Religion plays a major part in the political affairs of several Latin American countries. Christianity (of various denominations) has strong roots in the region, going back to the time of early colonial settlers. Religion in the region has been in the news recently, with the impending visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Mexico and Cuba. Newspapers and blogs are paying much attention to this event due to the significance it holds for the entire region. In Mexico, the major chronic issue is illegal drug trading, and the message from Vatican holds symbolic and moral value if not any political value. Cuba is also an interesting case, for the dominant Communist ideology embraced by the nation is antithetical to the doctrine of Christianity. Hence, when the key itinerary of the Pope unfolds over the coming days, it would lead to numerous talking points in news media and blogosphere.
Scheduled to begin on Friday the 23th of this month, the visit could usher in a “forward-looking agenda . . . Read More
The book ‘Did God Have a Wife?’ was written by Syro-Palestinian archaeologist William G. Dever and published in the year 2005. This is a fascinating piece of scholarship that delves into the evolution of early religious ideas and practices in Ancient Israel. Given the importance of Israel (and the greater Middle East) to the understanding of Judeo-Christian religious traditions, a foray into its primitive forms and foundations is of value. The core theme of the book is to illustrate the common substrate upon which Judaism, Christianity and Islam later evolved, as well as exhibiting the polytheism of the ancient Israelite religion. The God of this ancient Israelite religion, namely Yahweh, was said to have a consort by name Asherah. The author also proves how she was an integral part of the Canaanite pantheon of Gods. Hence, the intriguing and slightly provocative title of ‘Did God Have a Wife?’ chosen for the book.
The book assembles relevant evidence from . . . Read More
Leonard Cohen is one of those artists of rare breed who drew creative inspiration from the rapidly changing social and cultural atmosphere after the Second World War. He is also one of the most versatile and accomplished artists, in that his genius is evident in various art forms such as music, poetry and the novel. The lyric poem in question (‘God is Alive’) is part of his 1966 novel ‘Beautiful Losers’. One of the most original thinkers of his era, Cohen experimented with words and ideas in all his works. This is true of God is Alive too, where Cohen’s personal religious beliefs are artistically and lucidly articulated in poetic form. This essay will argue the following points: ‘God is Alive’ was a radical act, in that it came amidst the rampant atheistic tendencies of the hippies generation; it is also deeply meaningful and insightful, as the poem lends itself to many layers of interpretation; the literary style of the poem is unique in terms of its fluidity, making . . . Read More
Buddhism and Christianity are two dominant world religions in contemporary times. They both converge at certain points, but largely their philosophical and theological underpinnings are divergent. The rest of the essay will provide supportive arguments in favor of this thesis.
Firstly, many Buddhist scholars would argue that Buddhism is not even a religion in the conventional sense in that it is more a philosophy/science of the mind. The Buddha or the Enlightened One did not claim to be the God or claim to possess supernatural powers. Instead, he told his disciples that he is simply ‘awake’ to the absolute reality of the cosmos. The Buddha’s teachings essentially pertain themselves with alleviation of human suffering. The chief focus is on adopting certain attitudes and principles in everyday life that would reduce individual suffering while simultaneously nurturing feelings of compassion toward other living things. This is the . . . Read More
Bishop Thomas Dexter Jakes is a popular religious leader for the black American community. He is known affectionately as the “shepherd to the shattered” for his humanitarian work and compassionate personality. He is the founder and pastor of Potter’s House, which is a rapidly rising Church in the country with more than 27,000 members. Bishop T.D. Jakes’ is also an acclaimed author with more than 2 dozen books to his credit. They cover a wide range of subjects including philanthropy, religion and business. His latest book titled ‘God’s Leading Lady: Out of the Shadows and into the Light is a work addressed to women. Bishop Jakes’ unique scholarship applies the distilled wisdom of the scriptures to contemporary problems and issues. Talking about the trust behind his books for women, Bishop Jakes notes
“The secret to being able to help people is to be a good listener. In the book, I serve as counselor, as a male best friend, as a big brother, and even . . . Read More
The Scopes Monkey Trial, formally known as The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes trial, is a watershed event in the history of American justice system. A Tennessee high school science teacher John Scopes was brought to court for violating the state’s Butler Act which prohibited teaching about the theory of evolution. Although Scopes was found guilty and later let free on technical grounds, the case was still seen by liberal Americans as the first of many battles against fundamental Christianity in the country. (Marcus & Burner, 2010, p.149)
The prominent Democratic politician William Jennings Bryan represented the prosecution whereas the reputed defense attorney Clarence Darrow represented Thomas Scopes. A key passage in the trial was when William Jennings Bryant was brought to examination as a witness by Clarence Darrow. This unconventional move happened on the seventh day of the trial. Historians have presented different rationale for why Bryan agreed . . . Read More
Core Buddhist texts, written as they were more than two millennia ago, tend to carry patriarchal social overtones. Indeed, in many passages in the Tripitaka (especially in the Jatakas) the Buddha admonishes his disciples for their interactions with women. But as Satha-Anand takes pains to explain, the real issue countered by the Buddha is sexuality and sexual expression, and not women per se. That his pupils were largely male (as were the conservative norms of the social milieu) his discourses tended to address their concerns and challenges in their spiritual pursuits. The fact that the Buddha eventually instituted the Bhikkhuni Sangha (a community of female monks) on par with the Bhikkhu monastic order is a reflection of his equal treatment of the genders.
There are passages in the Jatakas where women are treated in disparaging tones. In one of the tales, “women are compared with lions who eat flesh and blood, animals . . . Read More
Rationalists and Empiricists have both argued in their own fashion in supporting the existence of God. Differences in their views are based on the extent of emphasis each side lays on human sense experience. Empiricists claim the existence of God based on information and knowledge gathered through sense faculties endowed to humans. Rationalists on the other hand knowledge and truth lay outside/independent of human perception, but yet offer support for the existence of God. Rationalists generally develop their view in two ways.
“First, they argue that there are cases where the content of our concepts or knowledge outstrips the information that sense experience can provide. Second, they constuct accounts of how reason in some form or other provides that additional information about the world.” (SEP, Aug, 2008)
Using this framework, rationalists argue that although no one can claims to have ‘seen’ God, there is enough circumstantial . . . Read More
St.Benedict of Nursia is a key figure in early Roman Catholic Monastic tradition. He founded a total of twelve communities for monks in and around Rome, before moving to Monte Cassino for the later years of his life. St. Benedict’s main contribution to Christian theology was his prescription of the ‘Rule’, which laid out a set of precepts for the monks to follow. Strongly influenced by the ideas and teachings of John Cassian and taking inspiration from the Rule of the Master, Benedict’s Rule was both of practical and spiritual use. Key concepts that define the work are balance, moderation and reasonableness. As a result, the Rule convinced many religious communities in the era following the collapse of the Roman Empire to embrace it. The depth of moral deprivation that was witnessed during period in history can be gleaned from the Prologue to The Rule.
“And the Lord seeking His workman in the multitude of the people, to whom He proclaimeth . . . Read More
As many as 50 characters who appear in the Holy Bible also appear in the Holy Qur’an. This includes that of Abraham, Issac and Ismael as well. The Qur’an, having appeared seven centuries after the Holy Bible, believed by Muslims to be the more authoritative text. Consequently, there are many differences between the stories of these characters in the two texts, with followers and clerics divided on which account is the more truthful one. This paper will take up the historical character of Abraham (and his extended family) and identify how it is portrayed differently in the two religious scriptures in question. In particular, it will argue that the tone and moral stringency associated with the life of Abraham (and his family) comes across as less lenient in the Holy Bible when compared to that in Holy Qur’an.
There are similarities in the two accounts, in that messengers come to Abraham’s abode (on their way to destroying Sodom and Gomorrah) and promise . . . Read More