian believer as simul peccator et iustus—seem oftentimes contradictory, or at least pointless, to the unbeliever. Yet, these expressions play an important role within the theistic context of faith. The present essay promotes the view that such expressions should not be eliminatively reduced to “equivalent” restatements of
them in non-paradoxical language. For the paradoxical formulations are themselves instinct with a rhetorical force that makes their putative religious truth seem all the more penetrating and prepossessing.
The author of the above essay is Jasper Hopkins, University of Minnesota.
The purpose of the study was to determine the relationship between political evangelicalism and both critical thinking and selected sociopolitical perspectives in a sample of Southeastern university students in late 2007. The findings showed that political evangelicalism was negatively correlated with critical thinking, critical patriotism, and respect for civil liberties but positively correlated with uncritical patriotism, emphasis on national security, militarism, threat of Saddam Hussein, and support for the Iraq War. Compared with media reports highlighting evangelicals’ sociopolitical perspectives near the beginning of the Iraq War, the current findings show that these perspectives have remained strong despite the subsequent
course of the war.
The authors of the above article are Robert L. Williams and Colin C. Quillivan, The University of Tennessee.
This article explores the major factors involved in why a sample of Messianic Jews have chosen this system of belief rather than stay within traditional Judaism or become Christian. Those interviewed are critical of their religious upbringing as Jews, although traditional aspects of Judaism remain important and relevant to their Messianic belief. The anti-Judaism present within the Church, both past and present, is their primary reason for not becoming Christian. The challenge that Messianic Jews present for both religions is how effective they are in helping people to live a faith perspective that has meaning in the complex, multi-faceted contemporary world.
The author of the above article is Pauline Kollontai, York St. John’s College, University of Leeds.
Religious arguments have figured on both sides of the debate over same-sex marriage. Some supporters have insisted, however, that, as long as the question at hand is limited to civil marriage, consideration of the religious dimension of marriage is just irrelevant. Thus, the Massachusetts high court, in its Goodridge opinion, wrote: “In Massachusetts, civil marriage is ... precisely what its name implies: a wholly secular institution.”
American civil marriage is, to be sure, a secular institution. But the claim that it is a “wholly secular institution” suggests that religious arguments about civil marriage are just confused, guilty of a category mistake.
This article examines the notion that civil marriage is a “wholly secular institution.” It concludes that the “secular” and “religious” meanings and institutions of marriage are so intermeshed in our history, legal and religious imagination, and doctrine that trying to wall off “civil marriage” from religious considerations is neither possible nor desirable. The idea of “marriage” is a piece of intellectual and cultural “capital” common to both church and state, and changes in the meaning of that idea would have both secular and religious implications. Moreover, the institutions of “civil” and “religious” marriage are not as easily divisible as many believe. Religious believers are legitimate stakeholders in any debate over the meaning of civil marriage.
All this is not to suggest that religious objectors should have a veto on the recognition of same-sex marriage in civil law. Indeed, this article does not reach any bottom-line conclusion on the marriage controversy. The intermeshing of the secular and religious dimensions of marriage does have practical consequences, which the article discusses. But those consequences cut both ways, in the manner of interlocking opposites. This article’s overriding goal is to illuminate the playing field, not to score points for one side or the other.
The author of the above article is Perry Dane, Professor of Law, Rutgers School of Law.
Noah Feldman first excited the scholarly and public imagination by arguing that Muslim countries could respect democracy and individual rights while still continuing to entrench Islam in their constitutional order. More recently, he has turned his considerable intelligence and analytic elegance back to the Establishment Clause and the church-state problem in the United States. Feldman’s book Divided by God is mostly a history, from about the time of the Framers to the present. But it is, by its own terms, a history with a trajectory, leading to his view of the current standoff and his proposal for reframing the American dispensation of church and state.
The stand-off, as Feldman sees it, is not only between two legal positions, but two movements. On the one side are “legal secularists,” who insist on a strict separation between government and religion. On the other side are “values evangelicals,” who want to allow the government to engage in religious expression, at least of a general sort, and to finance the good work of religious institutions. Feldman’s proposal, outlined at the end of the book, is to give a bit to both sides—to loosen current limits on non-coercive religious expression by government, while tightening limits on the government’s financial aid to religion.
I have doubts about both Feldman’s diagnosis and his prescription, as will become clear. The formulation of his proposal strikes me as unclear in crucial ways, and in any event unlikely to produce the peace and reconciliation that Feldman believes it will. More fundamentally, Feldman pays much too little attention to the religious undergirding of what he calls “legal secularism,” as well as the secular forces and sensibilities contributing to what he calls “values evangelicalism.” At the end of the day, any path out of the current debate would require a more complete integration of these complicated cross-currents than Feldman provides. In important ways, Feldman is eminently reasonable, but maybe too reasonable to appreciate fully the radical, indeed theologically radical, meaning embedded in the Establishment Clause.
Nevertheless, this is a lucid and intelligent book. It also expertly straddles the worlds of scholarship and public intellectual debate. Together with Feldman’s earlier work, it is a vital contribution to the ongoing consideration of the role of religion in the contemporary nationstate.
Part I of this review essay sketches some pieces of Feldman’s historical account. Part II takes a more detailed look at his proposal and its doctrinal and practical implications. Part III delves more deeply into the complex interweaving of the “secular” and the “religious” in the perennial debate over the meaning of the American experiment in religious disestablishment. Part IV offers some concluding thoughts.
The author of the above review is Perry Dane, Professor of Law, Rutgers School of Law.
For more than fifty years, an enduring criticism of American higher education has been that it offers students a smorgasbord of courses and choices without coherence, interconnection, or relevance to the deeper purposes of life.
How this fragmentation came about is the topic of this essay. American higher education went through a major transformation that began in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and received new momentum during the late 1960s. One result is the incoherent curriculum. This essay, “From Christian Gentleman to Bewildered Seeker” by Russell K. Nieli, tells how it happened.
The author of the above essay is Russell K. Nieli, Princeton University.
This article is a research note addressing various theoretical and methodological issues in the measurement and analysis of religiosity and secularism and their relationship to quantifiable measures of social health in advanced and prosperous democracies. Particular attention is given to crossnational frameworks for studying religiosity and secularism as well as to the conceptualization and statistical analysis of these notions for research design. Various procedural suggestions regarding the use of comparative frameworks are presented to assist in the development and implementation of future studies gauging the impact of worldview commitments upon societal wellbeing.
The authors of the above article are Gerson Moreno-Riaño, Mark Caleb Smith, and Thomas Mach, Cedarville University.
In this paper I compare Paul and Muhammad, placing them side-by-side in Jerusalem and Mecca, in the Diaspora and on the caravan routes, with the objective of providing a more complete picture to explain the rise of universalistic monotheism. In so doing, it is my intention to add to the studies that have been produced on the social origins of Christianity and Islam. The question I raise is the following: What accounts for the dismantling of the old pagan pluralistic cults of the Roman Empire, and the tribal paganism of Arabia, followed by the emergence of a much more abstract monotheism? I argue that there are strong sociological reasons for this sequence of events in both contexts, and that a comparative study of Paul and Muhammad is a useful means of discovering them.
The author of the above article is Khaldoun Samman, Macalester College.
Although religion has been viewed as playing an important role in the maintenance of moral order, the most recent analysis of variation in homicide rates among nations argues that homicide is facilitated by high levels of religiosity (Paul). That analysis, however, was based on scatter-plots for eighteen “prosperous nations” and focused primarily on the United States compared to “secular” nations. Because there are numerous dimensions to religiosity and a variety of alternative explanations of homicide rates, a more complex analysis is required before more definitive conclusions can be reached. This study attempts such an analysis for a much larger sample of nations and tests Durkheim’s hypotheses that religious passion, as a variable characteristic of nations, is a positive correlate of homicide rates. A multiple regression analysis reveals a complex relationship with some dimensions of religiosity encouraging homicide and other dimensions discouraging it. The relationships found not only survive controls for variables proposed in prior research, but also suggest major modifications to theories focusing on economic variables as characteristics of nations.
The author of the above article is Gary F. Jensen, Vanderbilt University.
When antebellum anti-Mormons took up their pens to thwart the Mormon “menace,” they not only rehearsed various critiques of Mormonism, they participated in a larger conversation about the place of religion in the nation and the ways citizens might separate “real” religion from the religiously inauthentic. While Protestants of the period assumed “objective” descriptions of various religious groups might calm a vexed post-disestablishment religious scene, their incorporation of a long-standing polemical strategy that sought to expose religious impostors illuminated an array of conflicting attachments and various cultural tensions that attended the new republic’s “free market” in churches.
The author of the above article is J. Spencer Fluhman, Brigham Young University.
In a recent defence of what he calls “study by religion,” Robert Ensign suggests that alleged divine revelations represent public forms of knowledge, which should not be excluded from the
academy. But at least according to two major Christian thinkers, namely Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin, revelation is received by an act of faith, which rests on evidence that is personrelative and therefore not open to public scrutiny. If religious studies is to remain a public discipline, whose arguments may be evaluated by believers and non-believers alike, it should maintain its defeasible but not yet defeated presumption of naturalism.
The author of the above article is Gregory W. Dawes, University of Otago, New Zealand.
In a recent paper, Greg Dawes has argued for what he calls the “presumption of naturalism” in religious studies, and by implication in academia in general. He argues that theological
assumptions may not be brought into academic study to the extent that they are not grounded in publicly accessible knowledge. Here I argue that Christians can and must bring their theological assumptions with them into public academia. I will try to show that Dawes’ proposal entails a denial of certain elements of Christian thought, and that his methodology thus fails to be neutral, as well as having other noticeable problems.
The author of the above article is Glenn Peoples, University of Otago, New Zealand.
A common account of the history of American higher education runs as follows. In their early years, America’s colleges and universities served religious ends. Harvard, founded in 1636, had been started to train ministers, and although by the early nineteenth century some college and university professors could be found advancing the cause of science, their primary mandate remained that of instructing students in the classics and teaching them lessons in theology and moral philosophy that would prepare them for the business of citizenship and life. In the closing decades of the nineteenth century, however, an “academic revolution” occurred. Especially at elite institutions, professors began thinking of themselves as scientists and scholars whose major task was to seek out truth, not propagate religious dogma. Under pressure from industry and the state to produce scientific breakthroughs that would result in technological progress and social reform, professors reconfigured themselves as researchers who specialized in their subject areas, published their findings, trained graduate students, established their own criteria for evaluating academic work, and demanded the freedom to pursue truth whether or not it offended religious or political authorities. Academic freedom was institutionalized, many schools severed ties to religious denominations, and reforms started at the top soon trickled down. In the mid-twentieth century, additional changes took place as enrollments skyrocketed and students and faculty members from a variety of ethnic, religious, and class backgrounds entered the system. Seeking legitimacy, these new entrants to the academic arena shielded themselves from prejudice and attack by further embracing universalistic ideals of science and eschewing religious value commitments. The secularization of American higher education, almost complete, had only to await the mass hiring into the ranks of the faculty of participants in the social movements of the 1960s – leftists who were deeply suspicious of religion in general and Christianity in particular. As a result of this process, or so the story goes, academe has now become, in the words of historian George Marsden, “a haven largely freed from religious perspectives.”
In broad brush stroke this story is not wrong, but, like most unilinear accounts of social change, it ignores many points of historical ambiguity, tension, and conflict, while encouraging us to substitute assumptions about social reality for systematic empirical investigation. At a moment when sociologists of religion are busy reassessing secularization theory in general – the thesis, subscribed to by all the founders of the discipline, that modernity inevitably brings with it a decline in the power of religion to shape people’s public and private lives – it is worth reconsidering as well the
secularization of American higher education. This short essay takes a step in this direction by answering a straightforward question: How religious, if at all, are America’s college and university professors? To gain traction on the matter, we analyze data from a nationally-representative survey carried out earlier this year of professors in all fields and types of higher education institutions. Although the focus of the survey was professors’
political attitudes, we included a number of standard measures of religiosity as well. We find that, on the whole, professors are indeed less religious than other Americans. However, there is substantial variation in religiosity from discipline to discipline and across types of institutions, and it is hardly the case that the professorial landscape is characterized by an absence of religion. The essay begins with an overview of our
methodology, moves on to summarize key findings, and concludes by considering implications for future research. In the short space we have here, we can offer only an exploratory analysis of our data, but we think that even the descriptive statistics are interesting.
The authors of the above paper are Neil Gross, Harvard University, and Solon Simmons, George Mason University.
I’ve always thought that the doctrine of justification is the crux of the Lutheran/Catholic controversy. If the Roman church has been in error on this point, to the extent of condemning the true understanding of the basis of our righteousness before God, then the Reformation was fully justified. Conversely, if Rome has not been in error, if her position can be charitably interpreted as a faithful exposition of the gospel and her condemnations
(at Trent) as the rejection of genuine errors, then the Reformation, which destroyed the visible unity of the Church and broke ancient bonds of fellowship, was wholly unjustified. All other issues are secondary: sola Scriptura, the role of the papacy, purgatory, the veneration and invocation of the saints, and so on. Even if Rome has been wrong about these things, these errors are simply not weighty enough to justify the division of the Church.
This re-thinking of the issue of justification has been a long process, begun nearly thirty years ago, when I was an undergraduate student. This reflection was intensified in recent years by the Joint Declaration on Justification, issued by Lutheran and Roman Catholic theologians in 1999, in which it was argued that the two churches are in agreement on the essential points of this doctrine. In my view, the Joint Declaration is incorrect, and a significant difference remains in the two understandings of justification, but the difference is much more subtle than is generally recognized by Lutherans.
I used to be confident that the teachings of Paul in Romans, Galatians and Ephesians made it quite clear that the Roman position on justification was fundamentally wrong. I’ve come to have serious doubts about this, however, based in part on a reinterpretation of Paul’s writings, and partly on a better understanding of exactly what the Roman church teaches. In addition, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Lutheran position on justification is an unstable one, incorporating a fatal self-contradiction.
The author of the above essay is Robert Koons, University of Texas.
Large-scale surveys show dramatic declines in religiosity in favor of secularization in the developed democracies. Popular acceptance of evolutionary science correlates negatively with levels of religiosity, and the United States is the only prosperous nation where the majority absolutely believes in a creator and evolutionary science is unpopular. Abundant data is available on rates of societal dysfunction and health in the first world. Cross-national comparisons of highly differing rates of religiosity and societal conditions form a mass epidemiological experiment that can be used to test whether high rates of belief in and worship of a creator are necessary for high levels of social health. Data correlations show that in almost all regards the highly secular democracies consistently enjoy low rates of societal dysfunction, while pro-religious and anti-evolution America performs poorly.
The author of the above article is Gregory S. Paul.
Until the presidency of George W Bush and September 11, 2001 there was not a great deal of public interest in the place of religion in the contemporary world. True, Samuel Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’ thesis had excited some interest in a possible conflict between the West and Islam. In general, however, with declining church membership and attendance in most Western countries it was assumed that the developed world, with America the only major exception, was slowly, but inexorably, on the road to complete secularity. This meant that discussion of religion tended to focus on such matters as the decline of Christianity, the possibility of female and gay priests and ‘moral’ issues such as abortion.
The author of the above essay is Gregory Melleuish, University of Wollongong.
The intensification of anti-Semitism in the Arab world over the last years and its reappearance in parts of Europe have occasioned a number of thoughtful reflections on the nature and consequences of this phenomenon, but also some misleading analyses based on doubtful premises. It is widely assumed, for example, that anti-Semitism is a form of racism or ethnic xenophobia. This is a legacy of the post-World War II period, when revelations about the horrifying scope of Hitler’s “final solution” caused widespread revulsion against all manifestations of group hatred. Since then, racism, in whatever guise it appears, has been identified as the evil to be fought.
The author of the above article is author and historian Paul Johnson.
This study evaluates the association of religiousness with the growth parameters characterizing changes in self-rated health during adulthood (ages 20-94 years). Even after controlling for health behaviors, social support/social activity, and four of the Big Five, women who were highly religious in 1940 had higher mean self-rated health throughout their lifespan, slower rates of linear decline, and less pronounced cascades than did less religious
women. For men, the associations of religiousness with the growth parameters underlying self-rated health were negligible. Results indicate that the association of religiousness with women’s self-rated health may persist after controlling for mundane mediators and that the association of religiousness and self-rated health is not an artifact of the association between religiousness and the Big Five.
The authors of the above essay are Michael E. McCullough and Jean-Philippe Laurenceau, University of Miami.
The Daily Telegraph presents an article from Niall Ferguson Heaven knows how we'll rekindle our religion, but I believe we must. Ferguson, a materialist, is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University. You can read the article here.
In a recent paper, Greg Dawes has argued for what he calls the “presumption of naturalism” in religious studies, and by implication in academia in general. He argues that theological assumptions may not be brought into academic study to the extent that they are not grounded in publicly accessible knowledge. Here I argue that Christians can and must bring their theological assumptions with them into public academia. I will try to show that Dawes’ proposal entails a denial of certain elements of Christian thought, and that his methodology thus fails to be neutral, as well as having other noticeable problems.
The author of the above essay is Glenn Peoples, University of Otago, New Zealand.
The “resurgence” of Paganism in Western Europe has occasioned a response to western Christianity that has presumably neglected the environment, exerted male dominance, demythologized the world and exalted reason above creativity. This essay will discuss some factors that have contributed to this resurgence and paganism’s critique of western Christianity. Then, utilizing Lesslie Newbigin and Paul Hiebert it will make suggestions for a missiological agenda to encounter Paganism. This study represents initial research for understanding the growth of Paganism. Further research is currently ongoing.
The author of the above essay is Michael Cooper, assistant professor of Christian Ministries in the School of Biblical and Religious Studies at Trinity International University.
Western society, far from being secular, is increasingly religious. While Christianity has been in decline, the emergence of new religious movements suggests the continued search for a religious identity. Paganism is but one of the avenues in this search and represents a postmodern response to the apparent lapse in western Christianity. It is essential for the engagement of different religious views to first understand those views. This study
represents initial research in understanding Paganism phenomenologically. Further research is currently ongoing.
The author of the above articles is Michael Cooper, assistant professor of Christian Ministries in the School of Biblical and Religious Studies at Trinity International University.
In the inerrancy controversy that shook the Southern Baptist Convention beginning in 1979, Southern Baptists divided over what it meant to be a Baptist. When Southern Baptist leaders polarized amid the conservative effort to make belief in inerrancy a condition of denominational service, their posture toward the inerrancy initiative derived in large measure from their understanding of Baptist identity. Conservatives believed that moderates
had departed from the Baptist tradition and moderates felt the same way about conservatives. Each party in the conflict claimed to be true Baptists and claimed the imprimatur of Baptist tradition.
The author of the above articles is Gregory A. Wills, Professor of Church History and Director of the Center for the Study of the Southern Baptist Convention at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
When antebellum anti-Mormons took up their pens to thwart the Mormon "menace," they not only rehearsed various critiques of Mormonism, they participated in a larger conversation about the place of religion in the nation and the ways citizens might separate "real" religion from the religiously inauthentic. While Protestants of the period assumed "objective" descriptions of various religious groups might calm a vexed post-disestablishment religious scene, their incorporation of a long-standing polemical strategy that sought to expose religious impostors illuminated an array of conflicting attachments and various cultural tensions that attended the new republic's "free market" in churches.
The author of the above articles is J. Spencer Fluhman, Brigham Young University.
"When people talk about Protestantism, it's about evangelicalism and Pentecostalism," says Diana Butler Bass, a senior researcher at the Virginia Theological Seminary. "Most people think mainline Protestant churches are dead." Director of the Project on Congregations of Intentional Practice, a three-year study of 50 churches across the country that's scheduled to end in 2006, Bass set out to find whether the stereotype is true—or whether, as she puts it, there's "a new kind of mainline congregation developing in the United States that's moderate to liberal theologically, taking traditional Christian practices seriously, and is experiencing an unnoticed vitality."
The above is from a June 2005 U.S. News & World Report article written by Linda Kulman.
Ten years after the publication of The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, I remain largely unrepentant about the book’s historical arguments, its assessment of evangelical strengths and weaknesses, and its indictment of evangelical intellectual efforts, though I have changed my mind on a few matters. Some readers have rightly pointed out that what I described as a singularly evangelical problem is certainly related to the general intellectual difficulties of an advertisement-driven, image-preoccupied, television-saturated, frenetically hustling consumer society, and that the reason evangelicals suffer from intellectual weakness is that American culture as a whole suffers from intellectual weakness. Another helpful criticism is that the book lumps together fundamentalists, Pentecostals, and holiness advocates as culprits in the stagnation of evangelical thinking and that it ignores certain mitigating circumstances and worthy exceptions that one could cite from each of these sub-traditions.
The author of the above article is Mark Noll, professor of History at Wheaton College.
For some, the ongoing skirmishes between traditionalists and reformists over evangelical boundaries might seem to be a sign of life in a movement questing for an identity after Billy Graham and Carl F.H. Henry. For both sides of the divide, however, the issues raised by “post-conservative” proposals represent
a challenge to the uneasy consensus of the postwar movement. For reformists, the postconservative proposals are true to the heritage of evangelical theology as a movement initiated for the reformation of American fundamentalism. And yet, recent developments reveal that the evangelical left may be pushing evangelical theology away from the theological consensus around the centrality of the Kingdom of God that the founders of evangelicalism sought to establish, and saw developed into a full-blown consensus by the end of the century. And, in so doing, post-conservative proposals represent an ironic
regression to the doctrinal reductionism of twentieth-century fundamentalism.
The author of the above paper is Russell D. Moore, Assistant Professor of Christian Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The Soul of a Nation
Much of what is good about civil religion, and much of what is dangerous about it, even at its best, is summed up by the ambiguity of the image of cross-shaped girders raised from Ground Zero. Wilfred McClay argues that a proper American civil religion balances and blends religious zeal with patriotism, thereby preventing the dominance of one over the other.
When measured by new converts and recent increases in church attendance, Christianity seems to be doing pretty well in America. But the numbers conceal the reality. Clifford Orwin examines the quasi-relativism of mainline Protestantism and the intellectual poverty of evangelicalism in America, as well as their unfortunate implications.
The December issue of First Things has an excellent article detailing the two cases on religion that will come before the United States Supreme Court in 2004. In addition, the November issue of First Things, has an excellent article dealing with Nazism and the Catholic Church.