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An Introduction
The concept of secularization has grown to become one of the most important features of contemporary religious thought. This book introduces and examines the thinking of sixteen key theologions, philosophers and historians of religion to explain (a) why by the late nineteenth century the traditional concept of God as an ontologically real being came to be considered no longer necessary and (b) how the new perspective on God, which accepts him only as an idea, turned into the preferred approach of today’s religion and philosophy, namely “religious radicalism”.
Comparative Perspectives
Publicly performed rituals and ceremonies form an essential part of medieval political practice and court culture. This applies not only to western feudal societies, but also to the linguistically and culturally highly diversified environment of Byzantium and the Mediterranean basin. The continuity of Roman traditions and cross-fertilization between various influences originating from Constantinople, Armenia, the Arab-Muslim World, and western kingdoms and naval powers provide the framework for a distinct sphere of ritual expression and ceremonial performance. This collective volume, placing Byzantium into a comparative perspective between East and West, examines transformative processes from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages, succession procedures in different political contexts, phenomena of cross-cultural appropriation and exchange, and the representation of rituals in art and literature.
Contributors are Maria Kantirea, Martin Hinterberger, Walter Pohl, Andrew Marsham, Björn Weiler, Eric J. Hanne, Antonia Giannouli, Jo Van Steenbergen, Stefan Burkhardt, Ioanna Rapti, Jonathan Shepard, Panagiotis Agapitos, Henry Maguire, Christine Angelidi and Margaret Mullett.
Richard of St.Victor (d.1173) developed original ideas about the faculty of imagination in a twelfth-century Parisian context. Related to the historical study of philosophical psychology, Richard of St. Victor’s Theory of Imagination acknowledges that the faculty of imagination, being a necessary precondition for human reasoning and a link between soul and body, plays an important role in Richard’s understanding of the human soul. Richard also deals with the interpretation of biblical language, metaphors, rhetoric, and the possibility of creative imagination. Considering all these aspects of the imagination in Richard’s texts improves our understanding of his theological epistemology and sheds new light on the theory of the imagination in the history of medieval philosophy in general.
Analyzing the literature on art from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, The Spiritual Language of Art explores the complex relationship between visual art and spiritual experiences during the Italian Renaissance. Though scholarly research on these writings has predominantly focused on the influence of classical literature, this study reveals that Renaissance authors consistently discussed art using terms, concepts and metaphors derived from spiritual literature. By examining these texts in the light of medieval sources, greater insight is gained on the spiritual nature of the artist’s process and the reception of art. Offering a close re-readings of many important writers (Alberti, Leonardo, Vasari, etc.), this study deepens our understanding of attitudes toward art and spirituality in the Italian Renaissance.

Fears and stories about an underground religion devoted to Satan, which demands and carries out child sacrifice, appeared in the United States in the late twentieth century and became the subject of media reports supported by some mental health professionals. Examining these modern fantasies leads us back to ancient stories which in some cases believers consider the height of religious devotion.

Horrifying ideas about human sacrifice, child sacrifice, and the offering to the gods of a beloved only son by his father appear repeatedly in Western traditions, starting with the Greeks and the Hebrews. In Flesh and Blood: Interrogating Freud on Human Sacrifice, Real and Imagined, Beit-Hallahmi focuses on rituals of violence tied to religion, both imagined and real. The main focus of this work is the meaning of blood and ritual killing in the history of religion. The book examines the encounter with the idea of child sacrifice in the context of human hopes for salvation.
RSSSR continues to offer a place for the publication of theoretical and empirical papers related to the broad area of how the social sciences understand religion. Two papers in the general section add important contributions to the fields of faith development and spirituality. The use of special sections has enabled particular topics to be dealt with in detail and shows how information that is gathered incrementally can help make great advances in a field. Spirituality, alongside religion, features as the key independent variable in many of the nine papers of the special section in this volume. Social scientific approaches have sought to show links between the experiences of health, well-being or disease, and individual differences in religiosity and/or spirituality.
Volume 4: Prayer in Religion and Spirituality (2013)
Prayer is a phenomenon which seems to be characteristic not only of participants in every religion, but also men and women who do not identify with traditional religions. It can be practised even by those who do not believe either in a God or transcendent force. In this sense, therefore, we may assert that the prayer is a typically human activity that has accompanied the development of different civilizations over the course of the centuries. Both the material issues of concrete daily life as well as more symbolic elements expressed through words, gestures, body positions, and community celebration are brought together in the act of praying.
Beyond Network Theory and Social Constructivism
Based on the analysis of 52 conversion narratives to various religious groups, A New Model of Religious Conversion utilizes case studies for comparison of converts' backgrounds, network influence, and conversion narratives. The author convincingly illustrates a "fit" between the converts' background and the religion they convert to, such as between disorganized family backgrounds and highly structured religions. Conversely, those from highly structured backgrounds often convert to more "open" groups. The book also makes it clear that not all conversions are influenced by networks or align themselves with a social constructivist view of a conversion as an "account." Taking converts' trajectories seriously, the author makes a strong case for the application of biographical sociology to the study of conversion and (American) sociology overall.
What, in Heaven’s Name, are we Teaching our Children?
Cathy Byrne presents the secular principle as a guiding compass for religion in government schools in plural democracies. Using in-depth case studies, historical and contextual research from Australia, and comparisons with other developed nations, Religion in Secular Education provides a comprehensive, at times confronting, analysis of the ideologies, policies, pedagogies, and practices for state-school religion. In the context of rising demands for students to develop intercultural competence and interreligious literacy, and alongside increasing Christian evangelism in the public arena, this book highlights risks and implications as education develops religious identity – in individual children and in nation states. Byrne proposes a best practice framework for nations attempting to navigate towards socially inclusive outcomes and critical thinking in religions education policy.
Religion is alive and well all over the world, especially in times of personal, political, and social crisis. Even in Europe, long regarded the most “secular” continent, religion has taken centre stage in how people respond to the crises associated with modernity, or how they interact with the nation-state. In this book, scholars working in and on Europe offer fresh perspectives on how religion provides answers to existential crisis, how crisis increases the salience of religious identities and cultural polarization, and how religion is contributing to changes in the modern world in Europe and beyond. Cases from Poland to Pakistan and from Ireland to Zimbabwe, among others, demonstrate the complexity and ambivalence of religion’s role in the contemporary world.