Fertility and Faith, Continued

I have made the case that fertility and faith are intimately linked. Very generally, falling fertility rates correlate with declining support for organized religion, and growing secularization. (This is the total fertility rate, TFR). The key marker is the “replacement” rate, when a typical woman bears 2.1 children during the course of her life. When [Read More…]

Two Sides of One Coin? (Buddhist and Christian Decline, Part III)

I have been comparing the decline of two once mighty religious systems, namely Buddhism in India, and Christianity in the Middle East. By the late Middle Ages, both were damaged irreparably, and had shrunk to shadows of their former selves. Indian Buddhism came close to extinction. Both the Christian and Buddhist stories raise the fundamental [Read More…]

Two Sides of One Coin? (Buddhist and Christian Decline, Part II)

Last time, I stated a problem. In the early centuries of the Christian era, Buddhism was an immensely successful and thriving faith, which had its main homeland in India. Between the tenth and thirteenth centuries, though, Indian Buddhism was progressively weakened, to the point of virtual destruction. So totally was it swept away that not [Read More…]

Two Sides of One Coin? Mapping Buddhist and Christian Decline

Although it’s a world religion, in a sense it is multiply cut off from its roots. While its key early figures used one language, its scriptures are translations of those early words. And although it was once very strong in the land of its birth, it subsequently became much more numerous in lands far afield, [Read More…]

Genocide, Ethnic Cleansing and the Jewish War

Palestine in Jesus’s time was a much more complex and diverse place than we might sometimes think from the standard colonial imagery of Roman soldiers oppressing Jewish subjects. As I have described, there were plenty of other groups in Palestine and neighboring regions, and Jews and Gentiles lived in close proximity. There were also substantial [Read More…]

India Today and Hindu Nationalism

After traveling in the United States, G. K. Chesterton famously described America as “a nation with the soul of the a church.” Something akin to this could be said of India, but to church one must quickly add Buddhist stupa, Jain mandir, Sikh gurdwara, Parsi dar-e mihr, Muslim mosque, and, not least, Hindu temple. Indeed, [Read More…]

THE KOLLAM PLATES

Some years ago, in The Lost History of Christianity, I wrote about the world of Asian Christianity during the first millennium. Now, an amazing body of documents throws light on that lost world. This material also demonstrates how the Internet can make historical information freely available. In the mid-ninth century, legal transactions were inscribed on [Read More…]

ALEXANDRIAN CHRISTIANS

With all the turmoil faced by modern-day Egyptian Christians, I hope it doesn’t seem inappropriate to write more on their ancient beginnings. It should remind us of just how much of the Christian heritage is at stake in these battles. I have described the oddly obscure nature of the early Egyptian church, suggesting that Christianity [Read More…]