When does the Jewish Sabbath begin? Who are Vishnu and Shiva? What are Buddhism's Four Noble Truths? What are the Five Pillars of Islam? These questions are more than an academic exercise. Religious belief has been innate to humans everywhere and in every age, from the time of the Neanderthals to the 21st century. It's also one of the strongest motivators of human behavior and has a profound impact on all aspects of our culture—our spiritual beliefs, our rituals, our politics, and the very foundations of our democracy.
According to polls conducted by Gallup and the Pew Research Forum on Religion & Public Life, the majority of Americans fail basic tests about religion, including tests on their own faith. This is troublesome because religious literacy is about so much more than naming deities or knowing the stories of ancient history. For many of us, religion is a way to examine and understand ourselves.
Anyone who is familiar with Italy—its glorious architecture, epic history, exquisite fine arts, and majestic landscape—understands Verdi’s passionate words. For centuries, Italy has been an irresistible magnet for people from all corners of the world, attracting the most illustrious men and women of every age as well as visitors from every walk of life. Today, it remains a mecca for cultural travelers, uplifting, fascinating, and enchanting all who travel there.
Improve your biblical literacy and re-encounter the New Testament as a great repository of literary genius. This is the promise of Professor Amy-Jill Levine's vivid portraits of the cast of characters in the New Testament. While most of the figures treated are real, historical people, at least two (the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan) are fictional protagonists in stories told by Jesus within Luke's Gospel.
What, exactly, is religion? And why does one religious tradition often differ so markedly from another, even when you might not expect it to? Why, for example, are the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—despite their common source—often so different? And what kinds of factors separate the beliefs of a Hindu or Buddhist not only from those held by Jews, Christians, or Muslims, or by each other, but also from many who identify themselves as fellow Hindus or Buddhists?
Augustine of Hippo’s magnum opus The City of God is one of the greatest works of the Western intellectual tradition—so powerful, in fact, that one could argue all of Christian theology has been a series of footnotes to Augustine. Written during the transition from antiquity to the rise of Christianity, it is one of the key texts in defining our ethical framework into the 21st century. Yet even serious readers can be intimidated by a book that spans over 1,000 pages.
A riveting investigation of the jagged fault line between Christian and Muslim worlds.
“What are the distinguishing qualifications of those that are in favor with God, and entitled to his eternal rewards? . . . What is the nature of true religion? And wherein do lie the distinguishing notes of that virtue and holiness that is acceptable in the sight of God?”