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Esther Eidinow


This article discusses the challenges facing scholars exploring the nature of belief in ancient Greek religion. While recent scholarship has raised questions about individual religious activities, and work on ritual, the body, and the senses has broadened our methodological palette, the nature and dynamics of generally held “low intensity” beliefs still tend to be described simply as “unquestioned” or “embedded” in society. But examining scholarship on divine personifications suggests that ancient beliefs were — and our perceptions of them are — more complex. This article first explores the example of Tyche (“Chance”), in order to highlight some of the problems that surround the use of the term “belief.” It then turns to the theories of “ideology” of Slavoj Žižek and Robert Pfaller and argues that these can offer provocative insights into the nature and dynamics of ritual and belief in ancient Greek culture.

Arresting Alternatives

Religious Prejudice and Bacchantic Worship in Greek Literature

Marika Rauhala


Ancient Greek descriptions of ecstatic and mystic rituals, here broadly labeled as Bacchantic worship, regularly include elements of moral corruption and dissolution of social unity. Suspicions were mostly directed against unofficial cult groups that exploited Dionysiac experiences in secluded settings. As the introduction of copious new cults attests, Greek religion was receptive to external influences. This basic openness, however, was not synonymous with tolerance, and pious respect for all deities did not automatically include their worshippers. This article reconsiders the current view of ancient religious intolerance by regarding these negative stereotypes as expressions of prejudice and by investigating the social dynamics behind them. Prejudices against private Bacchantic groups are regarded as part of the process of buttressing the religious authority of certain elite quarters in situations where they perceive that their position is being threatened by rival claims. It is suggested that both the accentuation and alleviation of prejudice is best understood in relation to the relative stability of the elite and the religious control it exerted.

Samta P Pandya

This article reports a three-year repeated measures study on the effect of guru-led new religious movements’ (gnrm) customized Facebook yoga lessons on followers’ spiritual experiences and religious commitment. Participants comprised 3,488 followers across four gnrms. During the study period, each gnrm Facebook page had an average of 1,095 daily posts and 156 weekly yoga lessons. Results showed that at phase 2, scores of participants on spiritual experiences and religious commitment measures were significantly higher vis-à-vis the comparison group. Within the participant cohort, women, those with stable marital status, and those who performed a combination of devotional and social service activities at the gnrms scored higher. Disciplined Facebook usage influenced regular viewing of the customized yoga lessons, higher quiz scores, and regular self-practice. The strongest predictor of the phase 2 outcome measure scores was regular self-practice. With focused administering and usage, Facebook is an effective medium for intensifying spiritual experiences and religious commitment among gnrms’ fellowship.

John Dyer

Christians in general and American evangelicals in particular are increasingly using digital media to access Scripture, but it is unclear how this shift is influencing the behaviors they value most: regular reading and in-depth study. Using survey data, assessments of comprehension, and daily reading progress, this study examines how engagement with the Bible varies between print and screens. Results indicated that American evangelicals use a combination of print and digital forms of Scripture based on the kind of engagement they want to carry out (devotional reading, in-depth study, prayer, etc.). The data also suggest readers have lower comprehension when reading the Bible on screens compared to print. Readers using mobile devices are more likely to engage scripture daily than those using printed Bibles, and these effects are more pronounced in male readers than female readers.