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Esther Eidinow

Abstract

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.

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Arresting Alternatives

Religious Prejudice and Bacchantic Worship in Greek Literature

Marika Rauhala

Abstract

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.

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The Veiled God

Friedrich Schleiermacher’s Theology of Finitude

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Ruth Jackson

In The Veiled God, Ruth Jackson offers a detailed portrait of Friedrich Schleiermacher’s early life, ethics, and theology in its historical and social context. She also critically reflects on the enduring relevance of his work for the study of religion.
The book analyses major texts from Schleiermacher’s early work. It argues that his experiments with literary form convey his understanding that human knowledge is inherently social, and that religion is thoroughly linguistic and historical. The book contends that by making finitude (and not freedom) a universal aspect to human life, Schleiermacher offers rich conceptual resources for considering what it means to be human in this world, both in relations of difference to others, and in relation to the infinite.
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Edited by Anders Klostergaard Petersen, Gilhus Ingvild Sælid, Luther H. Martin, Jeppe Sinding Jensen and Jesper Sørensen

Evolution, Cognition, and the History of Religion: A New Synthesis comprises 41 chapters that push for a new way of conducting the study of religion, thereby, transforming the discipline into a genuine science of religion. The recent resurgence of evolutionary approaches on culture and the increasing acknowledgement in the natural and social sciences of culture’s and religion’s evolutionary importance calls for a novel epistemological and theoretical framework for studying these two areas. The chapters explore how a new scholarly synthesis, founded on the triadic space constituted by evolution, cognition, cultural and ecological environment, may develop. Different perspectives and themes relating to this overarching topic are taken up with a main focus on either evolution, cognition, and/or the history of religion.
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Mesoamerican Manuscripts

New Scientific Approaches and Interpretations

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Edited by Maarten Jansen, Virginia M. Lladó-Buisán and Ludo Snijders

Mesoamerican Manuscripts: New Scientific Approaches and Interpretations brings together a wide range of modern approaches to the study of pre-colonial and early colonial Mesoamerican manuscripts. This includes innovative studies of materiality through the application of non-invasive spectroscopy and imaging techniques, as well as new insights into the meaning of these manuscripts and related visual art, stemming from a post-colonial indigenous perspective.

This cross- and interdisciplinary work shows on the one hand the value of collaboration of specialists in different field, but also the multiple viewpoints that are possible when these types of complex cultural expressions are approached from varied cultural and scientific backgrounds.

Contributors are: Omar Aguilar Sánchez, Paul van den Akker, Maria Isabel Álvarez Icaza Longoria, Frances F. Berdan, David Buti, Laura Cartechini, Davide Domenici, Laura Filloy Nadal, Alessia Frassani, Francesca Gabrieli, Maarten E.R.G.N. Jansen, Rosemary A. Joyce, Jorge Gómez Tejada, Chiara Grazia, David Howell, Virginia M. Lladó-Buisán, Leonardo López Luján, Raul Macuil Martínez, Manuel May Castillo, Costanza Miliani, María Olvido Moreno Guzmán, Gabina Aurora Pérez Jiménez, Araceli Rojas, Aldo Romani, Francesca Rosi, Antonio Sgamellotti, Ludo Snijders, and Tim Zaman.