• Obedience as Belonging: Catholic Guilt and Frequent Confession in America

      Jonathan Stotts (MDPI AG, 2019-06-01)
      From the late 19th to the mid-20th century, the practice of private confession to a priest was a mainstay of Catholic parish life in the United States. By the 1970s, Catholics had largely abandoned the practice of private confession. One dominant narrative among Catholic theologians and clergy, identified chiefly with the papacy of John Paul II, attributes the decline in confession to the loss of healthy guilt that took place during the cultural upheaval of the 1960s. In conversation with the work of psychologist and philosopher Antoine Vergote, the present article challenges this narrative, arguing that a collective and unhealthy Catholic guilt existed among American Catholics well before the 1960s and in fact characterized the period in which private confession was practiced most frequently. I contend that obedience to moral prescriptions was not, for ordinary Catholics, part of an ethical program of self-reform but the condition for belonging to a church body that emphasized obedience. Finally, examining the relationship between weekly reception of communion and confession, I suggest that private confession emerged to support frequent communion, persisting only until the latter became standard practice among Catholics in the United States.
    • Of Pride and Prejudice—A Cross-National Exploration of Atheists’ National Pride

      Insa Bechert (MDPI AG, 2021-08-01)
      This paper explores how atheism relates to national pride. Previous research reports the strong positive relationship between religiosity and national pride. Inversely, it can be assumed that atheists feel less national pride. Whether this assumption holds true and whether the perceived relevance of religiosity for values perceived as fundamental for national pride is a national-specific or a global phenomenon will be investigated here by examining attitudes towards atheists and assessing cross-nationally how proud atheists truly are of their countries. The data reveals cross-country differences in both respects. In highly religious countries, prejudice against atheists is pronounced, while atheists’ feelings of national pride indeed tend to be weaker. But what exactly predicts atheists’ feelings of national pride? For a Multilevel Analysis of this question, this article uses the ONBound database offering cumulated and harmonized data from international survey programs as well as linked country-level data on national identities and religion. Results identify countries’ ideological background as one of the crucial country-level predictors for national pride among atheists. In highly religious countries, people who deny religion also seem to possess ambivalent feelings towards their country. In turn, if the state ideology opposes religion, atheists tend to support the combination of anti-religiousness and patriotism.
    • Of Winged Women and Stone Tombs: Identity and Agency through Iron Age Lycian Mortuary Architecture

      Stephanie Selover (MDPI AG, 2021-08-01)
      The people collectively named the Lycians in modern scholarship are the best represented of the western Anatolian first millennium BC cultures in terms of philological, historical, and archaeological data. This article seeks to better understand the meanings behind Iron Age Lycian mortuary monuments and religious images, and how they reflect Lycian identity and agency in a time of political turmoil. By studying the Lycian mortuary landscape, tombs and images, we can begin to comprehend Lycian perceptions of the afterlife, religion and cultural identity. In particular, we look to the images of the so-called “Harpies” and “Running Men” to better understand evidence of the afterlife, connections to the past and the creation of their own identity of what it means to be Lycian. The study of Lycian mortuary trends, monumental architecture, and religion gives us a small but tantalizing view into the Lycian understanding of religion and death, and how they wielded their own culture as a tool for survival in a politically fraught world.
    • On Being Consumed: The Martyred Body as a Site of Divine—Human Encounter in the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch

      Peter-Ben Smit (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
      The manner in which humans and the divine are brought into communion with each other, a key aspect of many religious traditions, is frequently, if not always, material (or sacramental) in character. Meals and food play an important role in this; such meals can include the consumption of the deity (theophagy), as well as the consumption of the human being by the deity. This paper takes its cue from the discussion of constructions of divine–human communion and explores this subject in the letters of Ignatius of Antioch (early second century CE). It shows how in the literary heritage of this bishop, the body as the physical site of martyrdom is of key importance, in particular due to its consumption in the Roman arena. This martyrdom is the way in which Ignatius hopes to enter into perfect communion with the divine. The body thus becomes, in its annihilation, the instrument through which divine–human communion is established. As this all relates to a case of martyrdom, Ignatius’ ideas about the body are also subversive in character: the punishment of his body is, through his theological imagination, transformed into a means of achieving Ignatius’ goal in life: attaining to God.
    • On Dealing with Destructive Emotions through the “Path of Self-Liberation”

      Costantino M. Albini (MDPI AG, 2013-06-01)
      In the majority of Buddhist systems and traditions, destructive emotions—hatred, craving and delusion—are considered as the main obstacle to enlightenment and dealt with as such through various methods of counteracting and neutralizing. In the supreme teaching of Dzogchen, however, they are but one of the infinite aspects of the primordially self-perfected dimension of the true nature of mind. Thus they are allowed to show their utterly harmless essence—non-ego, beyond-good-and-evil, empty and luminous—through the path of self-liberation.
    • “On Golden Tablets”: The Cleveland Museum of Art’s Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Manuscript as a Self-Referential Icon

      Reed O'Mara (MDPI AG, 2020-06-01)
      This article examines the paintings on the five surviving illuminated palm-leaf folios and the interiors of the two wooden covers of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s almost complete Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines, or the <i>Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā-sūtra</i>, from the early twelfth century (CMA, Acc. No. 1938.301). Earlier scholarship on the CMA manuscript has overlooked the importance of the first folio, which depicts centrally a female personification of the <i>Prajñāpāramitā</i> text itself. Focusing on the details of the image and comparing it to the other instances of the figure in the manuscript, I argue that the golden image of Prajñāpāramitā on folio 1v serves as the core self-referential icon of the manuscript, alluding to not only the content of the text itself, but also to the very manuscript the image resides in. This essay shows the ways in which South Asian palm-leaf manuscripts can be understood from the purview of materiality, already well established in the scholarship of western European medieval parchment manuscripts.
    • On James Sterba’s Refutation of Theistic Arguments to Justify Suffering

      Bruce R. Reichenbach (MDPI AG, 2021-01-01)
      In his recent book <i>Is a Good God Logically Possible</i>? and article by the same name, James Sterba argued that the existence of significant and horrendous evils, both moral and natural, is incompatible with the existence of God. He advances the discussion by invoking three moral requirements and by creating an analogy with how the just state would address such evils, while protecting significant freedoms and rights to which all are entitled. I respond that his argument has important ambiguities and that consistent application of his moral principles will require that God remove all moral and natural evils. This would deleteriously restrict not only human moral decision making, but also the knowledge necessary to make moral judgments. He replies to this critique by appealing to the possibility of limited divine intervention, to which I rejoin with reasons why his middle ground is not viable.
    • On Manuscripts, Prints and Blessed Transformations: Caterina da Siena’s <i>Legenda maior</i> as a Model of Sainthood in Premodern Castile

      Pablo Acosta-García (MDPI AG, 2020-01-01)
      In this article, I analyze the translation commissioned in 1511 by Cardinal Francisco Ximénez Cisneros of the <i>Life of Catherine of Siena</i> by Raimundo da Capua, which includes the <i>legendae</i> of Giovanna (also known as Vanna) da Orvieto and Margherita da Città di Castello in the light of its translation, commission, and reception in premodern Castile. In the first place, I clarify the medieval transformations of Caterina’s text by discussing the main branches of her manuscript tradition and explaining the specificities of the editions authorized by Cisneros in order to know what exactly was printed. In the second place, I put these specificities into the courtly, prophetic context in which those books were published. Finally, I analyze the reception of these editions in the Iberian Peninsula, especially in relation to the figure of María de Santo Domingo, the famous Dominican tertiary.
    • On Not Understanding Extraordinary Language in the Buddhist Tantra of Japan

      Richard K. Payne (MDPI AG, 2017-10-01)
      The question motivating this essay is how tantric Buddhist practitioners in Japan understood language such as to believe that mantra, dhāraṇī, and related forms are efficacious. “Extraordinary language” is introduced as a cover term for these several similar language uses found in tantric Buddhist practices in Japan. The essay proceeds to a critical examination of Anglo-American philosophy of language to determine whether the concepts, categories, and concerns of that field can contribute to the analysis and understanding of extraordinary language. However, that philosophy of language does not contribute to this analysis, as it is constrained by its continuing focus on its founding concepts, dating particularly from the work of Frege. Comparing it to Indic thought regarding language reveals a distinct mismatch, further indicating the limiting character of the philosophy of language. The analysis then turns to examine two other explanations of tantric language use found in religious studies literature: magical language and performative language. These also, however, prove to be unhelpful. While the essay is primarily critical, one candidate for future constructive study is historical pragmatics, as suggested by Ronald Davidson. The central place of extraordinary language indicates that Indic reflections on the nature of language informed tantric Buddhist practice in Japan and are not simply cultural baggage.
    • On Socio-Economic Predictors of Religious Intolerance: Evidence from a Large-Scale Longitudinal Survey in the Largest Muslim Democracy

      Arief Anshory Yusuf; Akhmad Rizal Shidiq; Hariyadi Hariyadi (MDPI AG, 2019-12-01)
      Motivated by increasing religious intolerance, we study the socio-economic covariates of individual-level religious intolerance in Indonesia, the largest Muslim democracy in the world. We use panel data from 2007 and 2014 of more than 20,000 adult individuals (representing 83% of the population) and apply fixed-effect regression analysis to identify relevant socio-economic characteristics that are highly associated with religious intolerance at the individual level. We utilize survey questions on willingness to accept someone with different faith living in the same village, living in the same neighborhood, renting a house, marrying relatives or children, and building a place of worship in the neighborhood as our measures of religious intolerance. We find that higher individual income and educational attainment are positively correlated with the tolerance level. At the same time, a higher level of self-declared religiosity is negatively correlated with a tolerant attitude. For location-specific characteristics, higher income inequality and extent of poverty in the location where an individual resides are associated with a higher level of religious intolerance. These patterns are generally robust across different measures of religious intolerance, although there is heterogeneity in the magnitudes of the correlations, where these covariates have the smallest correlations with the willingness to accept interfaith marriage in the family.
    • On the <i>Ālayavijñāna</i> in the <i>Awakening of Faith</i>: Comparing and Contrasting Wŏnhyo and Fazang’s Views on <i>Tathāgatagarbha</i> and <i>Ālayavijñāna</i>

      Sumi Lee (MDPI AG, 2019-09-01)
      The <i>Awakening of Faith</i>, one of the most seminal treatises in East Asian Buddhism, is well-known for its synthesis of the two Mahāyāna concepts of <i>tathāgatagarbha</i> and <i>ālayavijñāna.</i> Unlike early Yogācāra texts, such as the <i>Yogācārabhūmi</i>, in which <i>ālayavijñāna</i> is described as a defiled consciousness, the <i>Awakening of Faith</i> explains it as a “synthetic” consciousness, in which <i>tathāgatagarbha</i> and the defiled mind are unified in a neither-identical-nor-different condition. East Asian Buddhist exegetes noted the innovative explanation of the <i>Awakening of Faith</i> and compiled the commentaries, among which Huayan master Fazang’s (643−712) commentary had a profound effect on the process of the establishment of the treatise as one of the most representative <i>tathāgatagarbha</i> texts in East Asia. However, as scholarly perceptions that the commentators’ interpretations do not always represent the <i>Awakening of Faith</i>’s tenets themselves have grown, the propriety of relying on Fazang’s commentary for understanding the treatise has also been questioned. What attracts our attention in this regard is that the Silla scholar-monk Wŏnhyo’s (617−686) commentaries, which are known to have significantly influenced Fazang’s, present very different views. This article demonstrates that two distinct interpretations existed in Wŏnhyo’s days for <i>tathāgatagarbha</i> and <i>ālayavijñāna</i> of the <i>Awakening of Faith</i>, by comparing Wŏnhyo and Fazang’s commentaries, and further considers the possibility that the <i>Awakening of Faith</i>’s doctrine of <i>ālayavijñāna</i> is not doctrinally incompatible with that of early Yogācāra on the basis of Wŏnhyo’s view on <i>ālayavijñāna</i>.
    • On the Compatibility of Christian Faith and Theological Agnosticism

      Emil B. Nielsen; Michael A. Mørch (MDPI AG, 2021-02-01)
      Agnosticism is often understood as being in opposition to religious faith. This article examines the two concepts “agnosticism” and “Christian faith” and their interrelated character. We argue that agnosticism and Christian faith are compatible, although agnosticism has some negative consequences for Christian faith seen from a Christian perspective.
    • On the Discursive and Methodological Categorisation of Islam and Muslims in the West: Ontological and Epistemological Considerations

      Fethi Mansouri (MDPI AG, 2020-09-01)
      This article reflects on the ethical and epistemological challenges facing researchers engaged in contemporary studies of Islam and Muslims in the West. Particularly, it focuses on the impact of the constructions and categorisations of Muslims and Islam in research. To do this, it considers the entwinement of public discourses and the development of research agendas and projects. To examine this complex and enmeshed process, this article explores ideological, discursive and epistemological approaches that it argues researchers need to consider. In invoking these three approaches alongside an analysis of a collection of recent research, this article contends that questions of race, religion and politics have been deployed to reinforce, rather than challenge, certain essentialist/orientalist representations of Islam and Muslims in the West in research. As this article shows, this practice is increasingly threatening to compromise, in a Habermasian communicative sense (i.e., the opportunity to speak and be heard for all concerned), the ethical and epistemological underpinnings of social science research with its emphasis on inclusion and respect.
    • On the Influence of Religious Assumptions in Statistical Methods Used in Science

      Cornelius Hunter (MDPI AG, 2020-12-01)
      For several centuries, statistical testing has been used to support evolutionary theories. Given the diverse origins and applications of these tests, it is remarkable how consistent they are. One common theme among these tests is that they appear to be founded on the logical fallacy of a false dichotomy. Is this true? It would be somewhat surprising if such diverse and historically important works are all guilty of the same naïve fallacy. Here, I explore these works and their historical context. I demonstrate that they are not logically fallacious, but instead incorporate and require a religious assumption about how a Creator would act. I conclude that this religious assumption and its influence on science should be considered in models of the interaction between science and religion.
    • On the Necessity of Ritual Sensibility in Public Protest: A Hong Kong Perspective

      Bryan K. M. Mok (MDPI AG, 2021-01-01)
      In Hong Kong, the efficacy of ritualized protest has become an issue of hot debate in recent years. Whereas ritualized protest is a long-term political practice in the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement that has considerable influence, skepticism about it has grown remarkably within the radical faction of the movement. Against this background, this paper aims to offer a theoretical reflection on the role of ritualized protest in the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement. It will take an auto-ethnographic approach to reflect on the material culture of Hong Kong public protests and engage in the recent controversy over ritualized protest. This study shows that although ritualized protest can hardly achieve actual political changes in the short run, ritual sensibility is essential to the promulgation and the passing-on of social and political values. This applies not only to ritualized protests that are largely peaceful, rational, and non-violent but also to militant protests that are open to the use of violence. This emphasis on the underlying importance of ritual sensibility invites both the liberal democratic and the radical factions to introspect whether their own political praxes have portents of formalization and ossification.
    • On the Origin and Conceptual Development of ‘Essence-Function’ (<i>ti-yong</i>)

      Sun-hyang Kwon; Jeson Woo (MDPI AG, 2019-04-01)
      ‘Essence-function’ (<i>ti-yong</i> 體用), also called ‘substance-function,’ has been a constant topic of debate in monastic and academic communities in China. One group of scholars insists that the concept is derived from the Confucian tradition, while the other maintains that it originates with the Buddhist tradition. These opposing opinions are not merely the arguments of antiquity, but have persisted to our present time. This paper investigates the concept of ‘essence-function,’ focusing on its origin and conceptual development in the Buddhist and the Confucian traditions. This concept has become a basic framework of Chinese religions. Its root appears already in ancient Confucian and Daoist works such as the <i>Xunzi</i> and the <i>Zhouyi cantong qi</i>. It is, however, through the influence of Buddhism that ‘essence’ and ‘function’ became a paradigm used as an exegetical, hermeneutical and syncretic tool for interpreting Chinese philosophical works. This dual concept played a central role not only in the assimilation of Indian Buddhism in China during its earlier phases but also in the formation of Neo-Confucianism in medieval times. This paper shows that the paradigm constituted by ‘essence’ and ‘function’ resulted not from the doctrinal conflicts between Confucianism and Buddhism but from the interactions between them.
    • On the Origin and Conceptual Development of ‘Essence-Function’ (ti-yong)

      Sun-hyang Kwon; Jeson Woo (MDPI AG, 2019-04-01)
      ‘Essence-function’ (ti-yong 體用), also called ‘substance-function,’ has been a constant topic of debate in monastic and academic communities in China. One group of scholars insists that the concept is derived from the Confucian tradition, while the other maintains that it originates with the Buddhist tradition. These opposing opinions are not merely the arguments of antiquity, but have persisted to our present time. This paper investigates the concept of ‘essence-function,’ focusing on its origin and conceptual development in the Buddhist and the Confucian traditions. This concept has become a basic framework of Chinese religions. Its root appears already in ancient Confucian and Daoist works such as the Xunzi and the Zhouyi cantong qi. It is, however, through the influence of Buddhism that ‘essence’ and ‘function’ became a paradigm used as an exegetical, hermeneutical and syncretic tool for interpreting Chinese philosophical works. This dual concept played a central role not only in the assimilation of Indian Buddhism in China during its earlier phases but also in the formation of Neo-Confucianism in medieval times. This paper shows that the paradigm constituted by ‘essence’ and ‘function’ resulted not from the doctrinal conflicts between Confucianism and Buddhism but from the interactions between them.
    • On the Origins of the Hijrī Calendar: A Multi-Faceted Perspective Based on the Covenants of the Prophet and Specific Date Verification

      Ibrahim Zein; Ahmed El-Wakil (MDPI AG, 2021-01-01)
      There has been much speculation as to the type of calendar that was used by the pre-Islamic Arabs and the early Muslim community. The Hijrī calendar is said to have been adopted by ‘Umar b. al-Khaṭṭāb during his Caliphate despite evidence suggesting that it was instituted as soon as the Prophet emigrated to Madīnah. In this paper, we argue that a number of competing Arabian calendars existed up until 17 AH/AD 638, after which the Hijrī calendar was adopted as the definitive calendar of the Muslims. We propose that attempts at reconciling dates emanating from different calendars for major events in the Prophet’s life led to miscalculations which subsequently affected the chronology of the <i>sīrah</i>. This study ultimately argues that a purely lunar calendar was used by the pre-Islamic Arabs in parallel to a lunisolar calendar, and that specific dates reported in the covenants of the Prophet and in the historical works could shed new light in reconstructing the chronology of major events in the Prophet’s life.
    • On the Paradox of the Political/Transcendence and Eschatology: Transimmanence and the Promise of Love in Jean-Luc Nancy

      Schalk Hendrik Gerber; Willem Lodewikus van der Merwe (MDPI AG, 2017-02-01)
      The debate on the possibility of re-thinking transcendence at the so-called end or closure of the metaphysical tradition and its relation to the political is situated at the heart of contemporary continental philosophy of religion. This article engages the debate by reviewing what is to be thought or anticipated at the closure. Firstly, the problem of engaging with transcendence at the closure of metaphysics is outlined as a discussion on what is possibly meant by the end of transcendence and onto-theology. Subsequently, the question concerning the political and its inseparable relation to transcendence is sketched and denoted by the phrase “the political/transcendence”. Secondly, Levinas’ and Nancy’s respective attempts at addressing the problem are explored in the form of a debate, with the outcome suggesting a possible gesture towards Nancy’s reconception of transcendence as transimmanence, found in his notion of “the promise of love”, on “how” to anticipate rather than “what” to anticipate in these end times.
    • On the Path of the Prophet in Unsettled Times: Sudan’s Republican Brotherhood Looks Abroad

      Steve Howard (MDPI AG, 2021-02-01)
      Mahmoud Mohamed Taha (1909–1985) founded the Republican Brotherhood in the early 1950s to promote social reform through a new understanding of divine revelation which had emerged during his two years of khalwa or retreat. From the 1950s through the 1970s, the Republican Brotherhood attracted a few thousand followers to Ustadh Mahmoud’s teachings, whose foundation was the discipline of tariq Mohamed, “the Path of the Prophet.” This Path was a challenging design for life that embraced gender equality and social justice against the backdrop of an increasingly Islamist-oriented Sudan. In the 1980s, the height of the Brotherhood’s membership, the Republicans confronted Sudan President Gaafar Nimeiry’s imposition of his version of “Islamic Law,” with publications and street corner lectures. Through peaceful protest, the Republican’s point was that Islamic Law would only be oppressive to the millions of non-Muslims in the country and to women. The result of this resistance was the 1985 arrest and execution of Taha for trumped-up charges of apostasy. In the decades following the passing of their teacher, the Republicans have kept a low profile in Sudan while trying to maintain both their faith and some social cohesion. In reaction to both the Islamist political conditions in Sudan and the failing economy, many Republicans have joined the Sudanese flight abroad, with modest communities of Republicans now established in the Gulf States of Qatar and UAE, as well as the United States. Through field work and interviews with members of these three communities, I have tried to understand the effort to sustain the discipline of the Path of the Prophet by Republican brothers and sisters under circumstances of the extremist orientations of Gulf politics, or the “moral ambiguity” of the United States. This study is part of a larger book project on the Republican Brotherhood following the execution of Ustadh Mahmoud.