The Rise of “Abrahamic Religions”

Most semesters, I teach a course my university titled “Religions of the West.” Given my own background of research and writing, I at first considered pretending that the “West” meant the “American West” and having my students discuss Native American spirituality, Spanish missions, and Mormonism. Alas, “Religions of the West” meant the broader histories of [Read More…]

Malcolm X in Cairo

“My heart is in Cairo,” declared Malik El-Shabazz (more commonly known as Malcolm X, formerly Malcolm Little) in July 1964. “And I believe the more progressive relations [and] forces in the Muslim world are in Cairo.” If one teaches American religious history, it does not take long to recognize that undergraduate students love to discuss [Read More…]

The Study Quran

For the unfamiliar (that includes me), the Qur’an is an imposing, rather intimidating scripture. Unlike the Bible, it doesn’t contain long chunks of historical narrative that allow one to advance in something like chronological order. Without knowing the context of the individual sections (or sections of sections), one encounters a bewildering array of spiritual, legal, [Read More…]

Muslims, the New Mormons

In 1890, the U.S. Supreme Court — in upheld laws intended to disenfranchise Mormon polygamists. The 1882 Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act required voters to swear that they were not polygamists, and the Idaho Territory had passed a statute requiring voters to attest that they were not Mormons. In Idaho, church member Samuel Davis was convicted of [Read More…]

Donald Trump and Monitoring Muslims

UPDATE: The topic of this post has taken on added urgency in light of the San Bernardino shootings of Dec. 2. It is ever more important to be vigilant, and to protect religious liberty. I have made my views of Donald Trump well known – he’s dangerous and inane, and normally does not stick to [Read More…]

Islam: Inherently Violent?

The jihadist attacks in Paris have grieved and frightened the world again with the reality of Muslims committing violence in the name of Islam. Again we face the question – is Islam inherently violent? Are Muslims required to commit violence as a religious obligation?  There is no doubt that unsettling numbers of Muslims would not [Read More…]

Should We Elect a Muslim President?

Ben Carson stirred up the latest Republican primary tempest this weekend when he volunteered the opinion that he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” What should we make of this statement? First, it speaks to a pervasive religious ignorance in our political culture, of which Carson is hardly the [Read More…]

“Woven into the fabric of our country”? Islam in Early America

President Obama created controversy in a recent speech when he asserted that “Islam has been woven into the fabric of our country since its founding.” He followed this statement with rather generic statements about Muslim immigrants coming to America and finding economic opportunity and freedom. The point of the president’s comments is, of course, that [Read More…]

What Motivates Jihadists?

Over at The Atlantic, Graeme Wood has a fascinating but disturbing piece on the theological foundations of ISIS. It is worth reading the whole article, but this is the critical passage: The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the [Read More…]

Is Islam Inherently Violent?

The horrific attack on the staff of Paris’s Charlie Hedbo has renewed questions about Muslims and the besetting problem of Islamic jihadism and violence. Is Islam inherently violent, and is Islam itself to blame for such crimes? As delicious as anger and venom can be at times like this (and we certainly hope for justice to [Read More…]


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