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This book addresses a fundamental dilemma in religious studies. Exploring the tension between humanistic and social scientific approaches to thinking and writing about religion, Daniel Gold develops a line of argument that begins with the aesthetics of academic writing in the field. He shows that successful writers on religion employ characteristic aesthetic strategies in communicating their visions of human truths. Gold examines these strategies with regard to epistemology and to the study of religion as a collective endeavor.
Dwelling in Faith and Doubt
Many contemporary discussions of religion take an absolute, intractable approach to belief and non-belief, which privileges faith and dogmatism while treating doubt as a threat to religious values. As Madhuri M. Yadlapati demonstrates, however, there is another way: a faith (or non-faith) that embraces doubt and its potential for exploring both the depths and heights of spiritual reflection and speculation. Through three distinct discussions of faith, doubt, and hope, Yadlapati explores what it means to live creatively and responsibly in the everyday world as limited, imaginative, and questioning creatures. She begins with a perceptive survey of diverse faith experiences in Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, and Protestant Christianity, then narrows her focus to Protestant Christianity and Hinduism to explore how the great thinkers of those faiths have embraced doubt in the service of spiritual transcendence. Defending the rich tapestry of faith and doubt against polarization, Against Dogmatism reveals a spiritual middle way, an approach native to the long-standing traditions in which faith and doubt are interwoven in constructive and dynamic ways.
The Axial Age in Asia and the Near East
The years 800-200 BCE comprise one of the most creative and influential eras in world history. Karl Jaspers termed this epoch “the Axial Age,” to indicate its pivotal importance in the evolution of human thought. The ferment of religious and philosophical activity centered in four distinct regions of civilization: East Asia, South Asia, West Asia, and the Northeastern Mediterranean. Each of these areas witnessed the emergence of several imaginative individuals whose exemplary lives and teachings prompted their followers to create the traditions that led to the birth of the world religions. Zoroaster, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Gautama Buddha, Confucius, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle side by side, we are able to see more clearly the questions with which they struggled, their similarities and differences, and how their ideas have influenced religious thought down to our day.
How Music and Art Are Revitalizing American Religion
Robert Wuthnow shows how music and art are revitalizing churches and religious life across the nation in this first-ever consideration of the relationship between religion and the arts. All in Sync draws on more than four hundred in-depth interviews with church members, clergy, and directors of leading arts organizations and a new national survey to document a strong positive relationship between participation in the arts and interest in spiritual growth. Wuthnow argues that contemporary spirituality is increasingly encouraged by the arts because of its emphasis on transcendent experience and personal reflection. This kind of spirituality, contrary to what many observers have imagined, is compatible with active involvement in churches and serious devotion to Christian practices.
The absorbing narrative relates the story of a woman who overcame a severe personal crisis and went on to head a spiritual direction center where participants use the arts to gain clarity about their own spiritual journeys. Readers visit contemporary worship services in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston and listen to leaders and participants explain how music and art have contributed to the success of these services. All in Sync also illustrates how music and art are integral parts of some Episcopal, African American, and Orthodox worship services, and how people of faith are using their artistic talents to serve others.
Besides examining the role of the arts in personal spirituality and in congregational life, Wuthnow discusses how clergy and lay leaders are rethinking the role of the imagination, especially in connection with traditional theological virtues. He also shows how churches and arts organizations sometimes find themselves at odds over controversial moral questions and competing claims about spirituality. Accessible, relevant, and innovative, this book is essential for anyone searching for a better understanding of the dynamic relationships among religion, spirituality, and American culture.
Religious liberalism in America has often been equated with an ecumenical Protestant establishment. By contrast, American Religious Liberalism draws attention to the broad diversity of liberal cultures that shapes America's religious movements. The essays gathered here push beyond familiar tropes and boundaries to interrogate religious liberalism's dense cultural leanings by looking at spirituality in the arts, the politics and piety of religious cosmopolitanism, and the interaction between liberal religion and liberal secularism. Readers will find a kaleidoscopic view of many of the progressive strands of America's religious past and present in this richly provocative volume.
Prospects for Ultimate Meaning
In Appeal and Attitude, Steven G. Smith offers a multicultural view into issues at the heart of existentialism, hermeneutics, and the phenomenology of religion. By looking closely at the concepts of appeal, or what commands our attention, and attitude, or the quality of the attention we pay, Smith probes into the core of religious ideals to answer questions such as why faith and rationality are compelling and how religious experience becomes meaningful. Smith turns to philosophical and religious texts from Eastern and Western religious and philosophical traditions including Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Levinas, Derrida, Confucius, and the Bhagavad-Gita. He also engages everyday objects such as stones, birds, boats, and minnows to arrive at normative definitions of supreme appeal and sovereign attitude. This book provides readers at all levels with a thoughtful and widely comparative window into idealism, community, responsibility, piety, faith, and love.
Modern Homesteading and Spiritual Practice in America
Motivated variously by the desire to reject consumerism, to live closer to the earth, to embrace voluntary simplicity, or to discover a more spiritual path, homesteaders have made the radical decision to go "back to the land," rejecting modern culture and amenities to live self-sufficiently and in harmony with nature. Drawing from vivid firsthand accounts as well as from rich historical material, this gracefully written study of homesteading in America from the late nineteenth century to the present examines the lives and beliefs of those who have ascribed to the homesteading philosophy, placing their experiences within the broader context of the changing meanings of nature and religion in modern American culture.
Rebecca Kneale Gould investigates the lives of famous figures such as Henry David Thoreau, John Burroughs, Ralph Borsodi, Wendell Berry, and Helen and Scott Nearing, and she presents penetrating interviews with many contemporary homesteaders. She also considers homesteading as a form of dissent from consumer culture, as a departure from traditional religious life, and as a practice of environmental ethics.
Human Responsibility in an Endangered World
What is the proper relationship between human beings and the more-than-human world? This philosophical question, which underlies vast environmental crises, forces us to investigate the tension between our extraordinary powers, which seem to set us apart from nature, even above it, and our thoroughgoing ordinariness, as revealed by the evolutionary history we share with all life.The contributors to this volume ask us to consider whether the anxiety of unheimlichkeit, which in one form or another absorbed so much of twentieth-century philosophy, might reveal not our homelessness in the cosmos but a need for a fundamental belongingness and implacement in it.
Essays on Religion in a Post-Traditionalist World
Beyond Belief collects fifteen celebrated, broadly ranging essays in which Robert Bellah interprets the interplay of religion and society in concrete contexts from Japan to the Middle East to the United States. First published in 1970, Beyond Belief is a classic in the field of sociology of religion.
Commemoration, Religion, and Responsibility after Hiroshima
This monograph explores the ethics and religious sensibilities of a group of the hibakusha (survivors) of 1945's atomic bombings. Unfortunately, their ethic of "not retaliation, but reconciliation" has not been widely recognized, perhaps obscured by the mushroom cloud symbol of American weaponry, victory, and scientific achievement. However, it is worth examining the habakushas' philosophy, supported by their religious sensibilities, as it offers resources to reconcile contested issues of public memories in our contemporary world, especially in the post 9-11 era. Their determination not to let anyone further suffer from nuclear weaponry, coupled with critical self-reflection, does not encourage the imputation of responsibility for dropping the bombs; rather, hibakusha often consider themselves "sinners" (as with the Catholics in Nagasaki; or bonbu unenlightened persons in the context of True Pure Land Buddhism in Hiroshima). For example, Nagai Takashi in Nagasaki's Catholic community wrote, "How noble, how splendid was that holocaust of August 9, when flames soared up from the cathedral, dispelling the darkness of war and bringing the light of peace!" He even urges that we "give thanks that Nagasaki was chosen for the sacrifice." Meanwhile, Koji Shigenobu, a True Pure Land priest, says that the atomic bombing was the result of errors on the part of the Hiroshima citizens, the Japanese people, and the whole of human kind. Based on the idea of acknowledging one's own fault, or more broadly one's sinful nature, the hibakusha's' ethic provides a step toward reconciliation, and challenges the foundation of ethics by obscuring the dichotomyies of right and the wrong, forgiver and forgiven, victim and victimizer.To this end, the methodology Miyamoto employs is moral hermeneutics, interpreting testimonies, public speeches, and films as texts, with interlocutors such as Avishai Margalit (philosopher), Sueki Fumihiko (Buddhist philosopher), Nagai Takashi (lay Catholic thinker), and Shinran (the founder of True Pure Land Buddhism).