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

  • Testimonial Image Practices as a Politics of Aesthetics after Levinas

    Johannes Bennke (MDPI AG, 2019-03-01)
    The transition from ethics to politics still lacks a proper understanding. I propose thinking of this transition in terms of a politics of aesthetics. However, thinking about a politics of aesthetics means also thinking about images and their prohibition. The prohibition of images has a long history, dating back to the Bible and Plato; its implications are crucial for image theory. Since Levinas did not systematically develop a political theory, aesthetics, or image theory, it is necessary to collect and systematize his distributed statements. Having image theory as a starting point for a politics of aesthetics, I choose a media philosophical approach to identify the mediality of the image after Levinas. Key elements for a Levinasian image theory are the temporal aspect of its transient appearance, its involving affective power, and its negativity. I propose to think of this image theory as an image-pragmatics that testifies and responds not only to the Other but also to the mediality of the image. With Levinas it becomes possible to turn the prohibition of images into a commandment to remember. I call this a testimonial image practice that becomes a regulatory idea for a politics of aesthetics.
  • The Love of God as a Consistent Jewish Response to Modernity

    Erik Dreff (MDPI AG, 2019-05-01)
    Discussions of Jewish responses to modernity often focus on what is new or what has adapted or evolved in Judaism in the face of modernity’s challenges. However, contrary to convention, this paper argues that, at least in principle, neither has the challenge nor the response changed all that much. Through an examination of several key modern Jewish thinkers, including Spinoza, Mendelssohn, Rosenzweig, and Buber, and by focusing on a traditional Jewish concept and value, the Love of God, this paper claims that the Love of God functions as the orienting principle for much of modern Jewish thought, just as it did throughout the history of Judaism. Upon demonstrating the consistent presence of the concept of the Love of God throughout the Jewish tradition, and especially in much of modern Jewish thought, this paper goes on to briefly reflect on the importance and vitality of the concept of the Love of God for both Judaism and modernity, despite and beyond the commercialization and cheapening of the concept of Love in recent times.
  • “Where Are We Going?” Dante’s Inferno or Richard Rorty’s “Liberal Ironist”

    Dennis Sansom (MDPI AG, 2019-01-01)
    This paper elucidates the structure of moral action by arguing that Dante’s explanation in the Inferno of why people end up in their respective circles of hell is superior in terms of accounting for the structure of moral reasoning to Richard Rorty’s promotion of the “liberal ironist.” The latter suffers an internal contradiction—it wants a well-lived life without any overriding aims, but such a life is understandable only in light of affirming life-aims. The former convincingly shows that the structure of action reveals the truth of the well-known apothegm—“we reap what we sow.” The main point for Dante is not who is rational (for even the rational can be vicious, as depicted in the Inferno), but whose aims actually fulfill the practical life. This comparison of Dante and Rorty can have larger pedagogical aims, helping students to understand better what Albert William Levi calls “the moral imagination” and deepening their appreciation of how metaphors and paradigms of moral excellence provide, or fail to provide, an overriding unity and purpose to our actions.
  • Hasidic Myth-Activism: Martin Buber’s Theopolitical Revision of Volkish Nationalism

    Yemima Hadad (MDPI AG, 2019-02-01)
    Since the 1970s, Buber has often been suspected of being a Volkish thinker. This essay reconsiders the affinity of Buber’s late writings with Volkish ideology. It examines the allegations against Buber’s Volkish thought in light of his later biblical and Hasidic writings. By illuminating the ideological affinity between these two modes of thought, the essay explains how Buber aims to depart from the dangers of myth without rejecting myth as such. I argue that Buber’s relationship to myth can help us to explain his critique of nationalism. My basic argument is that in his struggle with hyper-nationalism, Buber follows the Baal Shem Tov and his struggle against Sabbateanism. Like the Besht, Buber does not reject myth, but seeks instead to repair it from within. Whereas hyper-nationalism uses myth to advance its political goals, Buber seeks to reposition ethics within a mythic framework. I view Buber’s exegesis and commentaries on biblical and Hasidic myths as <i>myth-activism</i>.
  • Religion without God? Approaches to Theological Reference in Modern and Contemporary Jewish Thought

    Cass Fisher (MDPI AG, 2019-01-01)
    Recent scholarship on both ancient and modern Judaism has criticized the identification of Judaism as a religion. From the perspective of the modern period, what has remained unaddressed is the very peculiar religion that Jewish philosophers and theologians have formed. Numerous scholars with varying philosophical and religious commitments depict Judaism as a religion in which belief plays a negligible role and reference to God is tenuous if not impossible. This article charts three trends in modern and contemporary Jewish thought on the subject of theological reference: restricted referentialism, ostensive referentialism, and theological referentialism. The article concludes by discussing new developments in the theory of reference that can further the work of the theological referentialists and help revitalize Jewish theology.
  • Marranism as Judaism as Universalism: Reconsidering Spinoza

    Daniel H. Weiss (MDPI AG, 2019-03-01)
    This essay seeks to reconsider the relation of the universal-rational ethos of Spinoza’s thought to the Jewish tradition and culture in which he was raised and socially situated. In particular, I seek to engage with two previous portrayals—specifically, those of Isaac Deutscher and Yirmiyahu Yovel—that present Spinoza’s universalism as arising from his break from or transcendence of Judaism, where the latter is cast primarily (along with Christianity) as a historical-particular and therefore non-universal tradition. In seeking a potential source of Spinoza’s orientation, Yovel points Marrano culture, as a sub-group that was already alienated from both mainstream Judaism and mainstream Christianity. By contrast, I argue that there are key elements of pre-Spinoza Jewish-rabbinic conceptuality and material culture that already enact a profoundly universalist ethos, specifically in contrast to more parochialist or particularist ethical dynamics prevalent in the culture of Christendom at the time. We will see, furthermore, that the Marrano dynamics that Yovel fruitfully highlights in fact have much in common with dynamics that were already in place in non-Marrano Jewish tradition and culture. As such, we will see that Spinoza’s thought can be understood not only as manifesting a Marrano-like dynamic in the context of rational-philosophical discourse, but also as preserving a not dissimilar Jewish-rabbinic dynamic at the same time. This, in turn, will point to new possibilities for tracing this latter dynamic through the subsequent history of modern philosophy and modern Jewish thought.
  • Experiencing Justice from the Inside Out: Theological Considerations about the Church’s Role in Justice, Healing, and Forgiveness

    Jason S. Sexton (MDPI AG, 2019-02-01)
    Recent suggestions have been made that theology may have more to offer on matters related to the subjects of punishment, corrections, and rehabilitation than has often been acknowledged in the scholarly literature. This essay sets out to explore the merits of such claims with regard to how they might assist ongoing efforts to address mass incarceration, including the theological dimensions of punitive justice along with other potentially redemptive realities that theological reflection may illuminate and make more visible. Consideration will be given to the ongoing role that religion plays in the life of the prison before giving consideration to the ontology of the church as a social actor, especially as locally-constituted within the prison—the ecclesia incarcerate, or the prison church. The theological rationale for the basic existence of such an actor is explored along with the effects of such a vision for this kind of transformation the church may experience along with both promises and potential challenges that come with the church having its own ontology, not as a given, but as a creature of grace.
  • Political Justice: Levinas Contra Aristotle

    Nathan Bell (MDPI AG, 2019-02-01)
    In this paper, I argue that two radically different conceptions of political justice can be derived from the work of Aristotle and Emmanuel Levinas—notions of justice that are indeed directly opposed. Aristotle defines justice in terms of considerations of moderation, prudence, and measure, where the virtuous actor is supposed to demonstrate aspects of character and perform acts that are neither deficient nor excessive; yet the ethics of Levinas, as instantiated in justice, is a demand that responding to the needs of others not be limited by moderate considerations, but can precisely be realized as an exorbitant and anarchic assumption of responsibility. It thus becomes of decisive importance for both a thinking of the political, and political praxis, in determining which conception of justice is found to be more compelling. I illustrate the stakes of this difference with reference to the politics of asylum, and in particular, a discussion of the historical case of the Kindertransport.
  • The Hyphen in the Theological-Political: Spinoza to Mendelssohn, Heine, and Derrida

    Willi Goetschel (MDPI AG, 2018-12-01)
    Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise introduced the unique catchphrase of the theological-political. While commanding popular currency, the full implications of the phrase is rarely considered in terms of modern Jewish thought. This paper examines how paying close attention to the hyphen helps us better understand the critical role of the hyphen in Spinoza and its significance for Mendelssohn, Heine, and Derrida’s critical agenda of rethinking the theological-political.
  • Metanomianism and Religious Praxis in Martin Buber’s Hasidic Tales

    Sam Berrin Shonkoff (MDPI AG, 2018-12-01)
    It is well known that Martin Buber abandoned Jewish law as a binding code. Scholars have identified him accurately as a religious anarchist, and his perspective is best characterized as metanomian—that is, one that locates the essence of religiosity outside of any fixed system, without necessarily opposing that system as a matter of principle. And yet, such general characterizations offer only a very vague picture of Buber’s stance. This paper demonstrates that it is especially illustrative for us to turn to Buber’s Hasidic tales. First of all, precisely because Buber’s concept of practice was irreducible to any static system or code, the genre of narrative conveys far more than any abstract formulation can. Moreover, inasmuch as Buber’s Hasidic tales were his own hermeneutical refractions of earlier sources, which were in themselves teeming with images of practice, our intertextual investigations reveal at once narrative representations of religious life and Buber’s personal interpretations of those narratives. What emerges from this study, then, is a textured and vivid vision of religious practice, which was not merely a peripheral concern but a life-encompassing core of Buber’s thought.
  • Levinas and the “Matter” of Poverty

    Timothy W. Rothhaar (MDPI AG, 2018-11-01)
    “Poverty” is a term Levinas uses to describe the face-to-face encounter and the Other all through his corpus. Scholars regularly use this term, but no research has shown its origin nor that Levinas has a concept of poverty. This paper addresses both of those questions through an analysis of an early reflection on Judaism and the relevant sections of his Totality and Infinity. In the process, I argue for an alternative interpretation of Levinas’s ethical phenomenology on the basis of poverty concluding with some suggestions on how a Levinasian spiritual poverty can aid the pursuit of justice.
  • Ernst Bloch as a Non-Simultaneous Jewish Marxist

    Przemyslaw Tacik (MDPI AG, 2018-11-01)
    The paper attempts to reassess the fundamentally paradoxical position of Ernst Bloch in 20th century philosophy in the light of the Marranic condition. Indebted, among others, to Jewish heritage and Christian tradition, Bloch considered himself primarily a Marxist. Bloch’s uniqueness consists in the stunning equiponderance of the currents he drew from. Contrary to a classic model of modern Jewish philosophy, inaugurated by Hermann Cohen, Bloch’s thinking does not allow of easy juxtaposition of “sources” with languages into which they were translated. In this sense, Bloch cannot be easily compared to Franz Rosenzweig, Emmanuel Levinas or even Walter Benjamin (although he bore some striking similarities with the latter). His position at least partly stems from a specific form of directness with which he often used these languages, composing his philosophy in quite an anachronist manner. For this reason his thinking—in itself “die Gleichzeitigkeit des Ungleichzeitigen”, as one of his key concepts theorises—is a very modern, internally incoherent space of cross-fertilising inspirations. The paper demonstrates two levels on which Bloch’s indebtedness to Judaism might be analysed and then re-assesses his Marxist affiliations as a kind of modern faith which, in a specifically Marranic manner, seals the simultaneity of the non-simultaneous.
  • Dieter Schnebel: Spiritual Music Today

    Christopher Anderson (MDPI AG, 2017-09-01)
    This article presents an annotated English translation of the composer-theologian Dieter Schnebel’s seminal essay exploring music’s spiritual capacities. Speaking explicitly from his time and place, Schnebel considers compositional questions arising from the most advanced new music of European modernism. The approach is driven by insights derived from Marxist critical theory and the “new theology” associated with Bonhoeffer, Bultmann, and others. Acknowledging the secularized, religionless society Bonhoeffer had predicted in 1944, Schnebel argues that an authentic geistliche Musik has always been one driven by a secularizing dynamic, pressing beyond the walls of the church to engage a broken world of injustice and suffering. For him, the experimental avant-garde is fertile ground, since a music of the Spirit is a new, non-conformist music engaged in renewal. A translator’s introduction analyzes briefly the major components of Schnebel’s thought.
  • Pausanian Classification or Socratic Participation: Theologizing the Plurality of Erotic Praxis in Plato’s Symposium

    Philip Krinks (MDPI AG, 2018-09-01)
    Read theologically, Plato’s Symposium is an exercise in doxology: how Eros is to be praised. Pausanias observes that, since Eros is not one, a unitary praise will be inadequate. Proposing a focus on praxis, he classifies erotic praxes, and praises one, in a synthesis of contemporary convention, sophistic rationality, social responsibility and polytheistic fidelity. Against this Socrates praises erotic praxis as one of a plurality of desires mediating between mortals and an otherwise transcendent good. Desire which is specifically erotic involves a praxis of (pro)creation through attention to beauty. In this praxis mortals participate in immortality and the divine. Pausanias’ praise is seriously offered. However, lacking a participatory element, it delivers an underwhelming doxology, making Eros at best an instrument of a sophistically constructed virtue ethic to which his polytheism is ambiguously connected. It is the philosophical theology of Socrates, which, praising Eros as a mediator enabling participation in the divine realm, and offering itself as an analogous form of mediation, is able to be consummated liturgically.
  • Medieval Muslim Cuisine as A Real-Life Foundation for the Meat and Milk Prohibition in Ibn Ezra’s Biblical Commentary

    Abraham Ofir Shemesh (MDPI AG, 2018-05-01)
    In his biblical commentary, R. Abraham Ibn Ezra (c. 1090–1164) occasionally voices the contention that the language, culture, and life-style of the Muslim world are capable of contributing to our understanding of contemporary aspects of biblical stories and laws. The current paper deals with the influence of Islamic culinary art in medieval times on Ibn Ezra’s Biblical commentary on the meat and milk ban. Ibn Ezra claims that the reality of the Arab kitchen, which includes the Bible lands, preserves the ancient ways of eating. Thus, we can understand the Bible ban in Muslim cuisine. According to the medieval dietary approach, cooking meat and milk is recommended because both products have similar properties. The meat of young goat healthier than lamb meat, so it is common to cook it. Muslims believe that the kid of a goat is better cooked in its own mother’s milk, because the two products derive from the same origin.
  • Constituting Canon and Community in Eleventh Century Tibet: The Extant Writings of Rongzom and His Charter of Mantrins (sngags pa’i bca’ yig)

    Dominic Sur (MDPI AG, 2017-03-01)
    This paper explores some of the work of Rongzom Chökyi Zangpo (hereafter Rongzom) and attempts to situate his pedagogical influence within the “Old School” or Nyingma (rnying ma) tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.1 A survey of Rongzom’s extant writings indicates that he was a seminal exegete and a particularly important philosopher and interpreter of Buddhism in Tibet. He was an influential intellectual flourishing in a period of cultural rebirth, when there was immense skepticism about Tibetan compositions. His work is thereby a source of insight into the indigenous Tibetan response to the transformations of a renaissance-era in which Indian provenance became the sine qua none of religious authority. Rongzom’s “charter” (bca’ yig), the primary focus of the essay, is an important document for our understanding of Old School communities of learning. While we know very little of the social realities of Old School communities in Rongzom’s time, we do know that they were a source of concern for the emerging political and religious authorities in Western Tibet. As such, the review below argues that the production of the charter should be seen, inter alia, as an effort at maintaining autonomy in the face of a rising political power. The analysis also provides insights into the nature of the social obligations operant within Rongzom’s community—constituted as it was by a combination of ritually embodied and discursive philosophical modes of learning.
  • Religion and Ethical Attitudes toward Accepting a Bribe: A Comparative Study

    Robert W. McGee; Serkan Benk; Bahadır Yüzbaşı (MDPI AG, 2015-09-01)
    This study presents the results of an empirical study of ethical attitudes toward bribe taking in six religions—Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, the Baha’i faith, Hinduism, and Judaism. The paper begins with a discussion of the theoretical and empirical literature on the subject. The empirical part of the study examines attitudes toward accepting bribes in 57 countries from the perspectives of six religions using the data from Wave 6 (2010–2014) of the World Values Survey. The sample population is more than 52,000. More than a dozen demographic variables were examined. The study found that attitude toward bribe taking does differ by religion.
  • Producing High Priests and Princesses: The Father-Daughter Relationship in the Christian Sexual Purity Movement

    Elizabeth Gish (MDPI AG, 2016-03-01)
    This article describes and analyzes father-daughter purity balls in the context of the contemporary U.S. American conservative Christian sexual purity movement, with an emphasis on taking the self-understanding of those involved in the movement into account. It shows the ways that the idealization of a hierarchical father-daughter relationship both constructs and reflects sexual purity ideals. The Christian sexual purity teachings frame this father-daughter relationship as an essential part of forming the ideal subject, and as reflective of the right order of the kingdom of God. In the logic of sexual purity, a good man is the strong high-priest leader of the household and the ideal girl is princess-like: white, non-poor, attractive, pure, feminine, delicate, and receptive. She is preparing, under her father’s guidance, for heterosexual marriage. Attention to the father-daughter relationship in the sexual purity movement highlights the ways that sexual purity is primarily about subject formation and the ordering of relationships—in families, in the nation, and in the church—and less about the specifics of when particular sexual acts take place or the public health risks that might come from those acts. This exploration also brings into relief the ways that contemporary conservative Christian sexual purity teachings draw from and build on two prominent aspects of contemporary U.S. American popular culture: the important role of the princess figure, and the buying of goods as indispensable to the formation of the subject.
  • Strange Bedfellows: Meditations on the Indispensable Virtues of Confusion, Mindfulness and Humor in the Neuroscientific and Cognitive Study of Esoteric and Contemplative Traditions1

    Jeffrey C. Ruff (MDPI AG, 2016-09-01)
    Several recent publications in the study of esoteric traditions have drawn together insights from scholars of religions and philosophy, contemplative communities, metaphor and conceptual blend theories, cognitive sciences, neurosciences, and physical anthropology. These interdisciplinary explorations revolve around contemplative practices (meditation, mindfulness, ritual traditions, etc.). This includes both ethnographic and textual expressions of these traditions. This paper is a response to the questions and insights of some recent articles, books, and two 2015 conference papers, with the specific purpose of contributing to what Glen Hayes (2014) called “the need to develop and ‘new vocabulary’ for this interdisciplinary study” of contemplative and esoteric traditions (Hayes’ call was specifically in reference to Hindu Tantra). To do this, I have referred to some other scientific approaches to which the scholars of esoteric and contemplative communities have not made much mention, and then to offer a form of reflection and meditation on what this new vocabulary and these research projects call us to do: their concepts, logic, and meaning. To this end, I have given some careful attention to the concepts of confusion, mindfulness, humor, and dispassionate vulnerability to help us better understand what we are doing, and where we should go from here.
  • Wealth, Well-Being, and the Danger of Having Too Much

    Dustin Crummett (MDPI AG, 2017-05-01)
    It is impossible for an agent who is classically economically rational to have so much wealth that it is harmful for them, since such an agent would simply give away their excess wealth. Actual agents, vulnerable to akrasia and lacking full information, are not economically rational, but economists, ethicists and political philosophers have nonetheless mostly ignored the possibility that having too much might be harmful in some ways. I survey the major philosophical theories of well-being and draw on ethics and the social sciences to point out several ways in which, on the most plausible of these theories, having too much, relative to other members of one’s society, might be harmful to oneself (for instance, by making it harder for one to have appropriate relationships with others, or by making it more likely than one will develop undesirable character traits). I argue that because egalitarian policies prevent these harms and provide the advantaged with other benefits (such as access to public goods which help rich and poor alike), egalitarian policies are not as harmful to the rich as is commonly supposed, and may even be helpful to them on balance. I close by discussing the practical implications of this.

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