Tag Archives: christianity

Culture wars, Christianity at heart of UW political scientist Mark Smith’s book ‘Secular Faith’

Mark A. Smith is a University of Washington professor of political science and adjunct professor of comparative religion. He is the author of “Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics,” published in September by University of Chicago Press. He answered a few questions about his book for UW Today.

What’s the concept behind this book? (more…)

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Why we embrace the ritual of Valentine’s Day: Q&A with a Yale sociologist

Whether you’re a die-hard romantic or a callous cynic, there’s no escaping the millions of couples cozying up this Feb. 14 to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  

The origins of our only holiday devoted to love are somewhat murky. It is thought to have its beginnings in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was celebrated in mid-February. The fertility ritual included animal sacrifice, nude men, women flogged with animal hides, and a matchmaking lottery akin to a 1970s key party. (more…)

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China: the return of Confucius

Everywhere in China, even in Beijing’s iconic Tiananmen Square, statues of the great Chinese revolutionary heroes have often been replaced by those of Confucius, a sign that the master‘s school of thought has indeed been restored by the authorities.

What for centuries was the official face of Chinese civilization, before being rejected by the revolutionaries of the 20th century, has indeed made a return in recent years. (more…)

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Interview with Sascha Gätzschmann: ‚My Baha’i Faith’

Q: You were Catholic, then you became a Baha’i. Will you please tell us what encouraged you to do it?

Sascha: There is one religion of God, which is renewed in every age according to the needs of the time. God´s plan unfolds by unique and holy Persons – the Manifestations of God or Prophets of God. They work hand in hand. Among these Manifestions of God are Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Abraham, Moses, Christ, Muhammad, the Báb and of course Bahá´u´lláh, whose teaching of the unity of mankind attracted me from the start. I became a Baha’i, as I understood that Bahá´u´lláh´s message is divine and that the same spirit that animated Jesus Christ also animated Bahá´u´lláh. Through the teachings of Bahá´u´lláh I understood that the Prophets are all one and that the teachings of Christ applied to a certain time. The teachings of Bahá´u´lláh are directed to the needs of humanity today. I am happy to work with many people – may they be Bahais or not – for the old dream of a unified and happy mankind. (more…)

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Amazonian Tribal Warfare Sheds Light on Modern Violence, Says MU Anthropologist

Developing a shared sense of global community could help reduce major episodes of violence

In the tribal societies of the Amazon forest, violent conflict accounted for 30 percent of all deaths before contact with Europeans, according to a recent study by University of Missouri anthropologist Robert Walker. Understanding the reasons behind those altercations in the Amazon sheds light on the instinctual motivations that continue to drive human groups to violence, as well as the ways culture influences the intensity and frequency of violence.

“The same reasons – revenge, honor, territory and jealousy over women – that fueled deadly conflicts in the Amazon continue to drive violence in today’s world,” said Walker, lead author and assistant professor of anthropology in MU’s College of Arts and Science. “Humans’ evolutionary history of violent conflict among rival groups goes back to our primate ancestors. It takes a great deal of social training and institutional control to resist our instincts and solve disputes with words instead of weapons. Fortunately, people have developed ways to channel those instincts away from actual deadly conflict. For example, sports and video games often involve the same impulses to defeat a rival group.” (more…)

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God as a Drug: The Rise of American Megachurches

American megachurches use stagecraft, sensory pageantry, charismatic leadership and an upbeat, unchallenging vision of Christianity to provide their congregants with a powerful emotional religious experience, according to research from the University of Washington.

“The megachurches movement is one of the leading indicators of how American Christians exercise their faith these days, so therefore they should be understood,” said James Wellman, associate professor of American religion at the University of Washington. “And our study shows they’re doing a pretty effective job for their members, based on self-reports, contrary to public opinion that tends to pass them off as a type of consumerist religion. In fact, their members speak eloquently of their spiritual growth.” (more…)

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Evolution of Religious Patriarchy as a Mate-Guarding Strategy?

One of the largest and longest studies in a traditional African society sheds light on religious practices and cuckoldry. Genetic data suggest religious patriarchy is directly analogous to the mate-guarding tactics used by animals to ensure paternity.

Religious practices that strongly control female sexuality are more successful at promoting certainty about paternity, according to a study published in the June 4, 2012 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In an interdisciplinary collaboration, a group of researchers around biological anthropologist Beverly Strassmann from the University of Michigan and University of Arizona geneticist Michael Hammer analyzed genetic data on 1,706 father-son pairs in a traditional African population – the Dogon people of Mali, West Africa – in which Islam, two types of Christianity and an indigenous, monotheistic religion are practiced in the same families and villages. (more…)

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Examining The Changing Face of Christianity

U of T leading centre for study of global Christianity

A century ago, 80 per cent of the world’s Christians lived in Europe and North America; today, nearly 70 per cent live in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, making Christianity a predominantly non-Western religion.

A critical mass of scholars who are looking into the implications of this shift has made the University of Toronto a leading centre for the study of global Christianity.

Christianity today has more than 2.2 billion adherents worldwide. The majority are overwhelmingly poor, displaced from rural villages into overcrowded cities in search of work, and adhere strictly to the word of Scripture, which can command their loyalty far more than state or society. (more…)

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