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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.

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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Edited by Daniel Enstedt, Göran Larsson and Teemu T. Mantsinen

The Handbook of Leaving Religion introduces a neglected field of research with the aim to outline previous and contemporary research, and suggest how the topic of leaving religion should be studied in the future. The handbook consists of three sections: 1) Major debates about leaving religion; 2) Case studies and empirical insights; and 3) Theoretical and methodological approaches. Section one provides the reader with an introduction to key terms, historical developments, major controversies and significant cases. Section two includes case studies that illustrate various processes of leaving religion from different perspectives, and each chapter provides new empirical insights. Section three discusses, presents and encourages new approaches to the study of leaving religion.

Series:

Serawit Bekele Debele

In Locating Politics in Ethiopia's Irreecha Ritual Serawit Bekele Debele gives an account of politics and political processes in contemporary Ethiopia as manifested in the annual ritual performance. Mobilizing various sources such as archives, oral accounts, conversations, videos, newspapers, and personal observations, Debele critically analyses political processes and how they are experienced, made sense of and articulated across generational, educational, religious, gender and ethnic differences as well as political persuasions. Moreover, she engages Irreecha in relation to the hugely contested meaning making processes attached to the Thanksgiving ritual which has now become an integral part of Oromo national identity.

Josef van Ess

Edited by Renee Otto

Theology and Society is the most comprehensive study of Islamic intellectual and religious history, focusing on Muslim theology. With its emphasis on the eighth and ninth centuries CE, it remains the most detailed prosopographical study of the early phase of the formation of Islam. Originally published in German between 1991 and 1995, Theology and Society is a monument of scholarship and a unique scholarly enterprise which has stood the test of the time as an unparalleled reference work. The Indices consist of a General Index and a separate Index of Works.