Religion

Press Release: Taylor, Mystic Bones

February 20, 2007
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Press Release: Taylor, Mystic Bones

In a December 2006 New York Times editorial (which we reprinted online), Mark C. Taylor wrote that his current manner of thinking and teaching “cultivate a faith in doubt that calls into question every certainty.” This philosophy is on elegant display in Taylor’s newest book, Mystic Bones. By combining images of weathered bones with philosophical aphorisms, Taylor refigures death in a way that allows life to be seen anew. These haunting photographs speak to themes of ruin, mortality, and ritual, and to a theology based on immanence rather than transcendence. At once a fine art book of great originality and a profound spiritual meditation, Mystic Bones is Taylor’s most personal statement yet of after-God theology. See the press release. . . .

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Review: Scafi, Mapping Paradise

December 21, 2006
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Review: Scafi, Mapping Paradise

A recent review penned by the distinguished historian and scholar Anthony Grafton has much to say about Alessandro Scafi’s new book Mapping Paradise: A History of Heaven on Earth. Writing for The New Republic Grafton praises the book’s detailed historical account of the various attempts—made throughout the Middle Ages to the Renaissance—to chart the geographical location of paradise. Grafton writes: becomes a sort of erudite Virgil, leading the reader on an extraordinary journey through thousands of texts and maps—a journey that ends up teaching many lessons not only about the visions of the world but about tradition and how it operates.… Scafi’s patient and scrupulous exegeses tease out the meanings of icons and symbols, and record the immensely varied visual and verbal conventions that the mapmakers devised, and make clear the extraordinary conceptual richness and density of the maps of paradise. Mapping Paradise is itself a masterly map of concepts and images whose logic has been lost with time.… Mapping Paradise does honor to its author and his teachers, as well as to the generations of scribes and miniaturists, exegetes and theologians, whose colorful world it charts with lucidity and insight. . . .

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Susannah Heschel in Newsweek

December 12, 2006
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Susannah Heschel in Newsweek

“The first Christians were Jews, and thought of themselves as Jews; it is therefore impossible to understand Christianity without tracing its Judaic roots” writes Chicago author Susannah Heschel in her essay for the December 18 edition of Newsweek. Herschel’s essay, just in time for the holiday season, stresses the influence of the Jewish nativity of Jesus and “the Jewish values of education and social responsibility that his parents inculcated in him” in shaping the contemporary values held by much of the western world today. Heschel’s essay is part of the Newsweek holiday season cover story on understanding the world of the nativity: the moral and religious world into which Jesus was born and raised. Heschel is the Eli Black Chair of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College and the author of Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus. . . .

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Whose God is a Republican?

November 10, 2006
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Whose God is a Republican?

Since their emergence as a political force in the 1980’s, conservative Christians have been stereotyped in the popular media: Bible-thumping militants and anti-intellectual zealots determined to impose their convictions on such matters as evolution, school prayer, pornography, abortion, and homosexuality on the rest of us. However, a recent article by Eyal Press in the November 20 edition of the Nation notes how Andrew Greeley and Michael Hout’s new book The Truth about Conservative Christians: What They Think and What They Believe makes a convincing argument that conservative Christians are not as fanatical or intractable as many people think, nor are they necessarily the monolithic voting block or political base for Republican candidates. Eyal Press writes in the Nation: How, Greeley and Hout ask, do pundits routinely equate biblical Christianity with right-wing politics when African-Americans, “who are in nearly every respect as religiously conservative as whites,” nevertheless “vote overwhelmingly for Democrats?” By, it appears, mistakenly assuming all Bible-believing Christians are reactionary white Southerners who write monthly checks to the likes of Jerry Falwell.… Greeley and Hout provide strong evidence that among white conservative Protestants—a category that includes denominations such as Southern Baptists, Pentecostals and Mormons—class indeed matters a lot more than . . .

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Are Conservative Christians Conservative Voters?

October 25, 2006
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Are Conservative Christians Conservative Voters?

Recent Republican victories have been attributed to the voting strength of the religious right. Popular rhetoric has it that by appealing to the faith-based values of conservative Christians, the Republican party has been able to ride moral issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and stem-cell research to political power and glory. According to the opinions of the punditry it is this ever-growing demographic of “values voters” that clinched George W. Bush’s win in 2004. However, in their new book The Truth about Conservative Christians: What They Think and What They Believe authors Michael Greeley and Andrew Hout argue otherwise. An article in the October 21 Economist applauds Greeley and Hout for brilliantly deconstructing some of the myths about the conservative Christian electorate, and revealing the factors that truly motivate their political decisions. From the Economist: actually make up a third of the population. Common sense would suggest that they do not think alike. Now two academics have found data to support common sense. In a new study, The Truth about Conservative Christians, Andrew Greeley and Michael Hout, two sociologists, explode some cherished myths… The biggest myth of all is that conservative Christians are dyed-in-the-wool republicans. Mr. Bush certainly . . .

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Press Release: Greeley and Hout, The Truth about Conservative Christians

October 18, 2006
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Press Release: Greeley and Hout, The Truth about Conservative Christians

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Review: Scafi, Mapping Paradise

September 5, 2006
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Review: Scafi, Mapping Paradise

An August 26 review in the Wall Street Journal praises Alessandro Scafi’s new book Mapping Paradise for its groundbreaking “fresh look” at the historical practice of cartographically depicting paradise. “His book is richer in text than images,” says the WSJ reviewer John J. Miller, “though the images are the highlight, and they are well presented. An ancient map rendered on faded parchment—labeled in a cramped script and written in a dead language—can be as incomprehensible to modern viewers as Mapquest directions would be to a Crusader seeking the Holy Land. Mr. Scafi displays originals and, where appropriate, offers close ups and diagrams to help decipher their content.” The first book to show how paradise has been expressed in cartographic form throughout two millennia, Mapping Paradise reveals how the most deeply reflective thoughts about the ultimate destiny of all human life have been molded and remolded, generation by generation. . . .

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Review: Scafi, Mapping Paradise

August 22, 2006
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Review: Scafi, Mapping Paradise

The L. A. Times recently ran a review of Alessandro Scafi’s Mapping Paradise. Reviewer David L. Ulin says of Scafi’s book: “Mapping Paradise aspires to be nothing less than a history of earthly paradise … it is an atlas of the imagination, a guide to a landscape that remains just the slightest bit out of reach.” But though paradise may be beyond our grasp, fortunately, Scafi’s book is not. As Ulin insists “Scafi writes with a scholar’s thoroughness. Mapping Paradise is thick with footnotes; at times, the prose can get a little dense. it’s all redeemed by the illustrations, 21 of them in color, that appear on nearly every page.” The first book to show how paradise has been expressed in cartographic form throughout two millennia, Mapping Paradise explores the intellectual conditions that made the medieval mapping of paradise possible and the challenge for mapmakers to make visible a place that was geographically inaccessible and yet real, remote in time and yet still the scene of an essential episode of the history of salvation. A history of the cartography of paradise that journeys from the beginning of Christianity to the present day, Mapping Paradise reveals how the most deeply . . .

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Press release: Scafi, Mapping Paradise

July 21, 2006
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Press release: Scafi, Mapping Paradise

The first book to show how paradise has been expressed in cartographic form throughout two millennia, Mapping Paradise explores the intellectual conditions that made the medieval mapping of paradise possible and the challenge for mapmakers to make visible a place that was geographically inaccessible and yet real, remote in time and yet still the scene of an essential episode of the history of salvation. A history of the cartography of paradise that journeys from the beginning of Christianity to the present day, Mapping Paradise reveals how the most deeply reflective thoughts about the ultimate destiny of all human life have been molded—and remolded—generation by generation. Read the press release. . . .

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Review: Peters, Courting the Abyss

July 20, 2006
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Review: Peters, Courting the Abyss

The July 20 edition of the London Review of Books has a review by Jeremy Waldron of a recent book by John Durham Peters, Courting the Abyss: Free Speech and the Liberal Tradition. Waldron notes: “Courting the Abyss is about free speech generally, but it focuses on this suggestion that we all become better people through tolerating the most hateful and diabolical speech, by staring at and listening to the Nazis and the racists in our midst.” Though Waldron—a law school professor—wishes for a book that is more analytical and less literary—Peters’s discipline is communication studies—Waldron’s engaging review nonetheless allows that the book is “interesting and provocative.” An excerpt will acquaint you with both the literary and provocative nature of the book. . . .

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