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In the wake of 9/11, postsecularism has emerged as a capacious critical perspective that challenges the historical narrative of Enlightenment secularization. Postsecular critique observes the persistence of religion in modernity and connects its persistence to historical religion as a longer and unbroken narrative of national, cultural, and legal discourses. Drawing on intellectual history, the anthropology of religion, and New England colonial historiography, this essay argues that our contemporary understanding of the United States is deepened by rereading the nation’s puritan past from a postsecular perspective. The essay considers the travails of Roger Williams, the Antinomian Controversy, and the puritan treatment of the early Quakers as important contributions to American perspectives on the separation of church and state, the role of spirituality in the secular, and the legal and procedural application of “tolerance.”
Recognizing the complexity, strangeness and variety of the Decadent interest in religion, this chapter asks what about religion proved so attractive. Noting some of the scholarly developments in this area since the turn of the twenty-first century, the chapter considers the limits of a secular purview and invites readers to join with the Decadents in seeking a more capacious understanding of what religious belief might entail. The work of reimagining belief has long been part of the life of faith, and the chapter explores this point by developing a theological account of desire in the work of Oscar Wilde and Michael Field. Just because the Christian faith is fluid and complex in the work of the Decadents, it does not follow that Decadence is inevitably heterodox. However, the Decadents’ interest in religion did sometimes take them beyond the Christian faith to other faith traditions and to mysticism and the occult.
This brief concluding chapter recaps the main conclusions of the body chapters, affirms the importance of cognitive theorizing for the study of ancient religion, locates the different religious expressions studied in these chapters along a continuum of cognitively optimal and costly religion, and points to potential areas of future research at the intersection of biblical studies, Israelite religion, and cognitive science of religion (CSR).
This final chapter offers a sustained textual analysis of the Day of Atonement ritual in Leviticus 16 and theorizes the effects of ritualized behavior and cognitive and material costs associated with the ritual ceremony. Several important theoretical frameworks from the cognitive science of religion (CSR), which aim to study different aspects of religious ritual in particular, are introduced and applied to the biblical text. These include Lawson and McCauley’s ritual form hypothesis, Whitehouse’s modes of religiosity, Boyer and Lienard’s notion of ritualized behavior, and others. These cognitive theories offer a new set of questions and methods for approaching ritual in ancient Israel, departing from more traditional ritual theory. The chapter analyzes the purification or purgation of the temple and the scapegoat ritual using these theories.
In contrast to the cognitively optimal religion in the previous chapter, this chapter examines the theological system in the book of Deuteronomy as an example of cognitively costly religion. Deuteronomic theology is characterized as a highly literate, reflective, and abstract tradition with complex doctrines such as the so-called Name Theology of divine presence, cult centralization, and aniconism or iconoclasm, all of which radically depart from prevailing cultural expectations. Each of these key tenets of the Deuteronomic theology is analyzed within the framework of intuitive and reflective cognition and cognitively costly religion. Moreover, understanding Deuteronomy as a type of costly religion helps to account for the book’s unique emphasis on teaching, repetition, and instruction. Deuteronomic theology is best understood as a form of what Harvey Whitehouse calls the doctrinal mode of religiosity.
This chapter likewise draws on ancient visual and material culture in order to examine the worship of divine cult statues in Mesopotamia, the anti-idol polemics in the Bible, and the power of images and ritual activities in the construction of religious beliefs. In particular, the ancient Mesopotamian “washing of the mouth” ritual is studied within a cognitive framework. The discussion highlights both the intuitive and non-intuitive (i.e., costly) aspects of the belief in divine cult statues, and proceeds to examine both the cognitive process and cultural mechanisms that contribute to the belief that an inanimate statue is or becomes the deity. In doing so, the chapter adds a nuanced layer to the nature of belief and also problematizes certain scholarly views about belief in cult statues in ancient Mesopotamia and Israel.
This opening chapter introduces a key set of distinctions in cognitive science and the cognitive sciences of religion between intuitive and reflective types of cognition, implicit and explicit concepts, and cognitively optimal and costly religious traditions. The chapter argues for the importance, relevance, and applicability of cognitive theories and findings for the study of ancient Israelite religion. It is argued that an informed cognitive perspective can illuminate ancient texts, art, and religion, while also acknowledging that such historical materials can be used as valuable fact-checks to critically test and refine current cognitive theories. The chapter envisions a multi-disciplinary endeavor in which historians, biblical scholars, and cognitive researchers contribute to a richer understanding of religion in ancient Israel.
This chapter reframes the traditional dichotomy between popular and official religion and argues that ritual practices in both official and domestic settings were informed by intuitive conceptualizations of supernatural agency. As an alternative to popular and official religion, the categories cognitively optimal and cognitively costly religion are proposed as a fruitful framework for understanding the diversity of religious expression in ancient Israel. It is argued that from the standpoint of human cognition, ritual offerings performed in both popular and official contexts share deep structural features in common − whether in households, villages, local shrines, or state-sponsored temples. The final section of the chapter evaluates the recent shift to the study of family or household religion in ancient Israel. An analysis of material artifacts and religious ritual practices in domestic and official contexts reveals interesting points of continuity across these domains. Overall, a cognitive perspective suggests that the difference between home and temple, ancestors and the national deity, may not have been as great as it is sometimes imagined.
This chapter uses current theories in the cognitive science of religion (CSR) to examine the widespread popularity of hybrid monsters in ancient Syro-Palestinian and Near Eastern art and the role of material culture in enhancing memory and expanding the ordinary boundaries of the religious imagination. The chapter analyzes the iconography of hybrid figures from the perspective of two current cognitive frameworks: Dan Sperber’s epidemiological approach to cultural representations and Pascal Boyer’s theory of minimally counterintuitive (MCI) concepts. Artifacts and imagery include hybrid creatures on glyptic and minor art, monsters and demons, as well as a discussion of hybrid creatures such as the seraphim and cherubim in the biblical books of Isaiah and Ezekiel. It is argued that culturally specific depictions of hybrid animals exhibit a core set of properties, which helps to account for their stability across geographical and temporal distances. The MCI theory is also empirically tested with recourse to the ancient iconographic data.
Conflict and Social Control in Late Antiquity examines how the cultivation and application of violence across a range of ‘small worlds’ contributed to the making of society in the late Roman period. From households and families to schoolrooms and monasteries, chapters address the different roles that violence played in maintaining and reinforcing the social order, even during a period of intense religious and political change. Elites adopted a range of approaches – formal and informal, legal and illegal, private and public – to keep subordinates in their place. Especially important were the efforts of social elites to inculcate in their followers the idea that the social order was natural rather than contingent, and therefore should not be challenged but rather perpetuated. Chapters focus on written sources from the fourth and fifth centuries, mainly on Christian authors. Collectively, they show that rather than seeking to transform the fortunes of those who were most vulnerable in society (slaves, women, children), such writers drew creatively on pre-existing discursive traditions, in the process reproducing and (occasionally) attempting to mitigate the plight of the downtrodden.
This chapter explores the role and function of occult forces in South Asian bazaars. Drawing mainly, but not exclusively, on material from eastern South Asia, it challenges the repeated attempts by scholars to read these forces along functionalist lines. Instead, it demonstrates that there is a substantial body of formalized textual knowledge which theorizes the nature, role, and application of these forces. This knowledge is available, in the bazaar itself, in a specialized genre of printed books. The chapter argues against mapping the knowledge produced in these books within the category of “religion,” since the emphasis on belief and bounded identities that have become germane to modern ideas of “religion” are inapplicable to the practices of the occult bazaar. The occult bazaar, it is argued, should be treated as a distinctive sphere of abstraction that is separate from, though interacting with, the more formalized and well-known abstraction of “the economy.”
In this chapter, we review recent research from a variety of disciplines to outline the role that collective rituals and religious beliefs play in fostering and maintaining cooperation. We consider ritual and religion as interactive but separate social technologies. First, with rituals we discuss their importance to social learning processes, examine their ability to bond groups through synchrony and shared emotion, and address their role as costly, persuasive signals of commitment. Second, we explore "religion" in the form of beliefs about supernatural agents and look at how such beliefs can contribute to – or hinder – cooperation. We evaluate long-standing claims that religion is a harmful social virus and contrasting recent theories that argue belief in "Big Gods" and "supernatural punishment" are crucial to enabling the cooperation necessary for large-scale societies.
The chapter describes the general background of science and law in the seventeenth century. It highlights main philosophical debates of this century and their link to religion. It highlights search for ’new philosophies’, as well as emergance of mechanical philosophies. The centrality of the geometrical method in this century is highlighted as well as its influence on both Leibniz and Hobbes. In relation to Leibniz this method was radically transformed and advanced into the project of scientia generalis and characteristica universalis. Political instability and search for peace are the main genral features of the period, which is still characterised by fragmented and multilayered legal landscape.
This chapter investigates the disciplinary formation of Classical Philology as an especially privileged subject in the nineteenth-century university, and the degree to which it overlapped happily with theology. It looks at how the two fields, both committed to the study of antiquity, shared methodology, ideology and an approach to education. It investigates how particular scholars straddled both fields in a way that subsequent historiography and disciplinary silos have worked to conceal – and how specific books became the site for shared intellectual perspectives. The chapter explores this through the career of Benjamin Jowett, as an exemplary figure who straddles both fields. Finally, it considers how twentieth-century historiography and the self-representation of scholars in theology and philology have enacted an increasingly sharp divide between the two disciplines, and explores its reasons and consequences.
James Logan (1674–1751) led many lives. The son of a schoolmaster, he arrived in Pennsylvania in 1699 as William Penn’s secretary. The fur trade made him rich. His political career included stints as mayor of Philadelphia, chief justice, and acting governor of Pennsylvania. Above all, he pursued books and learning, systematically building a collection of almost 4,000 books in fields from classical scholarship to Newtonian physics. His profuse and vivid annotations traced his progress in fields as diverse as Arabic philology and botany, recorded striking incidents in his life as collector and scholar, memorialized his creation of bibliophilic and scholarly networks, and provided the foundation for the learned essays that he published in both American and European periodicals – all characteristic ways of using books in the world of contemporary European scholarship. Drawing on the evidence of Logan’s books, papers, and his writings, and comparing Logan’s practices to those of the Mathers, the Winthrops, Francis Daniel Pastorius and other contemporaries, this essay offers a case study in the migration of Protestant late humanism to the English colonies in North America.
No Middle English writer takes up as many different moral genres as Chaucer; the Canterbury Tales explores saints’ Life, pastoral treatise, fürstenspiegel, de casibus tragedy, Marian miracle, and exemplum-style tales oriented toward civic, spiritual, and domestic uses. That his work, so often associated in modern criticism and in the contemporary classroom with a genially ironic outlook, also appears to correspond with late medieval tastes in serious and devotional reading has tended to present something of a problem. This chapter explores the ways in which critical disagreements about the significance of the moral and religious tales can be a proxy for questions about alterity, that is, the problem we inevitably face when we read the works of the past. What we think about “moral Chaucer” will often enough be a reflection of what we think about “medieval Chaucer” and about our relationship with a middle ages whose affective and aesthetic attractions very often exceed the ethical appeal of its devotional commitments and conventions.
We explore the motivation for a public reason standpoint that comes from what Rawls calls the “burdens of judgment,” challenges in interpreting our moral lives that generate a plurality of interpretations. These burdens and the implied fact of reasonable pluralism motivate a public reason view. Defenders of comprehensive doctrines are not asked to abandon talk about truth or correctness, but to realize that competent reasoners invariably embrace different doctrines. This approach suits an era of global interconnectedness in the face of diversity but also faces stiff resistance. We then connect the Rawlsian account of public reason for the domestic case to the grounds-of-justice approach. The key idea is that the grounds can be understood as being included in an overlapping consensus. Then, Rawls’s construction for public reason carries over to the global level. This development of global public reason also completes the account of the political philosopher from Part I.
This chapter focuses on a particular aspect of South African history in which European men were incorporated into Bomvana and Mpondo societies living along the southeast coast of the former Transkei, where they subsequently founded new clans. With reference to the collection of oral traditions from contemporary members of these clans by various scholars including the author, the role of oral traditions as accurate repositories of historical information and as the products of dynamic social and historical processes is discussed and evaluated. Oral traditions are not only bodies of knowledge but also multidimensional in that they frequently include song, dance, gesture, intonation and other audiovisual elements. As such, they are particularly suited for digitisation and dissemination on the Internet. Oral traditions that have already been documented, and others yet to be accumulated, provide essential educational and scholarly resources in the development of decolonised curricula, and potentially serve as tools for the promotion of multilingualism and multiculturalism in the classroom and beyond.
This contribution examines the transatlantic reverberations of the Protestant Reformation in Christian missions among enslaved Africans in the West Indies. These spiritual encounters are revealed in the life story of Mary Prince, who escaped to freedom in England in 1826 and wrote a memoir, The History of Mary Prince, (1831), which helped to galvanize the British antislavery movement. The first ex-slave memoir by a woman, it is also a religious narrative structuring Prince’s life as the intertwining of physical liberation and emancipation from sin through membership in the Moravian Church in Antigua. This project uses Moravian manuscripts to reveal the complex spiritual world that Prince’s narrative concealed for strategic reasons. Just a few years after Britain’s closing of the slave trade, Antigua was the site of intense struggle over Christianity. African-derived folk practices flourished alongside and within evangelical worship. Disciplinary ledgers reflect congregants’ consultation of African spiritual adepts, flouting of church regulations, and mockery of Christianity. Prince was engulfed in a multi-layered religious culture at odds with her providential narrative of redemption.
The conclusion begins by exploring questions of internal and external validity. In the latter case, the concept of religious group identity is applied to faiths other than Islam and is found to extend to other egalitarian faiths, including Judaism and Buddhism. In addition, cross-national data on vote volatility confirm that the trust problem in voter coordination extends beyond the Turkish case. Delving into some out-of-sample predictions, I consider where in the Muslim world Islamic groups might be particularly successful, based on a combination of low trust and salient Islamic identity. I also explore what might explain the strange combination of low trust and high honesty in Muslim countries. To address this trust deficit, I suggest that over-bearing institutions may play a key role in not allowing citizens to learn who among them can really be trusted. Finally, I consider what factors from within my theory could explain the eventual decline of Islamic-based groups, in Turkey and elsewhere, before posing some questions for future lines of inquiry.