Moral Concepts in Practice I

2020 ◽  
pp. 95-114
Larry R. Churchill

This chapter and the chapter that follows define and explore a select number of concepts that are central to ethics. The emphasis is on how these concepts operate in moral life, their uses, misuses, and limitations. A lifespan approach to these concepts is important to keep in mind. Concepts that seem remote at one life stage, such as death, take on central importance at a later stage. The concepts discussed in chapter 6 are the anchoring value of truth; forgiveness and freedom; the varieties of love; the moral uses of spirituality; and the persistence of hope. Forgiveness is described as a gateway to a less encumbered life. The varieties of love are enumerated and their relevance to various dimensions and stages of life explored. Spirituality, including religious beliefs and practices, is explored for its moral importance. Hope is distinguished from optimism and does not require an object or something hoped for.

2018 ◽  
Vol 57 (3) ◽  
pp. 543-563 ◽  
Daniel S. Loss

AbstractIn the late twentieth century, a new justification for the Church of England's establishment emerged: the church played an important social and political role in safeguarding the interests of other religious communities, including non-Christian ones. The development of this new vision of communal pluralism was shaped by two groups often seen as marginal in postwar British society: the royal family and missionaries. Elizabeth II and liberal evangelicals associated with the Church Missionary Society contributed to a new conception of religious pluralism centered on the integrity of the major world religions as responses to the divine. There were, therefore, impulses towards inclusion as well as exclusion in post-imperial British society. In its focus on religious communities, however, this communal pluralism risked overstating the homogeneity of religious groups and failing to protect individuals whose religious beliefs and practices differed from those of the mainstream of their religious communities.

1965 ◽  
Vol 58 (1) ◽  
pp. 21-47 ◽  
C. R. Whittaker

Until comparatively recently writers on religion were absorbed by questions concerning the origins of religious beliefs and practices. They endowed primitive man with a kind of rational logicality in his belief, or, like Frazer, they saw his religious practices as simply the application of erroneous reasoning. The modern trend is to try to view the religious or cultural institution as an essential part of society, existing because of the needs of that society. This is the theme, for instance, of Malinowski when he says that “religion is not born out of speculation or reflection, still less out of illusion or misapprehension, but rather out of the real tragedies of human life, out of the conflict between human plans and realities.”

1999 ◽  
Vol 9 (2) ◽  
pp. 221-247 ◽  
David S. Whitley ◽  
Ronald I. Dorn ◽  
Joseph M. Simon ◽  
Robert Rechtman ◽  
Tamara K. Whitley

Quartz, the most common mineral on earth, is almost universally associated with shamans. Why this ritual association occurred worldwide has remained unexplained scientifically, at least in part because western scientific thinking assumes that religious beliefs and practices are epiphenomenal and not worthy of study. This association is archaeologi-cally evident at Sally's Rocksheiter, a small rock engraving-vision quest site in the Mojave Desert, where quartz rocks were placed as offerings in cracks around the rock art panel. SEM and electron microprobe foreign materials analyses of Mojave rock engravings show that the association between quartz and rock art was common: almost 65 per cent contained remnants of quartz hammerstones, used to peck the motifs. A combination of ethnohistory and physical sciences explains why quartz, shamans and vision questing were so strongly associated: triboluminescence causes quartz to glow when struck or abraded, which was believed a visible manifestation of supernatural power. Recognition that this belief and behavioural association were based on quartz's physical properties aids our ability to identify the antiquity of the vision quest in the far west, suggesting that Mojave Desert shamanism is the oldest continuously practiced religious tradition so far identified in the world.

2020 ◽  
Vol 77 (1) ◽  
pp. 101-128
Gema Kloppe-Santamaría

AbstractThis article analyzes the impact that religion had on the act of lynching and its legitimation in postrevolutionary Mexico. Basing its argument on the examination of several cases of lynching that took place after the religiously motivated Cristero War had ended, the article argues that the profanation of religious objects and precincts revered by Catholics, the propagation of conservative and reactionary ideologies among Catholic believers, and parish priests’ implicit or explicit endorsement of belligerent forms of Catholic activism all contributed to the perpetuation of lynching from the 1930s through the 1950s. Taking together, these three factors point at the relationship between violence and the material, symbolic, and political dimensions of Catholics’ religious experience in postrevolutionary Mexico. The fact that lynching continued well into the 1940s and 1950s, when Mexican authorities and the Catholic hierarchy reached a closer, even collaborative relationship, shows the modus vivendi between state and Church did not bring an end to religious violence in Mexico. This continuity in lynching also illuminates the centrality that popular – as opposed to official or institutional - strands of Catholicism had in construing the use of violence as a legitimate means to defend religious beliefs and symbols, and protect the social and political orders associated with Catholic religion at the local level. Victims of religiously motivated lynchings included blasphemous and anticlerical individuals, people that endorsed socialist and communist ideas, as well as people that professed Protestant beliefs and practices.

1998 ◽  
Vol 24 (1) ◽  
pp. 123-144 ◽  
John Davies

Eamon Duffy’s The Stripping of the Altars has reinvigorated the debate over the nature of late mediaeval religious practice and belief, examining the ‘richness and complexity of the religious system by which men and women structured their experiences of the world, and their hopes and aspirations within and beyond it.’ Duffy questions the assumption that there was in that period a wide gulf between ‘popular’ and ‘élite’ religion. In so doing he has not only illuminated the religious practices and beliefs of late mediaeval England but he has stimulated discussion about the relationship between ‘popular’ and ‘élite’ religion in other periods. Duffy eschews the use of the term ‘popular religion’, which he argues carries questionable assumptions about the nature of ‘non-popular’ religion and about the gap between the two. He prefers ‘traditional religion’, on the grounds that it does greater justice to ‘the shared and inherited character of the religious beliefs and practices of the people…’ ‘Traditional religion’ while being rooted in inherited and shared beliefs was, nevertheless, capable of great flexibility and variety.

2008 ◽  
Vol 42 (2-3) ◽  
pp. 247-257 ◽  

The authors in this volume discuss contemporary Islamic reformism in South Asia in some of its diverse historical orientations and geographical expressions, bringing us contemporary ethnographic perspectives against which to test claims about processes of reform and about trends such as ‘Islamism’ and ‘global Islam’. The very use of terminology and categories is itself fraught with the dangers of bringing together what is actually substantially different under the same banner. While our authors have often found it necessary, perhaps for the sake of comparison or to help orient readers, to take on terms such as ‘reformist’ or ‘Islamist’, they are not using these as terms which imply identity—or even connection—between the groups so named, nor are they reifying such categories. In using such terms as shorthand to help identify specific projects, we are following broad definitions here in which ‘Islamic modernism’ refers to projects of change aiming to re-order Muslims' lifeworlds and institutional structures in dialogue with those produced under Western modernity; ‘reformism’ refers to projects whose specific focus is the bringing into line of religious beliefs and practices with the core foundations of Islam, by avoiding and purging out innovation, accretion and the intrusion of ‘local custom’; and where ‘Islamism’ is a stronger position, which insists upon Islam as the heart of all institutions, practice and subjectivity—a privileging of Islam as the frame of reference by which to negotiate every issue of life; ‘orthodoxy’ is used according to its specific meaning in contexts in which individual authors work; the term may in some ethnographic locales refer to the orthodoxy of Islamist reform, while in others it is used to disparage those who do not heed the call for renewal and reform. ‘Reformism’ is particularly troublesome as a term, in that it covers broad trends stretching back at least 100 years, and encompassing a variety of positions which lay more or less stress upon specific aspects of processes of renewal; still, it is useful as a term in helping us to insist upon recognition of the differences between such projects and such contemporary obsessions as ‘political Islam’, ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ and so on. Authors here are generally following local usage in the ways in which they describe the movements discussed (thus, Kerala's Mujahid movement claims itself as part of a broaderIslahi—renewal—trend and is identified here as ‘reformist’).2But while broad terms are used, what the papers are actually involved in doing is addressing the issues of how specific groups deal with particular concerns. Thus, not, ‘What do reformists think about secular education?’, but, ‘What do Kerala's Mujahids in the 2000s think? How has this shifted from the position taken in the 1940s? How does it differ from the contemporary position of opposing groups? And how is it informed by the wider socio-political climate of Kerala?’ The papers here powerfully demonstrate the historical and geographical specificity of reform projects, whereas discourse structured through popular mainstream perspectives (such as ‘clash of civilizations’) ignores such embeddedness.

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