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Interviews with Scholars of Religion about their New Books
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Interviews with Scholars of Religion about their New Books
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John Callow, "The Last Witches of England: A Tragedy of Sorcery and Superstition" (Bloomsbury, 2021) On the morning of Thursday 29 June 1682, a magpie came rasping, rapping and tapping at the window of a prosperous Devon merchant. Frightened by its appearance, his servants and members of his family had, within a matter of hours, convinced themselves that the bird was an emissary of the devil sent by witches to destroy the fabric of their lives. As the result of these allegations, three women of Bideford came to be forever defined as witches. A Secretary of State brushed aside their case and condemned them to the gallows; to hang as the last group of women to be executed in England for the crime. Yet, the hatred of their neighbours endured. For Bideford, it was said, was a place of witches.Though 'pretty much worn away' the belief in witchcraft still lingered on for more than a century after their deaths. In turn, ignored, reviled, and extinguished but never more than half-forgotten, it seems that the memory of these three women - and of their deeds and sufferings, both real and imagined – was transformed from canker to regret, and from regret into celebration in our own age. Indeed, their example was cited during the final Parliamentary debates, in 1951, that saw the last of the witchcraft acts repealed, and their names were chanted, as both inspiration and incantation, by the women beyond the wire at Greenham Common.In The Last Witches of England: A Tragedy of Sorcery and Superstition (Bloomsbury, 2021), Dr. John Callow explores this remarkable reversal of fate, and the remarkable tale of the Bideford Witches.This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoicesSupport our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/religion
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John Callow, "The Last Witches of England: A Tragedy of Sorcery and Superstition" (Bloomsbury, 2021) On the morning of Thursday 29 June 1682, a magpie came rasping, rapping and tapping at the window of a prosperous Devon merchant. Frightened by its appearance, his servants and members of his family had, within a matter of hours, convinced themselves that the bird was an emissary of the devil sent by witches to destroy the fabric of their lives. As the result of these allegations, three women of Bideford came to be forever defined as witches. A Secretary of State brushed aside their case and condemned them to the gallows; to hang as the last group of women to be executed in England for the crime. Yet, the hatred of their neighbours endured. For Bideford, it was said, was a place of witches.Though 'pretty much worn away' the belief in witchcraft still lingered on for more than a century after their deaths. In turn, ignored, reviled, and extinguished but never more than half-forgotten, it seems that the memory of these three women - and of their deeds and sufferings, both real and imagined – was transformed from canker to regret, and from regret into celebration in our own age. Indeed, their example was cited during the final Parliamentary debates, in 1951, that saw the last of the witchcraft acts repealed, and their names were chanted, as both inspiration and incantation, by the women beyond the wire at Greenham Common.In The Last Witches of England: A Tragedy of Sorcery and Superstition (Bloomsbury, 2021), Dr. John Callow explores this remarkable reversal of fate, and the remarkable tale of the Bideford Witches.This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoicesSupport our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/religion
Kajri Jain, "Gods in the Time of Democracy" (Duke UP, 2021) In 2018 India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, inaugurated the world's tallest statue: a 597-foot figure of nationalist leader Sardar Patel. Twice the height of the Statue of Liberty, it is but one of many massive statues built following India's economic reforms of the 1990s. In Gods in the Time of Democracy (Duke UP, 2021), Kajri Jain examines how monumental icons emerged as a religious and political form in contemporary India, mobilizing the concept of emergence toward a radical treatment of art historical objects as dynamic assemblages. Drawing on a decade of fieldwork at giant statue sites in India and its diaspora and interviews with sculptors, patrons, and visitors, Jain masterfully describes how public icons materialize the intersections between new image technologies, neospiritual religious movements, Hindu nationalist politics, globalization, and Dalit-Bahujan verifications of equality and presence. Centering the ex-colony in rethinking key concepts of the image, Jain demonstrates how these new aesthetic forms entail a simultaneously religious and political retooling of the "infrastructures of the sensible."Raj Balkaran is a scholar, online educator, and life coach. For information see rajbalkaran.com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoicesSupport our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/religion
Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, "The Bible with and Without Jesus: How Jews and Christians Read the Same Stories Differently" (HarperOne, 2020) In The Bible With and Without Jesus: How Jews and Christians Read the Same Stories Differently (HarperOne, 2020), Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler take readers on a guided tour of the most popular Hebrew Bible passages quoted in the New Testament to show what the texts meant in their original contexts and then how Jews and Christians, over time, understood those same texts. Passages include the creation of the world, the role of Adam and Eve, the Suffering Servant of Isiah, the book of Jonah, and Psalm 22, whose words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” Jesus quotes as he dies on the cross.Comparing various interpretations – historical, literary, and theological - of each ancient text, Levine and Brettler offer deeper understandings of the original narratives and their many afterlives. They show how the text speaks to different generations under changed circumstances, and so illuminate the Bible’s ongoing significance. By understanding the depth and variety by which these passages have been, and can be, understood, The Bible With and Without Jesus does more than enhance our religious understandings, it helps us to see the Bible as a source of inspiration for any and all readers.Amy-Jill Levine is the Rabbi Stanley M. Kessler Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Hartford International University for Religion and Peace, University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies Emerita, Mary Jane Werthan Professor of Jewish Studies Emerita, and Professor of New Testament Studies Emerita at Vanderbilt University.Marc Zvi Brettler is the Bernice and Morton Lerner Distinguished Professor of Jewish Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at Duke University.Schneur Zalman Newfield is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York, and the author of Degrees of Separation: Identity Formation While Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism (Temple University Press, 2020). Visit him online at ZalmanNewfield.com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoicesSupport our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/religion
Wayne Allen, "Thinking about Good and Evil: Jewish Views from Antiquity to Modernity" (U Nebraska Press, 2021) oday I talked to Rabbi Wayne Allen about his book Thinking about Good and Evil: Jewish Views from Antiquity to Modernity (U Nebraska Press, 2021).Starting with the Bible and Apocrypha, Rabbi Allen takes us through the Talmud; medieval Jewish philosophers and Jewish mystical sources; the Ba’al Shem Tov and his disciples; early modern thinkers such as Spinoza, Mendelssohn, and Luzzatto; and, finally, modern thinkers such as Cohen, Buber, Kaplan, and Plaskow. Each chapter analyzes individual thinkers’ arguments and synthesizes their collective ideas on the nature of good and evil and questions of justice. Allen also exposes vastly divergent Jewish thinking about the Holocaust: traditionalist (e.g., Ehrenreich), revisionist (e.g., Rubenstein, Jonas), and deflective (e.g., Soloveitchik, Wiesel).Rabbi Allen’s engaging, accessible volume illuminates well-known, obscure, and novel Jewish solutions to the problem of good and evil.Matthew Miller is a graduate of Yeshivat Yesodei HaTorah. He studied Jewish Studies and Linguistics at McGill for his BA and completed an MA in Hebrew Linguistics at Queen Mary University of London. He works with Jewish organizations in media and content distribution, such as TheHabura.com and RabbiEfremGoldberg.org. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoicesSupport our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/religion
Kimberly Anne Coles, "Bad Humor: Race and Religious Essentialism in Early Modern England" (U Pennsylvania Press, 2022) Kimberly Anne Coles is Professor of English at the University of Maryland; her first book, Religion, Reform and Women’s Writing in Early Modern England, was published with Cambridge University Press in 2008. Her work has been supported by the John W. Kluge Center, the Warburg Institute, and the Folger Shakespeare Library. Today, we are discussing Bad Humor: Race and Religious Essentialism in Early Modern England, which was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2022.In Bad Humor, Professor Coles charts how concerns around lineage, religion and nation converged around a pseudoscientific system that confirmed the absolute difference between Protestants and Catholics, guaranteed the noble quality of English blood, and justified English colonial domination.Professor Coles delineates the process whereby religious error, first resident in the body, becomes marked on the skin. Early modern medical theory bound together psyche and soma in mutual influence. By the end of the sixteenth century, there is a general acceptance that the soul's condition, as a consequence of religious belief or its absence, could be manifest in the humoral disposition of the physical body. The history that this book unfolds describes developments in natural philosophy in the early part of the sixteenth century that force a subsequent reconsideration of the interactions of body and soul and that bring medical theory and theological discourse into close, even inextricable, contact. With particular consideration to how these ideas are reflected in texts by Elizabeth Cary, John Donne, Ben Jonson, William Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, Mary Wroth, and others, Professor Coles reveals how science and religion meet nascent capitalism and colonial endeavor to create a taxonomy of Christians in Black and White.John Yargo recently received his PhD in English literature from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, specializing in the environmental humanities and early modern culture. His articles have been published or are forthcoming in the Journal for Early Modern Culture Studies, Early Theatre, Studies in Philology, and Shakespeare Studies. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoicesSupport our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/religion
David Konstan, "The Origin of Sin: Greece and Rome, Early Judaism and Christianity" (Bloomsbury, 2022) Where did the idea of sin arise from? In The Origin of Sin: Greece and Rome, Early Judaism and Christianity (Bloomsbury, 2022), David Konstan takes a close look at classical Greek and Roman texts, as well as the Bible and early Judaic and Christian writings. He argues that the fundamental idea of “sin” arose in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, although this original meaning was obscured in later Jewish and Christian interpretations.Through close philological examination of the words for “sin,” in particular the Hebrew hata’ and the Greek hamartia, he traces their uses over the centuries in four chapters and concludes that the common modern definition of sin as a violation of divine law indeed has antecedents in classical Greco-Roman conceptions, but acquired a wholly different sense in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament.Tiatemsu Longkumer is a Ph.D. scholar working on ‘Anthropology of Religion’ at North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong: India Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoicesSupport our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/religion
Thomas S. Kidd, "Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father" (Yale UP, 2017) Renowned as a printer, scientist, and diplomat, Benjamin Franklin also published more works on religious topics than any other eighteenth-century American layperson. Born to Boston Puritans, by his teenage years Franklin had abandoned the exclusive Christian faith of his family and embraced deism. But Franklin, as a man of faith, was far more complex than the “thorough deist” who emerges in his autobiography. As Thomas Kidd reveals in Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father (Yale University Press, 2018), deist writers influenced Franklin’s beliefs, to be sure, but devout Christians in his life kept him tethered to the Calvinist creed of his Puritan upbringing.Thomas Kidd is Research Professor of Church History at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., and a Senior Research Scholar at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion.Schneur Zalman Newfield is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York, and the author of Degrees of Separation: Identity Formation While Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism (Temple University Press, 2020). Visit him online at ZalmanNewfield.com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoicesSupport our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/religion
Kecia Ali, ed., "Tying the Knot: A Feminist/Womanist Guide to Muslim Marriage in America" (Open BU, 2021) Are you a born, revert, or convert Muslim who is trying to navigate the puzzle that is Muslim marriage in America? Do you want an egalitarian and fair Muslim marriage? Have you ever wondered how you can institute equality, respect, and care in your marital relationship? Do you want an interfaith and/or a non-heteronormative marriage? Are you planning or drafting a marriage contract that is more suitable for you and your marital goals? How can you build an ethics of care that facilitates and accommodates you, your partner, and your broader community?If you are curious about these and other questions related to Muslim marriages, then Tying the Knot: A Feminist/Womanist Guide to Muslim Marriage in America (Open BU, 2021) is the book for you.This book is edited by Dr Kecia Ali and advances the conversation that Dr Ali, along with her contributors, initiated in a reader, Half of Faith: American Muslim Marriage and Divorce in the Twenty-First Century. Tying the Knot is a collection of reflections and guides to facilitate Muslim women on their path to marriage. It addresses curiosities, questions, controversies, and needs of women from diverse Muslim communities in America. It also provides the solutions, guides, and sample contract drafts to equip them with the tools that they need to make the best decision for themselves before, during, or after their marriages. The book contains chapters that address issues as diverse as Muslim women’s interfaith/interracial/interethnic marriages, Muslim LGBTQ+ marriages, Muta’h marriage, pre-marital counseling and contracts, officiating the diverse Muslim marriages, and Muslim widows and their challenges.This book is available open-access here. Iqra Shagufta Cheema (@so_difoucault) is a researcher, writer, teacher, and a chronic procrastinator. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoicesSupport our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/religion
James P. Byrd and James Hudnut-Beumler, "The Story of Religion in America: An Introduction" (Westminster John Knox Press, 2021) The Story of Religion in America: An Introduction (Westminster John Knox Press, 2021) presents the broad scope of the story of religion in the American colonies and the United States. While following certain central narratives, including the long shadow of Puritanism, the competition between revival and reason, and the defining role of racial and ethnic diversity, the book also tells the story of American religion in all its historical and moral complexity. To appeal to its broad range of readers, this text includes charts, timelines, and suggestions for primary source documents that will lead readers into a deeper engagement with the material. Unlike similar history books, The Story of Religion in America: An Introduction pays careful attention to balancing the story of Christianity with the central contributions of other religions.James P. Byrd is Professor of American Religious History, Associate Dean for Graduate Education and Research, and Chair of the Graduate Department of Religion at Vanderbilt University Divinity School.James Hudnut-Beumler is Anne Potter Wilson Distinguished Professor of American Religious History at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and Professor of History in the College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt University.Jackson Reinhardt is a graduate of University of Southern California and Vanderbilt University. He is currently an independent scholar, freelance writer, and research assistant. You can reach Jackson at jtreinhardt1997@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @JTRhardt Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoicesSupport our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/religion
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