September 28, 2022

There is a new Global Faith and Media Study on how news media cover religion and religious issues. Apparently neither journalists nor religious people are happy with religious journalism these days. But it’s arguably been worse. Consider the s0-called Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. You probably recall that a high school teacher in Tennessee named John Scopes was put on trial for teaching evolution, which violated Tennessee law. The trial became a media circus featuring two famous lawyers, Clarence Darrow... Read more

September 24, 2022

The word Deism often comes up in early U.S. history and some 18th century European history as well. But what was Deism? George Washington refused to take Communion in his adult life, it’s widely reported. And he avoided mention of Jesus Christ in his writings. Historians interpret this to mean that Washington, while a regular Episcopal church-goer, was a secret Deist. Thomas Jefferson was much less secretive about his Deism. Late in his life he created his own version of... Read more

September 23, 2022

One of the most persistent popular themes of American history is that the United States is a Christian nation. It was explicitly founded to be a Christian nation, the story goes, and its laws and values are based on Christianity. This is what the founders of the nation intended. Therefore, Christianity deserves a privileged position in U.S. law and public policy. A recent poll of U.S. adults found that 61 percent of Republicans — but only 17 percent of Democrats... Read more

September 17, 2022

The Mahabodhi Temple is believed to mark the place where the Buddha realized enlightenment. This is the central, foundational event in the tradition of Buddhism. But the temple was neglected for centuries, and its origins forgotten, until it caught the attention of European scholars and archeologists in the 19th century. Today the restored temple is an object of reverence but also of heated sectarian dispute between Buddhists and Hindus. It has twice been the target of terrorist attacks. The temple... Read more

September 11, 2022

The 1984 film Amadeus — and the stage play on which it was based — took liberties with history, including the story behind the composition of the Mozart Requiem in D Minor. But the real story is just as dramatic and is the stuff of legend — and wild conspiracy theories. So let’s try to sort fact from fiction. The year was 1791, and the young Austrian composer Wolfgang Mozart was enjoying a prolific period. That year he completed two operas.... Read more

September 6, 2022

Rābiʿah al-ʿAdawīyah (713/17–801), also called Rabi’a of Basra or Rabi’a Basri, was a woman, poet, and mystic who made significant contributions to Islam. According to traditional stories, Rabi’a was born into a poor family of Basra, in what is now Iraq, then sold into slavery when her parents died. Her practices of piety and prayer impressed her master, who freed her. She spent much of the rest of her life in the desert outside Basra, living independently, writing her poems,... Read more

September 5, 2022

St. Paul’s Chapel of Trinity Church, New York City, is an old Episcopal church with a lot of history. It’s a history that stretches from the colonial period and the Revolution to the September 11 terrorist attacks, when it became “The Little Chapel That Stood.” St. Paul’s Chapel belongs to the same congregation as Trinity Church, which is a few blocks south on the corner of Wall Street and Broadway. The Trinity congregation was established in 1697, and as New... Read more

September 2, 2022

The Axial Age was a period of world history. It’s called “Axial Age” because it was a pivotal time, a turn on an axis, in religion and philosophy. The oldest of our great world religions became what they are today in the Axial Age. The first of the great philosophers whose work still shapes civilization lived in the Axial Age. The phrase “Axial Age” was coined by the German philosopher Karl Jaspers (1883–1969), in his book Vom Ursprung und Ziel... Read more

August 29, 2022

Is U.S. law based on the Ten Commandments? Over the years, many in the U.S. have called for displaying the Ten Commandments in public schools and courthouses. To sidestep the obvious conflict with the establishment clause, it’s argued that U.S. law is based on the Ten Commandments. So, displaying the Commandments is not really about religion, they say, even though several Commandments (versions vary) are directions about how humans should relate to God. Which pretty much makes it about religion.... Read more

August 25, 2022

Kumarajiva (344–413 CE)  is remembered for translating many significant Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Chinese. His influence on the development of Buddhism in China cannot be overstated. And he accomplished this while being caught up in outrageous political upheavals and intrigues in China. For example, Kumarajiva spent several years of his life as the hostage of a rogue warlord. But in order to appreciate what Kumarajiva went through, you need a bit of background into China’s history. Big Troubles In... Read more

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