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The Documents

Religious Revolutions

Theme Description

Now listen to me, my children, and walk in the way of righteousness, and do not walk in the way of wickedness, for all those who walk in the ways of injustice shall perish. —1 Enoch 91:19 (The Book of Enoch)

With the strike of one match, an inferno can be born. It’s a reaction of oxygen, heat, and fuel—a blend of the right elements at the right time—and the outcome is explosive. So it is with religion. The simple faith of one can become the catalyst for change for many—even for the world. It’s reactive and revolutionary. Divisive and uniting. Contested and controversial. Religion continually reimagines and reshapes both itself and those around it, and so the fire is stoked again and again.

Religion is sometimes assumed to be a conservative force in human history—more stabilizing than disruptive, more preservative than transformative. But a quick look at the past shows this to be far from the truth. Even recent events reveal the lengths to which religion can shape world events.

Across history, religion is forever present in the complex and interlocking social, cultural, political, intellectual, and economic landscapes marking the ebb and flow of human civilization. Spanning several millennia and five languages, the selection of documents included here reveal the revolutionary nature of religion, highlighting the many ways in which religion both marks and influences change.

Sponsored by the Madge Rothschild Foundation