Religions is an international, interdisciplinary, open access journal on religions and theology, published monthly online by Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI). MDPI's Editorial Office is in Basel, Switzerland.


The library contains articles of Religions as of vol. 1(2010) to current.

Recent Submissions

  • When Piety Is Not Enough: Religio-Political Organizations in Pursuit of Peace and Reconciliation in Zimbabwe

    Joram Tarusarira (MDPI AG, 2020-05-01)
    In post-independence Zimbabwe, religion has been associated with piety and acquiescence rather than radical confrontation. This has made it look preposterous for religious leaders to adopt seemingly radical and confrontational stances in pursuit of peace and reconciliation. Since the early 2000s, a new breed of religious leaders that deploy radical and confrontational strategies to pursue peace has emerged in Zimbabwe. Rather than restricting pathways to peace and reconciliation to nonconfrontational approaches such as empathy, pacifism, prayer, meditation, love, repentance, compassion, apology and forgiveness, these religious leaders have extended them to demonstrations, petitions and critically speaking out. Because these religious leaders do not restrict themselves to the methods and strategies of engagement and dialogue advocated by mainstream church leaders, mainstream church leaders and politicians condemn them as nonconformists that transcend their religious mandate. These religious leaders have redefined and reframed the meaning and method of pursuing peace and reconciliation in Zimbabwe and brought a new consciousness on the role of religious leaders in times of political violence and hostility. Through qualitative interviews with religious leaders from a network called Churches in Manicaland in Zimbabwe, which emerged at the height of political violence in the early 2000s, and locating the discussion within the discourse of peace and reconciliation, this article argues that the pursuit of peace and reconciliation by religious actors is not a predefined and linear, but rather a paradoxical and hermeneutical exercise which might involve seemingly contradictory approaches such as “hard” and “soft” strategies. Resultantly, religio-political nonconformism should not be perceived as a stubborn departure from creeds and conventions, but rather as a phenomenon that espouses potential to positively change socio-economic and political dynamics that advance peace and reconciliation.
  • Catholic Mediation in the Basque Peace Process: Questioning the Transnational Dimension

    Xabier Itçaina (MDPI AG, 2020-04-01)
    The Basque conflict was one of the last ethnonationalist violent struggles in Western Europe, until the self-dissolution in 2018 of ETA (<i>Euskadi ta Askatasuna</i>, Basque Country and Freedom). The role played by some sectors of the Roman Catholic Church in the mediation efforts leading to this positive outcome has long been underestimated, as has the internal pluralism of the Church in this regard. This article specifically examines the transnational dimension of this mediation, including its symbolic aspect. The call to involve the Catholic institution transnationally was not limited to the tangible outcomes of mediation. The mere fact of involving transnational religious <i>and</i> non-religious actors represented a symbolic gain for the parties in the conflict struggling to impose their definitions of peace. Transnational mediation conveyed in itself explicit or implicit comparisons with other ethnonationalist conflicts, a comparison that constituted political resources for or, conversely, unacceptable constraints upon the actors involved.
  • Religious Engagement and the Migration Issue: Towards Reconciling Political and Moral Duty

    Joanna Kulska (MDPI AG, 2020-05-01)
    The increasingly acknowledged post-secular perspective has resulted in the emergence of some new approaches theorizing this phenomenon. One such approach has been the concept of religious engagement, which calls for the redefinition of the perception of religious non-state actors towards including them as important partners in the process of identifying and realizing political goals. According to this view, due to the multidimensional role played by religious communities and non-state religious actors, they need to be recognized as pivotal in creating a new form of knowledge generated through encounter and dialogue of the political decision-makers with these subjects. Among numerous others, the challenge of migration calls for enhanced debate referring to both political and ethical issues. When such a perspective is applied, the question is raised of the duties and limits of nation-states using more or less harsh political measures towards refugees and migrants based on the concept of security, but also short-term political goals. In the face of a state’s lack of will or capacity to deal with the problem of migration, the question of religion serving not only as the service-provider but also as the “trend-setter” with regard to fundamental ethical questions needs to be considered.
  • Adventists in Montenegro—From the Atheistic Psychosis of Socialism to the Post-socialist Individuation of Adventism

    Vladimir Bakrač; Danijela Vuković-Ćalasan; Predrag Živković; Rade Šarović (MDPI AG, 2020-05-01)
    The process of converting individuals to a particular religious community is one of the issues addressed by the Sociology of Religion. In the post-socialist Montenegrin society, there have been research works related to dominant religious communities, the Orthodox, the Roman Catholic, and the Islamic, while science has shown no interest in small religious groups. The Adventist movement in Montenegro, although present for a long period of time, has failed to mobilise individuals for conversion to a greater extent. Therefore, this research aims to find out when, under what conditions and in what way the individuals in Montenegro, as a post-socialist state, chose Adventism as religious affiliation, what affected this process the most, and were there any specificities in that regard. This paper is a result of a survey conducted via an in-depth interview with 17 believers of the Adventist Church. The obtained results indicate several valuable data: most respondents accepted the Adventist movement in Montenegro in the early 1990s; they got first-hand knowledge of this religion from their friends or wider family members and relatives, a consistent interpretation of the Holy Bible is the main reason for conversion. A significant factor in the process of conversion to Adventism is early religious socialisation within a family.
  • The Puzzle of Playful Matters in Non-Dual Śaivism and Sāṃkhya: Reviving Prakṛti in the Sāṃkhya Kārikā through Goethean Organics

    Geoffrey Ashton (MDPI AG, 2020-04-01)
    Abhinavagupta is widely viewed to be a cautious, perceptive, and sympathetic reader (even of his opponents), with some researchers even celebrating him as a pre-modern intellectual historian. But scholars all too often underestimate how and why Abhinava misreads many of his rivals. Abhinava’s treatment of the <i>Sā</i>ṃ<i>khya Kār</i>i<i>kā</i> (SK) illustrates this. Abhinava and Sāṃkhya alike hold to the doctrine that effects share identity with or reside within their cause (<i>satkāryavāda</i>). But according to Abhinava, Īśvarakṛṣṇa (and other Sāṃkhya thinkers) fails to explain how a cause (<i>sat</i>) can give rise to its effects (<i>kārya</i>, including the manifestations of effects) without ceasing to be itself, since the underlying material cause (mūlaprakṛti), e.g., a square, changes its identity from one manifestation (vyaktaprakṛti) to the next, e.g., a triangle. In place of this, Abhinava argues that only the Pratyabhijñā approach can account for <i>satkārya</i> and <i>abh</i>i<i>vyakt</i>i (manifestation). Causes and effects, Abhinava tells us, are but expressions of how divine super-consciousness (Śiva) appears to itself through the playful manifestation of a seemingly material other (Śakti). However, a closer reading of the canonical Sāṃkhya text, the <i>Sā</i>ṃ<i>khya Kār</i>i<i>kā</i>, reveals that this system originally advocated a metaphysics of living nature, not inanimate matter. From this basic yet important correction, Sāṃkhya could explain the very same playful interface between cause and manifest effect described by Abhinava, since the manifest procreativity (vyaktaprakṛti) of organic nature exhibits constancy in the midst of its self-transformations. I draw this out through a critique of the modern scientific assumptions that underlie much Sāṃkhya research, and in its place I develop an organicist reading that is informed by Goethe’s phenomenological science of life. This approach helps to resuscitate core Sāṃkhya metaphysical categories in terms of their directed and intelligent aliveness (not just their materiality). Moreover, it offers clues to why Pratyabhijñā misinterpreted the SK: (1) it gave allegiance to classical Sāṃkhya commentaries (many of which misconstrued Īśvarakṛṣṇa’s views), and (2) its organizing philosophical narrative precluded metaphysical dualism and the self-sufficient power of nature to conceal itself.
  • Fuad Nahdi, <i>Q-News</i>, and the Forging of British Islam: Some Personal Reflections

    Yahya Birt (MDPI AG, 2020-04-01)
    This obituary offers some personal memories of Fuad Nahdi (1957–2020), based on my interactions with him, as well as some reflections on the historic importance of <i>Q-News</i>, the British Muslim periodical Nahdi founded, which was published between 1992 and 2006, partly based on short impromptu interviews done with some who worked on the magazine with Nahdi. In <i>Q-News</i>, Nahdi created the most consequential UK Muslim publication of its day and helped shape how a whole generation of young Muslims saw their identity and faith. He should be remembered alongside Abdullah Quilliam (1856–1932) and Dr Kalim Siddiqui (1931–1996) as among the great journalists-cum-activists that British Islam has produced.
  • Religion and Peace—Anatomy of a Love–Hate Relationship

    Christine Schliesser (MDPI AG, 2020-04-01)
    Human history is filled with numerous examples—both past and present—that make religion and violence appear to be best friends. Ever since the events surrounding 9/11, religiously inspired violence has been considered one of the most pressing issues of our times (cf. Juergensmeyer 2017; Kimball 2008). While the conflictive dimensions of religion are still indisputably at the forefront of public and political attention, religion’s significant resources for peace and reconciliation gain increasing attention as well. This contribution will provide an analysis of the love–hate relationship between religion and peace in three consecutive steps. The first part focuses on the role(s) of religion in conflict. Frazer and Owen’s six different ways of thinking about religion provide a model for better understanding religion’s conflictive sides (Frazer and Owen 2018; cf. Frazer and Friedli 2015). In a second step, this article discusses religion’s potent, yet often neglected constructive resources for sustainable peace. While taking into account the vast diversity of religious actors, certain content-based and formal characteristics emerge that help to shed light on the otherwise vague “religious factor” in peacebuilding. Finally, an example taken from post-genocide Rwanda will serve to illustrate the discussions in parts I and II.
  • Shushtarī’s Treatise <i>on the Limits of Theology and Sufism</i>: Discursive Knowledge (ʿ<i>ilm</i>), Direct Recognition (<i>ma</i>ʿ<i>rifa</i>), and Mystical Realization (<i>ta</i>ḥ<i>q</i>ī<i>q</i>)<i> </i>in <i>al-Risāla al-Qu</i>ṣā<i>riyya</i>

    Yousef Casewit (MDPI AG, 2020-05-01)
    Abū l-Ḥasan al-Shushtarī’s (d. 668/1269) heretofore unedited and unstudied treatise, “On the Limits [of Theology and Sufism]” (<i>R. al-Qu</i>ṣā<i>riyya</i>) is a succinct account of the celebrated Andalusī Sufi poet’s understanding of the relationship between discursive knowledge (ʿ<i>ilm</i>) of<i> </i>the rational Ashʿarite theologians, direct and unitive recognition (<i>ma</i>ʿ<i>rifa</i>) of the Sufis, and verified knowledge (<i>ta</i>ḥ<i>q</i>ī<i>q</i>) of the monist Realizers. Following a broad discussion of the major trends in Sufism that form the background out of which Shushtarī emerges, this article analyzes the <i>Qu</i>ṣ<i>āriyya </i>and presents a full English translation and Arabic edition of this text. The <i>Qu</i>ṣ<i>āriyya</i> is a treatise on epistemology that was written in order to provide guidance to a disciple on how to respond to accusations of doctrinal heresy and deviation from the revealed Law. As such, it offers a window into Shushtarī’s thought as well as his understanding of his own place within the 7th/13th century Islamic intellectual tradition. The hierarchy of knowledge that he outlines represents an early response to the growing epistemological debates between what may be called “monotheist Ashʿarites,” “monist-inclined Sufis,” and fully fledged “monist Realizers.” The differences between these three perspectives lie in how each understands God’s bestowal of existence (<i>ījād</i>) and, consequently, the ontological status of the created realm. The Ashʿarites are “monotheists” because they inhabit an atomistic creation that actually exists by virtue of God’s existentiating command. For them, God transcends creation, and creation proves the existence of a transcendent Creator. The Sufis, for their part, incline toward the monists for whom God is the sole Reality, and for whom all else is nonexistent (ʿ<i>adam</i>). However, they begin by affirming the logic of the Ashʿarite monotheist paradigm, and as they acquire direct recognition of God through spiritual purification, they assert that the Creator proves the existence of creation, because the latter is an “empty tent” sustained by the divine command. Finally, the “monist” Realizer maintains that nothing other than God exists. Having realized the truths that the theologians speculate about and that the Sufis begin to experience, the Realizers can engage, affirm, and refute both groups at their respective levels without committing to the cosmological doctrines of Ashʿarism, the ontological categories of Avicennan philosophy, or even the Sufi conception of the spiritual path to God.
  • The Traces of the Bhagavad Gita in the Perennial Philosophy—A Critical Study of the Gita’s Reception Among the Perennialists

    Mohammad Syifa Amin Widigdo (MDPI AG, 2020-05-01)
    This article studies the reception of the Bhagavad Gita within circles of Perennial Philosophy scholars and examines how the Gita is interpreted to the extent that it influenced their thoughts. Within the Hindu tradition, the Gita is often read from a dualist and/or non-dualist perspective in the context of observing religious teachings and practices. In the hands of Perennial Philosophy scholars, the Gita is read from a different angle. Through a critical examination of the original works of the Perennialists, this article shows that the majority of the Perennial traditionalists read the Gita from a dualist background but that, eventually, they were convinced that the Gita’s paradigm is essentially non-dualist. In turn, this non-dualist paradigm of the Gita influences and transforms their ontological thought, from the dualist to the non-dualist view of the reality. Meanwhile, the non-traditionalist group of Perennial Philosophy scholars are not interested in this ontological discussion. They are more concerned with the question of how the Gita provides certain ways of attaining human liberation and salvation. Interestingly, both traditionalist and non-traditionalist camps are influenced by the Gita, at the same time, inserting an external understanding and interpretation into the Gita.
  • The Uses of Human Malleability: Images of Hellish and Heavenly Sojourns in Pre-Modern Burma

    Lilian Handlin (MDPI AG, 2020-05-01)
    For more than a millennium, Burmese donors sponsored elaborately decorated structures to publicize their allegiance to the Buddha’s Dhamma in its Pali version, illuminating their understanding of the human predicament. The structures always featured décor informed by revered texts, the Buddha’s words or Buddhavacana and its elaborators, that in the context of the biography of Gotama Buddha writ large, recalled numerous sub-chapters en route to Awakening. Throughout that immensely long timeframe, conceptions of retribution, recalling sojourns in various hells or heavenly mansions, remained constant. Their interpretation, however, moved with the times, reflecting the ever-shifting components of the Gotama saga designed to meet changing circumstances. The article explains why and how these two subjects sustained their influence, how their meanings changed, and how their visual interpretation reflected contemporaries’ grasp of the future. The core argument asserts that behind the images was a socializing conditioning mechanism revealing this setting’s ideational substructure. That substructure’s lineaments exploited psychological and physiological assumptions regarding how humans functioned, harnessing emotions evoked by stories and images and utilizing fear as a form of societal control. The aim was to create what throughout Burmese history were called “the good people”—ideal subjects for a dhamma-governed society.
  • A Theory on the Involvement of Religion in National Security Policy Formulation and Implementation: The Case of Israel Before and After the Religionization of its Security Environment

    Moria Bar-Maoz (MDPI AG, 2020-05-01)
    This article offers, for the first time, a theoretical model of religion’s influence on the formulation and execution of national security policies. To build this model, it analyses the influence of religion on Israel’s national security policymaking—before and after Israel’s security environment went through a process of religionization beginning in the 1970s. The article proposes that religion’s effect on national security policymaking is comprised of three tiers that follow one another in the decision making sequence and, yet, are independent from one another: (1) operational beliefs embedded in the state’s security thinking on the relations between religion and security; (2) opportunities and constraints on the state’s freedom of action, due to the role religion plays in global, regional and domestic politics as well as bilateral relations; and (3) governmental utilization of religion to realize national security goals. At its conclusion, the article demonstrates that the model is applicable to other countries as well, using the case of France’s policies in the 21st century.
  • Clericalism Contributes to Religious, Spiritual, and Behavioral Struggles among Catholic Priests

    Thomas G. Plante (MDPI AG, 2020-04-01)
    The Roman Catholic Church has received a remarkable amount of press attention regarding clerical perpetrated sexual abuse with child victims as well as other clerical behavioral scandals in recent years. Much has been reported in both the popular and professional press about the various aspects and elements of priestly formation and ministry that might contribute to behavioral problems among clerics. Additionally, much has also been written and discussed about the challenging religious, spiritual, and behavioral struggles among clerics when clerical misbehavior significantly contradicts expected behavior in terms of sexual, behavioral, and relational ethics. Since Catholic priests are dedicated to chastity, obedience, and, among religious order clerics, poverty, both Catholics and non-Catholics alike expect and demand highly virtuous behavior from these men that they believe should be beyond reproach. Clericalism contributes to the gap between expected and actual behavior and creates an environment and culture where problem behavior and struggles are too often ignored. This article seeks to unpack some of the challenging dynamics of clericalism and demonstrate how it negatively contributes to religious, spiritual, moral, and behavioral struggles among Catholic clerics.
  • Correction: Zarzycka, B.; Tychmanowicz, A.; Krok, D. Religious Struggle and Psychological Well-Being: The Mediating Role of Religious Support and Meaning Making. <i>Religions</i> 2020, <i>11</i>, 149

    Beata Zarzycka; Anna Tychmanowicz; Dariusz Krok (MDPI AG, 2020-04-01)
    The authors want to make the following corrections to the paper (Zarzycka et al [...]
  • Reassessing Religion and Politics in the Life of Jagjivan Rām

    Peter Friedlander (MDPI AG, 2020-05-01)
    Jagjivan Ram (1908–1986) was, for more than four decades, the leading figure from India’s Dalit communities in the Indian National Congress party. In this paper, I argue that the relationship between religion and politics in Jagjivan Ram’s career needs to be reassessed. This is because the common perception of him as a secular politician has overlooked the role that his religious beliefs played in forming his political views. Instead, I argue that his faith in a Dalit Hindu poet-saint called Ravidās was fundamental to his political career. Acknowledging the role that religion played in Jagjivan Ram’s life also allows us to situate discussions of his life in the context of contemporary debates about religion and politics. Jeffrey Haynes has suggested that these often now focus on whether religion is a cause of conflict or a path to the peaceful resolution of conflict. In this paper, I examine Jagjivan Ram’s political life and his belief in the Ravidāsī religious tradition. Through this, I argue that Jagjivan Ram’s career shows how political and religious beliefs led to him favoring a non-confrontational approach to conflict resolution in order to promote Dalit rights.
  • Sacred Places and Planetary Stresses: Sanctuaries as Laboratories of Religious and Ecological Change

    Willis Jenkins (MDPI AG, 2020-04-01)
    How are global relations and planetary flows experienced, interpreted, and managed from places set aside from everyday use, as “sacred” in that sense? Sanctuary Lab, a transdisciplinary initiative at UVA, investigates how religious processes interact with planetary stresses. Provisionally adopting a keyword in religious studies, the sacred, opens a post-disciplinary angle of inquiry into Anthropocene processes of cultural and environmental change. Focusing on dynamics of change in places regarded as sanctuaries affords unique perspective on how rapid planetary changes interact with particular inherited streams of normativity and imagination. This essay integrates field note illustrations from Yellowstone and Bhutan with critical reflection on the lab’s approach in order to share initial hypotheses, collaborative research practices, and potential significance. It suggests that sacralization is part of the process through which cultures make sense of rapid changes; that nonhumans participate in sacralization; that sanctuaries offer unique laboratories of coupled change; and that arts-based exercises can help drive critical reflection on experience and method.
  • Conversion to Orthodox Christianity in Uganda: A Hundred Years of Spiritual Encounter with Modernity, 1919–2019

    Dmitri M. Bondarenko; Andrey V. Tutorskiy (MDPI AG, 2020-05-01)
    In 1919, three Ugandan Anglicans converted to Orthodox Christianity, as they became sure that this was Christianity’s original and only true form. In 1946, Ugandan Orthodox Christians aligned with the Eastern Orthodox Church of Alexandria. Since the 1990s, new trends in conversion to Orthodox Christianity in Uganda can be observed: one is some growth in the number of new converts to the canonical Orthodox Church, while another is the appearance of new Orthodox Churches, including parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church. The questions we raise in this article are: Why did some Ugandans switch from other religions to Orthodox Christianity in the first half of the 20th century and in more recent years? Were there common reasons for these two developments? We argue that both processes should be understood as attempts by some Ugandans to find their own way in the modern world. Trying to escape spiritually from the impact of colonialism, post-coloniality, and globalization, they viewed Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Islam as part of the legacy they rejected. These people did not turn to African traditional beliefs either. They already firmly saw their own tradition as Christian, but were (and are) seeking its “true”, “original” form. We emphasize that by rejecting post-colonial globalist modernity and embracing Orthodox Christianity as the basis of their own “alternative” modernity, these Ugandans themselves turn out to be modern products, and this speaks volumes about the nature of conversion in contemporary Africa. The article is based on field evidence collected in 2017–2019 as well as on print sources.
  • What Else Is New?: Toward a Postcolonial Christian Theology for the Anthropocene

    George B. Handley (MDPI AG, 2020-05-01)
    Although there are many reasons for Christian skepticism regarding climate change, one reason is theological in nature, and therefore, requires a theological solution. This essay explains the theological grounds for climate change denial and for a compromised understanding of the power and creativity of human agency. Drawing inspiration from the ecotheological implications of postcolonial poetics, it seeks to offer revised conceptions of the atonement and the fall and of what it means to read both scripture and nature. The aim is to offer a more resilient Christian theology that can inspire agential creativity in the age of the Anthropocene.
  • ‘He Will Rescue Us Again’: Affliction and Hope in 2 Corinthians 1:8–11

    Sean F. Winter (MDPI AG, 2020-05-01)
    Dark times can generate crippling despair all too easily. Resources for resistance to despair and for the discovery and articulation of hope are not always readily apparent. This essay considers Paul’s account of his own immersion in such a situation: An ‘affliction' that left him ‘unbearably crushed’, ‘despairing of life itself’ (2 Cor 1:9), and under a ‘sentence of death’ (2 Cor 1:10). Making a speculative proposal about the nature of Paul's experience, the essay goes on to argue that Paul identified two fundamental resources for hope. The first is a conviction about an eschatological act that undoes the sentence of death and effects the possibility of rescue or deliverance. The second is a form of human solidarity that generates potential reorientation to the reality of ‘rescue’. While the essay explores these ideas within the terms and framework of Paul's rhetoric in 2 Corinthians, it will do so with one clear eye on the potential resources that Pauline theology offers those who live in inexplicably dark times today, not least by considering the potential resources for political optimism.
  • Syncretism, Harmonization, and Mutual Appropriation between Buddhism and Confucianism in Pre-Joseon Korea

    Sem Vermeersch (MDPI AG, 2020-05-01)
    Following the introduction of Buddhism to China, various strategies of accommodation with Chinese culture were developed, all amounting to some form of syncretism with Chinese religions, mainly Confucianism. Buddhism in pre-modern Korea displayed similar forms of interaction with Confucianism. This article aims to critique the notion that such interactions were merely forms of “harmonization,” finding common ground between the traditions. If one religion borrows from another or adopts the message of another religion, it will be affected to some degree, which is why the concept of syncretism is a better tool of analysis. This article concludes that there was a strong official support in Goryeo Korea towards the genuine convergence of Confucianism and Buddhism. Since Buddhism, as a result, took on many of the tasks carried out by Confucianism in China, the reaction against Buddhism by a reinvigorated Confucianism from the late fourteenth century onward was much stronger than in China.
  • Picasso for Preaching: The Demand and Possibility of a Cubist Homiletic

    Sunggu Yang (MDPI AG, 2020-05-01)
    The purpose of this article is to propose a cubist homiletic based on the Picasso-originated art movement known as cubism. To that end, I explore the twofold question: What is cubist preaching, and why do we need it today? It is a critical inquiry into a theology and methodology of cubist preaching and its contextual rationale. In particular, I adopt cubism’s artistic-philosophical routine of transcendental deconstruction and multi-perspectival reconstruction as the key hermeneutical and literary methodology for cubist preaching. This cubist way of preaching ultimately aims for the listener to encounter the Sacred in what I call an ubi-ductive way—a neologism made by conjoining the two terms, ubiquitous and -ductive, beyond what is possible through conventional inductive and deductive preaching.

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