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The Afterlife of Sai Baba

Competing Visions of a Global Saint

Karline McLain

Nearly a century after his death, the image of Sai Baba, the serene old man with the white beard from Shirdi village in Maharashtra, India, is instantly recognizable to most South Asians (and many Westerners) as a guru for all faiths—Hindus, Muslims, and others. During his lifetime Sai Baba accepted all followers who came to him, regardless of religious or caste background, and preached a path of spiritual enlightenment and mutual tolerance. These days, tens of thousands of Indians and foreigners make the pilgrimage to Shirdi each year, and Sai Baba temples have sprung up in unlikely places around the world, such as Munich, Seattle, and Austin.

Tracing his rise from small village guru to global phenomenon, religious studies scholar Karline McLain uses a wide range of sources to investigate the different ways that Sai Baba has been understood in South Asia and beyond and the reasons behind his skyrocketing popularity among Hindus in particular. Shining a spotlight on an incredibly forceful devotional movement that avoids fundamental politics and emphasizes unity, service, and peace, The Afterlife of Sai Baba is an entertaining—and enlightening—look at one of South Asia’s most popular spiritual gurus.

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Afterlives

The Return of the Dead in the Middle Ages

by Nancy Mandeville Caciola

Simultaneously real and unreal, the dead are people, yet they are not. The society of medieval Europe developed a rich set of imaginative traditions about death and the afterlife, using the dead as a point of entry for thinking about the self, regeneration, and loss. These macabre preoccupations are evident in the widespread popularity of stories about the returned dead, who interacted with the living both as disembodied spirits and as living corpses or revenants. In Afterlives, Nancy Mandeville Caciola explores this extraordinary phenomenon of the living's relation­ship with the dead in Europe during the five hundred years after the year 1000.

Caciola considers both Christian and pagan beliefs, showing how certain traditions survived and evolved over time, and how attitudes both diverged and overlapped through different contexts and social strata. As she shows, the intersection of Christian eschatology with various pagan afterlife imaginings—from the classical paganisms of the Mediterranean to the Germanic, Celtic, Slavic, and Scandinavian paganisms indigenous to northern Europe—brought new cultural values about the dead into the Christian fold as Christianity spread across Europe. Indeed, the Church proved surprisingly open to these influences, absorbing new images of death and afterlife in unpredictable fashion. Over time, however, the persistence of regional cultures and beliefs would be counterbalanced by the effects of an increasingly centralized Church hierarchy. Through it all, one thing remained constant: the deep desire in medieval people to bring together the living and the dead into a single community enduring across the generations.

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Against All Odds

The Struggle for Racial Integration in Religious Organizations

Brad Christerson, Michael Emerson, Korie Edwards

Religious institutions are among the most segregated organizations in American society. This segregation has long been a troubling issue among scholars and religious leaders alike.

Despite attempts to address this racial divide, integrated churches are very difficult to maintain over time. Why is this so? How can organizations incorporate separate racial, ethnic, and cultural groups? Should they? And what are the costs and rewards for people and groups in such organizations?

Following up on Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith's award-winning Divided by Faith, Against All Odds breaks new ground by exploring the beliefs, practices, and structures which allow integrated religious organizations to survive and thrive despite their difficulties. Based on six in-depth ethnographies of churches and other Christian organizations, this engaging work draws on numerous interviews, so that readers can hear first-hand the joys and frustrations which arise from actually experiencing racial integration. The book gives an inside, visceral sense of what it is like to be part of a multiracial religious organization as well as a theoretical understanding of these experiences.

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Against Dogmatism

Dwelling in Faith and Doubt

Madhuri Yadlapati

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.

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Against Julian (The Fathers of the Church, Volume 35)

Saint Augustine

In Against Julian Augustine stresses in the first two books the traditional teachings of the Church found in the Fathers and contrasts their teaching with the rationalism of the Pelagians

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Against Marcellus

Eusebius of Caesarea

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Against the Inveterate Obduracy of the Jews

With this translation, Irven M. Resnick makes the complete work available for the first time in English

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The Age of Reformation

by E. Harris Harbison

In The Age of Reformation, first published in 1955, E. Harris Harbison shows why sixteenth-century Europe was ripe for a catharsis. New political and social factors were at work-the growth of the middle classes, the monetary inflation resulting from an influx of gold from the New World, the invention of printing, the trend toward centralization of political power. Against these developments, Harbison places the church, nearly bankrupt because of the expense of defending the papal states, supporting an elaborate administrative organization and luxurious court, and financing the crusades. The Reformation, as he shows, was the result of "a long, slow shifting of social conditions and human values to which the church was not responding readily enough. The sheer inertia of an enormous and complex organization, the drag of powerful vested interests, the helplessness of individuals with intelligent schemes of reform-this is what strikes the historian in studying the church of the later Middle Ages."

Martin Luther, a devout and forceful monk, sought only to cleanse the church of its abuses and return to the spiritual guidance of the Scriptures. But, as it turned out, western Christendom split into two camps-a division as stirring, as fearful, as portentous to the sixteenth-century world as any in Europe's history. Offering an engaging and accessible introductory history of the Reformation, Harbison focuses on the age's key individuals, institutions, and ideas while at the same time addressing the slower, less obvious tides of social and political change. A classic and long out-of-print synthesis of earlier generations of historical scholarship on the Reformation told with clarity and drama, this book concisely traces the outlines, interlocked and interwoven as they were, of the various phases that comprised the "Age of Reformation."

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The Age of the Gods

When first published in 1928, The Age of the Gods was hailed as the best short account of what is known of pre-historic man and culture. In it, Christopher Dawson synthesized modern scholarship on human cultures in Europe and the East from the Stone Age to the beginnings of the Iron Age.

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The Age of the Sages

The Axial Age in Asia and the Near East

By Mark W. Muesse

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.

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