Category Archives: Religious Controversy

Evidence is for Silly Nannies

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The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, Caravaggio, 1602

I would like to post an expanded version of a short article that I originally shared in November 2013. It fits well with the Easter season. The original title is My Very Own Historical Jesus and can also be found in the archives in its original form. Please feel free to comment. Continue reading

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Filed under Christianity, Origins, Religious Controversy, Revelation

Religion versus Peace

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Interfaith council, publicity photo depicting: Rabbi Yona Metzger, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Grand Mufti Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, and Catholic and Orthodox representatives

Now that the smoke has cleared, I would like to reference the heated discussion between writer Sam Harris and producer, director, actor Ben Affleck. Mr. Affleck got very annoyed as both religious and secular ecumenical norms were being so crassly neglected by the atheist and the politically incorrect.

Ecumenicism is a movement promoting cooperation and unity among differing religious groups. Ecumenical and interfaith movements have grown up alongside of and are entwined in the academic study of religion and have had a strong influence on how we speak publicly about religion. Continue reading

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The Neverending Story : Sunni and Shi’ite

It is standard these days to describe Shi’ah Islam as a splinter group that formed very early in the history of Islam as a result of disagreement over the rightful successor to the Prophet Muhammad. But the student of religion should consider this explanation as part of the sacred history (traditional narrative) of Islam and not as historical fact.

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The newly restored (Shi’ah) Al Askari Shrine, north of Baghdad: originally built in the tenth century, destroyed in Sunni – Shi’ah conflict in 2006-7.

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Religious Cult : No Such Thing

One of the best things you can do for yourself as an honest student of religion is to throw away the common concept of a ‘religious cult’.

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The porch of caryatids at the Erechtheum in Athens, the civic cult of Athena.

 

The student who has accepted my notion of  Modern Religion and has discarded the concept of religious cult (or ‘secte’ in French) as a rogue religion, will be able to explore these religions, whether or not these religions function within accepted laws or cultural norms and regardless of their modern expression, denomination, or relationship to the state.

The ‘cult of a god’ is a term that goes to the heart of all religion, both the living traditions and those that are extinct.

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Filed under Origins, Religious Controversy, Religious Literacy

The Term ‘Abrahamic’

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image above: detail of Abraham and Isaac on the way to the Place of Sacrifice Marc Chagall, 1931

It is endlessly troublesome to create helpful categories for the myriad religions of the world.

The centuries of hostility between the so-called Abrahamic religions originate from their competitive claims to the Hebrew prophetic tradition and from their mutually exclusive claims to the revelations attributed to Abraham and the canon of Israelite prophets. I’m not sure why this category title ever felt right to anyone, religious or otherwise. Continue reading

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Filed under Origins, Religious Controversy, Religious Literacy, Ways to Learn the World Religions

Oh, I’ve Heard About Your Religion

My religion told me about your religion!  The student of religion is very often discouraged and deterred by the discovery that all religion spends so much time and effort commenting upon, and criticizing the religions of others.

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For the good Muslim, it is God who speaks in the Qur’an; it is God who writes the poetry of the Qur’an, and in this poem God mentions the Jewish people and the Christians by name. To be more precise, God devotes more than twenty per cent of the Qur’an to talking about Judaism, Christianity and other religions.

God discusses the failings, or otherwise, of the Sabeans, possibly the Mandaeans, and of numerous ancient religions of various Arabic tribes.

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Your Angel, My Devil

One of the more popular topics of discussion in the World Religions class is the subject of angels and demons.

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Most ideas about angels, devils and demons do not come from sacred writings but more often come from stories, traditions and the arts adjacent to an adherent’s religion. Continue reading

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I Knew a Guy who Knew a Guy

I knew a priest who was born and raised in an American Baptist family and through his faith and intense study had decided to convert to Roman Catholicism. He eventually went deeper into his faith and study and became a Roman Catholic priest. Years later he would decide that he was called to be a Melkite priest, a priest of the so-called Greek Catholic Church.

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The Pope, The Emperor, and The Other Guy

In the fall of 2006, the Pope of the Catholic Church, in a public discourse, quoted a medieval Byzantine emperor who had declared (hundreds of years ago) that Islam had added nothing new to the world of religious thought.

cherubPlaque01 Implied in the statement was the idea that much of Islam is found in the beliefs of those who were assimilated into the Arab Empire and that Islam had added only the oppression of the new rulers.

This quotation caused an outpouring of indignation, with many voices claiming to have been sorely insulted. Of course, the original statement from the late 1300s can tell us quite a bit about the conflicts between empires, the nature of religious controversy and something of the Byzantine mind.  Continue reading

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