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Religions — History
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In the Name of Allah [electronic resource]

Military conflict accompanied the spread of Islam during the Middle Ages. This program reveals the ironies of that union between war and faith: how Islam was adopted rather than marginalized by invading Mongols; how the rise of strict Islamic orthodoxy countered the scholarly advances of Arabic culture, weakening the empire; and how European appreciation of Islamic culture grew after the Christian reconquista of the Iberian peninsula. Interviews with respected scholars-including Drs. Raif Georges Khoury of the University of Heidelberg and Patrick Franke of Martin Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg-illuminate key developments in Islam's Mediterranean dominance.
2006; 2004

In the Name of Christ [electronic resource]

This program examines the forces behind European determination to capture Palestine, linking the belligerence of medieval Crusaders with their piousness. Drs. Klaus Herbers of Friedrich Alexander University and Patrick Franke of Martin Luther University draw surprising parallels between East and West, focusing on martyrdom as a vital component of the Crusader's motivation, interreligious notions of knightly behavior, and cases of negotiation and cultural exchange despite numerous atrocities and military disasters. Without neglecting the harsh realities of the Crusades, In the Name of Christ presents a fresh perspective on the medieval clash of Christian and Islamic powers.
2006; 2004

Christian vs. Christian [electronic resource]

Outlining the provincial causes and ravaging effects of Europe's Thirty Years' War, this program illustrates the ability of religious fervor to inflame nationalism and drive the quest for power. With background on Martin Luther's split with the Catholic Church and the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, Dr. Helmut Neuhaus of Friedrich Alexander University offers detailed analysis of the Hapsburg-Bohemian conflict, the shifting alliances of Catholics and Protestants, and the mercenary campaigns of Wallenstein-leading to a comparison with large-scale natural disaster. The program clearly identifies the three-decade inferno as an inspiration for later divisions of church and state.
2006; 2004

The Birth of a New Religion [electronic resource]: Christianity in the 1st and 2nd Centuries

Part one of this program presents the life of Jesus against the backdrop of first-century Judea, inhabited by the Jews and occupied by the forces of the Roman Empire. Was Jesus the long-awaited Messiah? After the Resurrection, Saul of Tarsus, later Paul, became a champion of a budding new religion based on Jesus' teachings: Christianity. Part two traces the spread of the faith and its inevitable clash with Rome. Despite persecution, Christianity thrived, setting down roots and creating the New Testament.
2007; 1999

The Bridge [electronic resource]: How Islam Saved Western Medicine

While it is true that the Greeks invented philosophy, mathematics, and science, it is equally true that after the fall of the Roman Empire, throughout the Dark Ages, much knowledge was preserved by Islamic cultures who later passed it back to the West. This program uses footage shot in the Aegean, Middle East, Iran, Spain, Italy, France, and Germany to explore the process by which medical knowledge was passed on. Throughout the program, the brilliant medieval world of Islam is revealed. Monuments, historical sites and personalities, libraries and universities woven into scenes of everyday Islamic life paint a colorful, vivid picture of the period. This revealing documentary reinforces our debt to the Islamic world and clarifies history.
2005; 1996

Inside the Medieval Mind [electronic resource]: Sex

Although rooted in religious misogyny and crude anatomical knowledge, the sexual mores of the medieval era were surprisingly complex. This program explores the attitudes and behaviors of a sexual culture that was by turns romantic, transactional, and perverse. Documents and historical accounts include the story of Christina of Markyate, who defied marital conventions and maintained a lifelong vow of chastity; the more passionate tale of Peter Abelard and Heloise d'Argenteuil, whose 12th-century love letters transcend the brutality of the age; and a list of intrusive questions compiled to help 11th-century priests steer parishioners away from promiscuity. Troubadour poetry and primitive views of menstruation and fertility are also discussed.
2010; 2008

Inside the Medieval Mind [electronic resource]: Belief

Founded in 1230, Scotland's Pluscarden Abbey still pulses with the prayers and spiritual pursuits of Benedictine monks. Abbot Hugh Gilbert describes their work in reassuringly human terms, framing the Christian battle against Satanic evil as an inner struggle within one's own psyche. But, as this program shows, the culture which brought Pluscarden into existence was rigidly institutional-and entrenched in the cosmology of heaven and hell. The film explores demonic possession and brushes with the afterlife, as recorded in documents of the period; the ways in which wealthy believers sought to "purchase" heavenly redemption; and the sanctity conferred upon the bones of martyrs and other religious relics.
2010; 2008

Brigham Young [electronic resource]: Architect of Faith

This episode of Biography looks at Brigham Young, a settler in the American west and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Known as the 'Mormon Moses', Young followed founder Joseph Smith as head of the Mormon church.
2011; 1996

The Fly Agaric Mushroom [electronic resource]: Sacred Weeds

Siberian shamans used the fly agaric mushroom to access a world inhabited by small, elf-like beings, while Victorian artists often depicted elves sitting atop a fly agaric's cap. In this program, Oxford archaeology professor Andrew Sherratt compares the effects of fly agaric on volunteers to the effects described in traditional accounts. The experiment is attended by a psychiatrist interested in how the drug affects the brain, a neuropsychologist measuring spatial perception, and an ethnobotanist assessing the volunteers' subjective report of the experience. The group cannot agree: Does fly agaric distort our perception of the world, or does it allow a glimpse of a different reality? Part of the series Sacred Weeds.

The Devil We Know [electronic resource]: An Objective Look at the Prince of Darkness

Where does the familiar image of Satan come from? Does it predate the writing of the Bible? Or did the Devil's persona develop after the New Testament and organized Christianity appeared? This absorbing documentary sheds new light on the Prince of Darkness by examining his manifestations in various religious traditions, in literature and the arts, and in our collective psychology. Experts in theology, history, and culture share their knowledge of Satan's evolution through the centuries, discussing ancient Hebrew scriptures and apocryphal narratives, the influence of pagan imagery (such as horns and a pitchfork) on medieval concepts of the Devil, and the development of the Catholic rites of exorcism. Other topics include cinematic portrayals of demons and devils, the interplay between [...]

In the Beginning God Created Heaven and Earth [electronic resource]: Crossroads of Faith and Science

Will the battle between creationism and scientific purism ever be resolved? In search of a more nuanced and illuminating dialogue, this film explores the views of free thinkers around the world who balance their spiritual sensibilities with genuine scientific curiosity. Conversations focus on the origins of the cosmos, living things, and the human species. Researchers, intellectuals, and religious leaders in France, Germany, and Turkey share their interpretations of biblical and Quranic passages, pointing out rarely discussed echoes of scientific concepts and explaining why faith and factual evidence don't necessarily cancel each other out. The program also takes viewers through a colorful chronology of the three major monotheistic religions, looking at historical periods in which th [...]

Handmaids of the Gods [electronic resource]

In this program, Bettany Hughes explores the lost era of the priestess as she explains the primacy of women in classical religion and in early Christianity. Visiting the Acropolis and other key sites, Hughes describes aspects of Aphrodite that go beyond gentle love goddess and discovers that Sappho may have been a priestess as well as a poet. She also discusses ancient Rome, where the fate of the world was believed to lie in the hands of six sacred virgins, and learns the truth about the centuries of Christian doctrine that forbid women to become priests.

War of the Words [electronic resource]

Was the period known as the Dark Ages in fact a golden age for women in religion? In this program, Bettany Hughes profiles some powerful medieval women and shows how religion, and the written word, was vital to their authority. Hughes introduces the influential Theodora I, empress of Christian Byzantium; Muhammad's wives Khadija, the first convert to Islam, and Aisha, whose words are still read by millions of Muslims; Wu Zetian, promoter of Buddhism and China's only female ruler; and St. Hilda, who presided over the crucial Synod of Whitby.

Islam, Empire of Faith [electronic resource]: The Messenger

Introducing the dramatic story of the rise of Islam and the life of the prophet Mohammad, this program covers the revelation and early writing of the Koran, the creation of the first mosque, the persecution suffered by the first Muslims, and the major battles fought by Mohammad and his followers to establish their new religion. Viewers learn how the religious, cultural, and political expansion of Islam overwhelmed the territorial control of Persia and Byzantium-creating a new empire that ranks among the largest in history.

Islam, Empire of Faith [electronic resource]: The Awakening

Depicting the flowering of Islam into one of the great civilizations in history, this program shows how culture and goods flowed freely throughout the large empire, helping to spread Islamic principles and influencing the intellectual development of the West. Viewers learn how Arabic became the language of learning and how Islamic art, architecture, science, and medicine flourished. The film also tells the story of the Crusades and the recapture of Jerusalem by Saladin the Great, then describes the invasion of Islamic lands by the Mongols.

Islam, Empire of Faith [electronic resource]: The Ottomans

Illustrating the dramatic transformation of Islam resulting from the Mongol invasion, this program explains how nomads enlisted by Muslims to fight the Mongols staked their own claims, became known as the Ottomans, and founded a new realm that expanded westward into Christian territories. Viewers learn how Suleiman the Magnificent shaped the Ottomans into a military powerhouse and an empire of extreme wealth and sophistication-threatening the Persian Safavids and the great power centers of Europe before falling victim to internal conflict.

Kingdom of David: The Book and the Sword [electronic resource]

Returning to Jerusalem from Persian-controlled Babylon, a scribe named Ezra started a tradition that became a core aspect of Jewish life-reading and interpreting the scriptures. This program examines historical examples of Jewish responses to cultural and military threats-such as when Alexander the Great invaded the Middle East in 330 B.C. and when the Greek king Antiochus IV forbade the practice of Judaism, provoking the Maccabean revolt.

Kingdom of David: By the Rivers of Babylon [electronic resource]

Unlike other cultures in Babylonian captivity, the ancient Judeans avoided extinction by compiling stories from their past. This program shows how those stories, which became the Hebrew Bible, helped to unite and inspire the Jewish people. In the process, the film profiles influential figures of Judaism: Abraham, progenitor of single-God worship; Moses, custodian of the Ten Commandments; and David, whose transgressions helped to clarify the universality of God's law.

Kingdom of David: The End of Days [electronic resource]

With his invasion of Judea in 63 B.C., the Roman general Pompey began a brutal colonial conflict-prompting open rebellion as well as fierce debate among Jewish factions about their future. This program illustrates the impact of the ancient Roman occupation of the Holy Land: violence and suffering, including the sack of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, while the seeds of two new religious traditions, rabbinical Judaism and Christianity, were sown.

Kingdom of David: The Gifts of the Jews [electronic resource]

Beginning with 1st- and 2nd-century Judaism, this program examines the struggle to reinvent the religion of Moses and David after the Roman annihilation of the Temple. Viewers learn about a number of Jewish uprisings-including the Bar Kochba rebellion and the bloody retribution it triggered-as well as the eventual Jewish Diaspora in which millions fled to Europe, Africa, and Asia, carrying their culture and faith with them. The rise of Christianity is also studied.