At CNN’s Belief Blog, John Blake offers four warning signs of when religious beliefs become evil. These include absolutism, charismatic leaders, apocalypticism, and the end justifying the means. He notes that “the line between good religion and evil religion is thin, and it’s easy to make self-righteous assumptions.”
Catherine Brekus introduces us to a disturbing, heartbreaking and improbably inspiring life. Sarah Osborn’s early years were an unending series of afflictions made worse by the austere Calvinism of her family and church. Born in England in 1714, Sarah emigrated to America with her parents, who settled in Rhode Island.
Candida Moss unravels a common misperception: that Christianity faced murderous government-sanctioned persecution for its first three centuries, a period in which “the blood of the martyrs” supplied seed for the growing church. Grounded in ten years of research on martyr traditions, Moss’s basic position will surprise few historians.
David Gushee’s attempt to define and defend the concept of the sacredness of life is a welcome reminder of why it is so important that we not take for granted the protections that surround our lives and the lives of others.
Nothing outrages students in Jonathan Sheehan’s course on the history of Christianity at the University of California at Berkeley more than the writings of John Calvin. What kind of God is it who would predetermine the ultimate destiny of all humans before the creation of the world? students wonder. Reading Calvin, he says, helps students see the power of an argument and consider the consequences of their own beliefs and commitments. Sheehan wants students to wrestle with Calvin with “integrity, reason, creativity, and charity . . . intellectual virtues that we need in our modern world” (New York Times, September 12).