ISSN: 1522-5658
Volume 11 (2009)

Fatwa and Violence in Indonesia

Luthfi Assyaukanie, Freedom Institute and Paramadina University, Jakarta
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Depicting the Bread of the Last Supper: Religious Representation in Italian Renaissance Society

W. R. Albury, University of New England, Australia
G. M. Weisz, University of New South Wales and University of New England, Australia
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Assur is King of Persia: Illustrations of the Book of Esther in Some Nineteenth-Century Sources

Steven W. Holloway, American Theological Library Association
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

The Definition of Atheism

Paul Cliteur, University of Leiden, the Netherlands
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Barabbas in Literature and Film

Bill Jenkins, Crichton College
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Who Will Labor in the Vineyard? The New Catholic Mentality and Religious Commitment

Richard Rymarz, St. Joseph's College, University of Alberta
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Is Personal Insecurity a Cause of Cross-National Differences in the Intensity of Religious Belief?

Tomas James Rees, East Sussex, U.K.
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

The Making and Unmaking of Prejudice: An Interchange between Psychology and Religion

Wioleta Polinska, North Central College, Naperville, IL
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Evangelicalism, Environmental Activism, and Climate Change in the United States

Jonathan Harrington, Troy University
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Work Values and Christian Religiosity: An Ambiguous Multidimensional Relationship

Hans Geser, University of Zurich
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

The Impact of Shared Religious Affiliation on the Rate of Currently Divorced in the United States in 1990 and 2000

Larry C. Mullins, Kimberly P. Brackett, Nelya J. McKenzie, and Donald W. Bogie
Auburn University Montgomery
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]


Chants of Conversion: Inspiration, Individualism and Adherence in American Evangelicalism

James Daryn Henry, Yale University [ Review Essay PDF ]

Prior to about 1500 most depictions of the Last Supper in Western art showed unleavened bread on the table, but since then leavened bread has usually been shown. This change involved the abandonment of what was understood at the time to be a historically-accurate representation of the Last Supper, in favor of a historically-inaccurate one. The present article examines the combination of artistic, religious, and social factors that made this development uncontroversial when it occurred and that allowed it to persist during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation period when many aspects of religious art became subject to rigorous control.
The marriage of archaeological referencing and picture Bibles in the nineteenth century resulted in an astonishing variety of guises worn by the court of Ahasuerus in Esther. Following the exhibition of Neo-Assyrian sculpture in the British Museum and the wide circulation of such images in various John Murray publications, British illustrators like Henry Anelay defaulted to Assyrian models for kings and rulers in the Old Testament, including the principal actors in Esther, even though authentic Achaemenid Persian art had been available for illustrative pastiche for decades. This curious adoptive choice echoed British national pride in its splendid British Museum collection and imperial adventures in the Middle East.
Fatwa is often considered as a non-binding legal opinion. Some jurists use this caveat to reject any links between fatwa and violence. They argue that fatwa is one thing and violence is something else. This article is an attempt to disprove such a misleading argument by providing cases that took place in Indonesia. I argue that there is a strong connection between fatwa and intolerant actions.
One of the central elements of the secularist tradition is atheism. Atheism has a long history and is nowadays again heavily debated. This article tries to present a reflection on the nature of atheism. The central thesis is that atheism is often misunderstood. The most fruitful definition of atheism is a negative one: an atheist does not believe in the god that theism favors. The concept of atheism should be carefully distinguished from the motives that some people have not to believe in the theistic god. The confusion of these two things is responsible for much needless controversy about atheism.
Barabbas, unlike Pilate or Judas or even other biblical characters who, like him, are barely mentioned in various Gospel accounts and yet who have received much attention – such as Mary Magdalene or Salome – received little attention before the twentieth century. But since then his ambiguous status as bandit, murderer, or freedom fighter fits in well with the ambiguous positions of art and religion in the modern world. A person who was given just a few sentences in the Bible finally has become a subject of artistic interest, reflecting the contradictory aspects of modern culture in which rebellion can run the spectrum from noble self-sacrifice for the greater good to self-serving justification of the love of violence. Though some of the works exploring the meaning of Barabbas are obviously of inferior quality, the others offer trenchant explorations of an engrossing character, reflecting to us our struggles with religious faith in the contemporary, secularized world. Barabbas represents the condition most of us have experienced: through forces outside our control we are placed in a relationship with possible truth, a relationship we can either turn away from for other, proximate human truths, or we can turn toward, even if we cannot always decipher its meaning. Barabbas is a noble revolutionary, a vicious criminal, an accident of politics and mob psychology, perhaps even a love interest, and a shadowy figure whose brief contact with Jesus is left in the dark. In his own way, differing from that of Pilate or Judas, Barabbas can speak uniquely from the distant world of the Gospels to the modern world in ways we immediately recognize.
This paper explores the origins of a new Catholic mentality, marked by low levels of commitment to, but not complete disengagement from, the religious tradition. This poses challenges for the vitality of many Church sponsored institutions, especially in countries which share a Western culture. The paper focuses on better understanding the lack of strong commitment amongst younger Catholics and points to changes in socialization and the rise of personal spiritualities as key explanatory factors. Any discussion of the future configuration of Catholic institutions is dependant on how this primary challenge of low religious commitment is addressed.
Whether compassion for all beings in Buddhism, or "love of enemy" in Christianity, unconditional love is one of the principal concerns of all world religions. The profound wisdom of various religious traditions has inspired many to embrace the ideal of universal compassion. One example of such an uncompromising love is Martin Luther King, Jr., who in spite of the overwhelming hostility of his white opponents, continued to adhere to the principle of unconditional love. How do contemporary, average Christians compare? Would average believers show compassion to strangers in need by emulating the example of a Good Samaritan, or would they bypass the needy? Questions like these have been posed and processed by many psychologists for over fifty years. In what follows, I will present the results of a number of studies that suggest the complex nature of religious influences. Research shows that people who are more religious are not necessarily more loving or tolerant than those who are less religious. At the same time, research on the psychology of religion provides insight into which characteristics of religious people are associated with more tolerant behavior. Furthermore, there is growing scientific evidence that mindfulness meditation, which originated in the Buddhist religious tradition, might encourage an open-minded awareness and compassion for others. I will argue that contemplative traditions, such as mindfulness meditation in Buddhism, can become a valuable spiritual resource in fostering the ideal of unconditional love.
Previous research has shown an apparent relationship between "societal health" and religiosity, with nations that exhibit higher mean personal religiosity also tending to provide worse social environments. A possible cause is that exposure to stressful situations (i.e. personal insecurity) increases personal religiosity. To test this hypothesis, income inequality, a widely available proxy for personal insecurity, was compared with other macro-scale causes of religiosity (derived from modernization and rational choice theories) in a multinational, cross-sectional analysis. Income inequality, and hence personal insecurity, was found to be an important determinant of religiosity in this diverse sample of nations.
In most developed countries, a wide consensus exists among opinion leaders, mass publics and the media regarding the basic science behind human-induced climate change and the need to act, at least in the abstract. However, in the United States, the debate over the legitimacy of the global warming hypothesis and related responses rages on. One major source of division that has fueled this dissonance has been the inability of secular left leaning environmental social movement organization (SMO) opinion leaders and politically, religiously, and socially conservative evangelical elites to find common ground on this issue.

This broader conflict is often overshadowed by the fact that there is also a related discussion going on within the evangelical community itself about how to respond to environmental threats. A growing group of evangelical environmentalists, commonly referred to as "creation care" activists, support stronger initiatives to deal with pressing environmental issues. Accepting the basic science on global warming and other environmental threats, they have come to the realization that environmental destruction is just as much a moral imperative as other core evangelical issues including the right to life, serving the poor, conversion and salvation, gay marriage, etc. However, this growth in environmental awareness is not without its skeptics.

The purpose of this case study is to examine the continuing debate going on within the evangelical tradition over how to respond to environmental challenges. It concludes that prospects for the spread of creation care thinking, especially among rank and file evangelicals, are good. However, opposition among skeptics remains strong, and continues to slow environmental activists' efforts to push their theological and political agendas, both within their own denominations and in the broader political arena.
Based on data from World Values Survey, this paper argues that people who accorda central place to religion and Godare consistently more likely to give work a highly important place in their personal life. This regularity spreads almost equally over Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox believers, thus indicating that an affirmative attitude to work is deeply intrinsic in the general Christian tradition. By contrast,belief in afterlifeshows a spectacular negative correlation with work values that pervades all confessions, the majority of Christian countries worldwide, and almost all segments of the population. This conforms with the notion that afterlife beliefs motivate people to shift personal investments (in terms of subjective attention to time, money, personal energy, etc.) from this-worldly to other-worldly concerns.
Based on a 20 percent sample of U.S. counties in each state, this research utilizes linear multiple regression analyses of data from the census and from the Glenmary Research Center to examine the impact of the degree of shared religious affiliation on the divorce rate in the United States in both 1990 and 2000. The national results show at the county level in both years that the degree of shared religious affiliation is a statistically significant independent factor in the explanation of divorce rates. Further, while this variable has a consistently significant and negative directional effect on the divorce rate in both 1990 and 2000, the explanatory ability of the entire set of variables included in the analysis for each year is collectively weaker in 2000 in comparison to 1990.