Adventures in Athens – Sex, Imagery, and Religion

Religion and sexuality have been closely related in most cultures of the world throughout history. As a result, the images and vocabulary of human sexuality have often been used to express, and to experience, religion.

Priorities differ. Near the end of our time in Greece, I wanted to see the battlefield of Marathon, where the Greeks defeated the Persians in 490 BC. Marathon is an hour’s drive from Athens, and all that remains is a burial mound in a large field, and a few historical displays. Anna wanted to buy presents for friends and family, admittedly a higher priority. So I went to rent a car and Anna visited the Dimotiki Agora (Public Marketplace). Anna likes to shop, and is good at it. Amidst the panoply of scarves, table runners, wooden spoons, and other treasures, Anna encountered a rack of large, brightly painted, wooden penises, also known as phallic symbols. Amused, she took a photograph, and finished her shopping. I joined her at the market, and she joined me for the drive to Marathon.

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Buddhism

A compendium of book reviews on common texts in Buddhism. 

The sixth century BC was pivotal in the history of the world. Babylon conquered Jerusalem (586), thus ending the Israelite monarchy. Mahavira (599-527), also known as Vardhamāna, known to Jains as the 24th fordmaker, founded the Jain religion. Siddhartha Gautama (c. 563-480) founded Buddhism, one of the most prevalent religions in the world. Buddhism today boasts almost 500 million adherents worldwide, and others practice Buddhist meditation and hold Buddhist beliefs without self-identifying with the religion. Gautama is variously known as the Sakyamuni, the Tathagata, and the Buddha.

Any student of world religions should know something about the work of the Buddha. Christians should have an idea of what Buddhism is, and how to best minister to the followers of Gautama.

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Judaism

A compendium of book reviews on common texts in Judaism. 

A group of Orthodox Jews walked by while I was waiting for my children to get off a roller coaster at Knott’s Berry Farm in 2013. The men wore beards and yarmulkes and the women wore modest skirts and head coverings. Dozens of children flitted around, excited and energetic despite the heat of the day. One man sat wearily down just a few feet away on the short rock wall where I was perched. After waiting several minutes, we began talking. A few minutes later we were discussing the Old Testament (Tanakh). It was a good opportunity to learn about him, and to put in a good word for Yeshua.

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Old Religious Movements

A compendium of book reviews on common texts in Animism, Native American religion, African religion, and others. 

Man is and has always been incurably religious, much to the chagrin of the secularists, atheists, materialists, and naturalists who wish religion would go away. Many of these skeptics cannot understand why people in the 21st century still believe in these “fairy tales”, while religious believers cannot understand why people don’t believe in these “eternal truths”.

The MD Harris Institute has sections on Islam, the Religions of India, Buddhism, New Religious Movements, and other topics. However there are important religious movements not included. Animism, the ancient belief that everything has a spiritual essence that must be addressed, underlies all ancient tribal religions and is a large part of the practice of many major religions such as Christianity and Islam. Ancient mythologies such as Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian, and Sumerian, played an important role in history.

This section will include information on religious movements not included in other sections. Let us know if you have specific areas that you wish to know about.

Animism

Book Review – Aztec Thought and Culture

Book Review – The Portable North American Indian Reader

Book Review – The Religions of Oceania

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Book Summary – African Religions and Philosophy

 

 

 

Religions of India

A compendium of book reviews on common texts in Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism.

Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world, emerging out of a mix of Aryan and Dravidian animism in about the second millennium before Christ. Its earliest forms, as described in the Rig Veda (Samhitas), were polytheistic. Such polytheism was consistent with the religious practices of Rome, Greece, Egypt, the Nordic peoples, and most other nations at that time. By the time of the Upanishads, Hinduism had morphed into a pantheistic monism. The caste system divided people in four classes: Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors, kings), Vaisyas (merchants, landowners), Sudras (servants, later Dalits – untouchables). Accepting this system and performing the duties of one’s class was the primary evidence of being a Hindu. In the Christian era, Hinduism became more monotheistic, with Vishnu, Shiva and other gods being perceived as manifestations of the One God. Adherents were called to love Vishnu or Shiva as Christians are called to love God, as revealed in Jesus Christ. This monotheistic view, too, is evolving. Liberal pluralism in the past two hundred years has attacked the caste system, emphasized the spiritual aspects of Hindu belief, but denied that any part of Hinduism, or any religion, is objectively true.

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Immigration, Religion, and the West

How do the religious practices of immigrants to the Western World affect their integration? How does the process of immigration affects their faith?

The Syrian Civil War and the advent of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have caused a human disaster of the highest degree. According to recent media estimates, 300,000 have died and 10 million have been made homeless since demonstrations began in the fateful “Arab Spring” of 2011.[1] A terrible situation has become worse. US, Kurdish and Iranian forces are attacking ISIS, but Russian forces in Syria are also targeting US-backed Syrian rebels who are trying to overthrow Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad. There is no end in sight.

Unsurprisingly such misery has generated millions of refugees. Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have accepted 3.5 million between them,[2] but a tide of refugees is beginning to roll towards Europe. Many countries have absorbed some, and Germany has agreed to accept 800,000.[3] Libya, sub-Saharan Africa, and many other failed states also send tens of thousands of migrants to Europe, and the United States, every year.

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Islam

A compendium of book reviews on common texts in Islam.

Islam is one of the major forces in the modern world. It is the second largest religion in number of followers, surpassed only by Christianity. However Islam is not only a religion, it is also a political system and a way of life. As defined primarily by the Quran, the Hadiths, and the Shariah, the “spiritual” and “material” aspects of the Faith are inseparable. Muhammad was a prophet, but unlike Jesus, who said “my kingdom is not of this world”, Muhammad was also a political leader and conqueror. At his death he ruled over tens of thousands of Arab Muslim warriors that shortly injured the Byzantines, destroyed the Persians, and conquered much of the Middle East. Eventually the sword of Islam spread from Spain to India, from Africa to Central Asia. Below are some reviews on some of the key titles in the study of this fascinating and important faith.

Annotated Bibliography – Some Research Materials related to Islam

Book Review – God’s Battalions, the Case for the Crusades

Book Review – Islam in the World

Book Review – Islamic Philosophy

Book Review – Major Themes of the Quran

Book Review – The Islamic Conception of Justice

Book Review – The Middle East

Book Review – The Venture of Islam

Major Themes of the Quran – Discussion Guide

New Religious Movements

A compendium of book reviews on common texts in Witchcraft, Wiccan, Paganism, and other new religious movements. 

The world seems to be growing ever more diverse, and with modern communication and transportation making the world smaller than ever, each person can come in contact with ideas vastly different from his or her own. More than at any time in history, Christians and members of other religions are challenged in their faith by a smorgasbord of ideas. The internet allows each person to speak to the world, if the world can find his website, and social media such as Twitter and Facebook allows each person to send a message to millions of others, if millions of people wish to follow her.

The secular modernist of 100 years ago would probably be dismayed to see the world today, for religion has become more, not less, important. From ISIS in the Fertile Crescent to the growth of Christianity in Communist China, the disruptions of the modern world have caused more people to seek meaning in faith than ever before.

I have begun a formal study of world religions, a journey which is growing more fascinating with each reading project, each visit, and each interview. As part of that journey I have been reviewing books and articles on various subjects. I will be posting some of these reviews on MDHarrisMD.com. Hopefully they will be useful to others as they encounter the smorgasbord of ideas, and challenges to their faith, in the 21st century.

Book Review – Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft

Book Review – Witchcraft and Magic

Book Review – Witching Culture

Journal Article Review – The Pagan Explosion Revisited

Journal Article Review – The Status of Witchcraft in the Modern World

Book Review – Violence and New Religious Movements

Book Review – Moon Sisters, Krishna Mothers and Rajneesh Lovers

The Cults of the Millennium