In the Past, the Present Day and the Future

The belief in a governing, universal, celestial principle has followed us through human history. More than 80 per cent of the world’s population has a religious affiliation and even in secular states, religion continues to play an important role. Politics and international relations today cannot be understood without accounting for the element of religion in cultural contexts.

The essays in this book derive from the Engelsberg Seminar of 2014, and investigate the role which religion plays in society today and in the past. They also explore religion as a phenomenon in relation to the human condition and how it manifests itself as an individual experience. In order to understand ourselves, do we need to understand religion?

Religion. In the Past, the Present Day and the Future
ISBN: 978-91-89069-36-7
60 illustrations. 24 x 17 cm (portrait). 420 pp
Autumn 2020

Essay Authors

Reza Aslan is Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Cooperating Faculty in the Department of Religion at the University of California, Riverside. He has previously been Wallerstein Distinguished Professor of Religion, Community and Conflict at Drew University and Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Iowa. He is the author of five books on religion, including the international bestsellers No God but God: the origins, evolution and future of Islam and Zealot: the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth.

Esther Benbassa is founder and director of the Alberto Benveniste Centre, devoted to the study of Sephardi culture and to the comparative history of minorities. She is also a member of the Centre Roland Mousnier and professor at the Institut de recherche sur les civilisations de l’occident moderne at the Université Paris-Sorbonne. In 2011, she was elected to the French Senate and awarded the Chevalier dans l’ordre national de la Légion d’honneur. Books of hers translated into English include The Jews of France: a history from antiquity to the present (1999), Israel, the Impossible Land (with Jean-Christophe Attias, 2003) and Suffering as Identity: the Jewish paradigm (2010).

Benedetta Berti is a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), a Young Atlanticist at the Atlantic Council and a member of the faculty at Tel Aviv University. She also works as policy and security consultant for a number of NGOs, political risk consulting firms and international organisations. Her recent publications include Armed Political Organisations: from conflict to integration (2013) and (with Joshua Gleis) Hezbollah and Hamas: a comparative study (2012).

Jessica Frazier is a Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Kent. She is the founding and managing editor of The Journal of Hindu Studies and the author of Reality, Religion and Passion: Indian and Western approaches in Hans-Georg Gadamer and Rupa Gosvami (2009), The Bloomsbury Companion to Hindu Studies (2011), and the forthcoming Hindu Worldviews: theories of self, ritual and divinity and The Sublime World: Gadamer on truth, spirit and globalism.

Armin W. Geertz is Professor in the History of Religions at the Department of Culture and Society, Section for the Study of Religion, and Chair of the Religion, Cognition and Culture Research Unit at Aarhus University, Denmark. His publications in the cognitive science of religion range from narrative and evolutionary theory to the neurobiology of religion. His recent publications include Religious Narrative, Cognition and Culture (co-editor with Jeppe Sinding Jensen, 2011) and Origins of Religion, Cognition and Culture (editor, 2014). He is co-editor of Routledge’s Religion, Cognition and Culture series and senior editor of the Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion.

Ariel Glucklich is Professor of Theology at Georgetown University, specialising in Hinduism and the Psychology of Religion. He is currently engaged in researching a religious community in the remote Negev desert of Israel and is also constructing a theoretical model for studying religious experience by examining both pleasure and pain in their historical and phenomenological contexts. His books include The Strides of Vishnu (2008) and Dying For Heaven (2009). In 2002, his book Sacred Pain: hurting the body for the sake of the soul won both the American Academy of Religion award for best book and the award for best book in Philosophy and Religion by the Association of American Publishers.

Martin Goodman is Professor of Jewish Studies at Oxford University, a Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, and Lecturer in Roman History at Christ Church, Oxford. He has edited both the Journal of Roman Studies and the Journal of Jewish Studies. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, a former President of the British Association for Jewish Studies, a former secretary of the European Association of Jewish Studies and President of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. His books include State and Society in Roman Galilee AD 132–212, (2nd edition, 2000) and Rome and Jerusalem: the clash of ancient civilisations (2007).

Wouter J. Hanegraaff is Professor of History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam and a member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the editor of the Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism (2005) and co-editor of Hidden Intercourse: eros and sexuality in the history of Western esotericism (2011). His books include New Age Religion and Western Culture: esotericism in the mirror of secular thought (1996), Lodovico Lazzarelli (1447–1500): the hermetic writings and related documents (2005), Swedenborg, Oetinger, Kant: three perspectives on the secrets of heaven (2007), Esotericism and the Academy: rejected knowledge in Western culture (2012) and Western Esotericism: a guide for the perplexed (2013).

Gary Lachman is the author of more than a dozen books on the meeting ground between consciousness, culture and the Western esoteric tradition, including Madame Blavatsky: the mother of modern spirituality, Rudolf Steiner: an introduction to his life and work, A Secret History of Consciousness and The Quest for Hermes Trismegistus. He writes regularly for journals in the US and UK and lectures frequently on his work in the UK and Europe. In a previous career, he was a founding member of the rock group Blondie and in 2006 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Julius J. Lipner is Emeritus Professor of Hinduism and the Comparative Study of Religion from the University of Cambridge, Emeritus Fellow former Vice-President of Clare Hall and a Fellow of the British academy. He taught Indian religion at Cambridge for nearly 40 years, until retirement in 2014. His books include The Face of Truth: a study of meaning and metaphysics in the Vedantic theology of Ramanuja (1976), Brahmabandhab Upadhyay: the life and thought of a revolutionary (1999) and Anandamath, or The Sacred Brotherhood (2005), which contains his full English translation of Bankim Chatterji’s famous 19th-century Bengali novel.

Diarmaid Macculloch is a Fellow of Saint Cross College, Oxford, and Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, the Royal Historical Society and of the Society of Antiquaries of London. He was ordained deacon in the Church of England in 1987 and was knighted in the UK New Year’s Honours List of 2012. He co-edited the Journal of Ecclesiastical History from 1995–2014. His books include Thomas Cranmer: a life (1996) and Reformation: Europe’s house divided 1490–1700 (2003). His A History of Christianity: the first three thousand years (2009) was followed by the BBC series, A History of Christianity (2010). His three-part series for BBC2, How God Made the English, aired in 2012 and his latest series for BBC2 is Sex and the Church (2015).

Janne Haaland Matláry is a Norwegian political scientist, writer and politician, who represented the Christian Democratic Party as deputy foreign minister, 1997–2000. Since 2012, she has been a member of the Conservative Party. She is Professor of International Politics at the University of Oslo and at the Military Staff College of Norway. She is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Family. She is also a columnist for Dagens Næringsliv. In 2001 she was made a Dame in the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Her most recent book is NATO’s European Allies: military capability and political will (2013).

Simon May is Visiting Professor of Philosophy at King’s College London. His monographs include Nietzsche’s Ethics and his War on “Morality” (1999) and Love: a history (2011). He is editor of Nietzsche’s “On the Genealogy of Morality”: a critical guide (2011) and, with Ken Gemes, of Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy (2009). He is the author of a book of his own aphorisms, Thinking Aloud: a collection of aphorisms (2009) and is writing a second volume on the philosophy of love, entitled Love: a new theory.

Richard Miles is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Sydney. He was previously Fellow in Ancient History at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and a Newton Trust Lecturer in the Faculty of Classics. He has written and presented documentaries for the BBC, including Ancient Worlds (2010) and Archaeology: a secret history (2013). His books include Carthage Must Be Destroyed: the rise and fall of an ancient civilisation, The Vandals and Ancient Worlds: the search for the origins of Western civilisation.

Candida R. Moss is Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame. She is a frequent news commentator for CBS and CNN and writes regularly for The Daily Beast, Slate, Politico and the Times Higher Education Supplement. Her books include Ancient Christian Martyrdom (2010), The Myth of Persecution (2013) and Reconceiving Infertility (2015).

William O’Reilly is Lecturer in early modern History at Cambridge University and Associate Director of the Centre for History and Economics. He has served as an editor of the Historical Journal and of Atlantic Studies. He has been a Visiting Fellow at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest, the Austrian Academy of Sciences at Vienna and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University; and has taught at a number of universities in Europe. In 2006, he was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize for his work in European and Atlantic History. In 2013, he was awarded a Pilkington Prize for excellence in teaching.

Robin Osborne is Professor of Ancient History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, and of the British Academy. His work ranges widely over Greek history, archaeology and art history and among his recent publications are Athens and Athenian Democracy (2010) and The History Written on the Classical Greek Body (2011).

Elaine Pagels is the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University. She has previously taught at Barnard College, Columbia University. The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, she is best known for her studies and writing on the Gnostic Gospels. Her books include The Gnostic Gospels (1979), Adam, Eve, and the Serpent (1988), The Origin of Satan (1995), Beyond Belief: the Secret Gospel of Thomas (2003), Reading Judas: the Gospel of Judas and the shaping of Christianity (2007) and Revelations: visions, prophecy and politics in the Book of Revelation (2012).

Wolfgang Palaver is Professor of Catholic Social Thought and Dean of the School of Catholic Theology at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. From 2007 to 2011, he was president of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion. He has published books on religion and violence, Thomas Hobbes, Carl Schmitt and René Girard. His most recent book is René Girard’s Mimetic Theory (2013).

Marco Pasi is Associate Professor in the History of Hermetic Philosophy and related currents at the University of Amsterdam. He is the general editor of the Aries Book Series (Brill), a founding member of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism and co-chair of the Western Esotericism Group at the American Academy of Religion. Since 2014, he has been General Secretary of the European Association for the Study of Religions.

Daniel T. Potts is Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology and History at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University. He is the founding editor-in-chief of the journal Arabian Archaeology & Epigraphy and a Corresponding Member of the German Archaeological Institute. He is the editor of the Blackwell Companion to the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East (2012) and the Oxford Handbook of Iranian Archaeology (2013). His books include Mesopotamia, Iran and Arabia from the Seleucids to the Sasanians (2010); In the Land of the Emirates: the archaeology and history of the UAE (2012) and Nomadism in Iran: from antiquity to the modern era (2014).

Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad is Professor of Comparative Religion and Politics at Lancaster University. He has previously taught at the National University of Singapore and held research fellowships at Trinity College, Oxford, and Clare Hall, Cambridge. He is a Founding Fellow of the Lokahi Foundation, Senior Fellow of the Mind and Life Institute, a member of the Academic Board of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the India China Institute and a committee member of the Freigeist Fellowship of the Volkswagen Stiftung. His books include Eastern Philosophy (2005), India: life, myth and art (2006) and Divine Self, Human Self (2013).

Göran Rosenberg is a Swedish writer and journalist. His latest book, A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz (Granta, 2014), was awarded the 2012 August Prize in literature.

Malise Ruthven has taught Islamic studies and comparative religion at the University of Aberdeen; Birkbeck, University of London; the University of California, San Diego; Dartmouth College, New Hampshire; and at the Colorado College. His books include, Islam in the World (1984, 2006, 2015); The Divine Supermarket: shopping for God in America (1989); A Satanic Affair: Salman Rushdie and the wrath of Islam (1989); Islam: a very short introduction (2000); Fundamentalism: the search for meaning (2004), A Historical Atlas of the Islamic World (with Azim Nanji, 2004) Children of Time: The Aga Khan and the Ismailis (with Gerard M Wilkinson, 2015) and Gnosticism: a very short introduction (forthcoming).

John Scheid holds the Chair of Religion, Institutions and Society of Ancient Rome at the Collège de France, where he has been Vice-Chairman since 2012. He is co-editor of the Revue de l’Histoire des Religions and a member of the editorial board of Archiv für Religionsgeschichte, Potsdamer Althistorische Beiträge, Historia, Millenium and Mythos. He is an Honorary Doctor of the Universities of Chicago and Erfurt, a corresponding fellow of the British Academy and a member of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres. He was previously Professor at the École Pratique des Hautes Études, Section des Sciences Religieuses, from 1983–2001, and Assistant of Roman History at the University of Lille, from 1977–1983.

Mona Siddiqui, OBE, joined the University of Edinburgh’s Divinity School in 2011 as Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies. Prior to this, she directed the Centre for the Study of Islam at Glasgow University for 15 years. Her most recent books include Christians, Muslims and Jesus (2013) and My Way: a Muslim woman’s journey (2014). She is a regular commentator in various media and chairs the BBC’s Scottish Religious Advisory Committee. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Royal Society of Arts and currently serves as a member on the Global Agenda Council on Faith for the World Economic Forum.

Pär Stenbäck was elected chairman of the Swedish Peoples’ Party (of Finland) in 1977 and became Minister of Education for the Finnish government in 1979 and Foreign Minister in 1982. In 1985, he left parliament to become Secretary General of the Finnish Red Cross, then of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, then of the Nordic Council of Ministers. He is a founding member of the International Crisis Group (ICG) and founding chairman of the European Cultural Parliament. In 2011, he was elected a member of the Standing Commission of the International Red Cross Movement. He is also active in the United World College Movement. He has written several books and is a regular columnist.

Jayne Svenungsson is Professor of Systematic Theology at Lund University. She was Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow in 2008 and Visiting Fellow at St Benet’s Hall, Oxford in 2014. She is author of the monograph Divining History: prophetism, messianism and the development of the spirit (2015) and editor (with Elena Namli and Alana M. Vincent) of Jewish Thought, Utopia and Revolution (2014) and (with Jonna Bornemark and Mattias Martinson) of Monument and Memory (2015), investigating the politics of memory.

Harvey Whitehouse is Chair of Social Anthropology, Director of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology and a Professorial Fellow of Magdalen College at the University of Oxford. He was founding director of the Institute of Cognition and Culture at Queen’s University, Belfast, and of Oxford’s Centre for Anthropology and Mind. From 2006 to 2009, he served as head of Oxford’s School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, establishing the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology in 2007. In 2014, he co-founded the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflicts at Harris Manchester College.

A.N. Wilson is a freelance writer. He is an occasional columnist for the Daily Mail and former columnist for the London Evening Standard and has been an occasional contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, New Statesman, Spectator and Observer. He is the author of over 40 books. He has taught medieval literature at New College, Oxford. His novels include Winnie and Wolf and the Lampitt Chronicles sequence. He has written biographies of Scott, Milton, Tolstoy, Jesus, Paul and Hitler. His histories include The Victorians. His book Dante in Love was published in 2011.

Adrian Wooldridge is The Economist’s management editor and writes the Schumpeter column. Previously, he has been the magazine’s Washington bureau chief (where he also wrote the Lexington column), West Coast correspondent, management correspondent and Britain correspondent. He is the co-author of The Company: a short history of a revolutionary idea; A Future Perfect: the challenge and hidden promise of globalisation; Witch Doctors; and The Right Nation, a study of conservatism in America. His most recent book is Masters of Management: how the business gurus and their ideas have changed the world – for better and for worse.