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Children and Childhood in World Religions

Children and Childhood in World Religions: Primary Sources and Texts

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 412
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  • Book Info
    Children and Childhood in World Religions
    Book Description:

    While children figure prominently in religious traditions, few books have directly explored the complex relationships between children and religion. This is the first book to examine the theme of children in major religions of the world.

    Each of six chapters, edited by world-class scholars, focuses on one religious tradition and includes an introduction and a selection of primary texts ranging from legal to liturgical and from the ancient to the contemporary. Through both the scholarly introductions and the primary sources, this comprehensive volume addresses a range of topics, from the sanctity of birth to a child's relationship to evil, showing that issues regarding children are central to understanding world religions and raising significant questions about our own conceptions of children today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4842-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    Don S. Browning and Marcia J. Bunge
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Since every person on earth once was or is a child, children and childhood are bound to be central themes in the world’s religions. Indeed, references to children are often found in the authoritative texts, symbols, doctrines, and moral teachings of various religious traditions. Many religious rituals revolve around the birth, naming, coming of age, and education of children. Children often play a role in other rituals and celebrations of religious communities. These communities also have protected and disciplined children in distinctive ways, often affecting not only the family but also the religious and nonreligious institutions beyond the domestic realm....

  5. 1 Judaism
    (pp. 15-82)

    Procreation, the commandment to bear offspring, is frequently noted as one of the central obligations in Judaism. Both because of the centrality of the commandment to procreate in the book of Genesis and because of the contrast between Jewish culture in antiquity and its sister religion, Christianity, the obligation to marry and have children is identified with one of the core obligations of the Jewish people. As such, children and childhood, which follow from the duty of procreation, can be expected to be central to the social organization of the Jewish people. Yet, while in practice Jews throughout history lived...

  6. 2 Christianity
    (pp. 83-150)

    The relation of Christianity to children and childhood is complex, diverse, and disputed. It is as old as the origins of Christianity itself in Jesusʹs own birth and childhood and in his relationship to children. Two thousand years of Christian history have produced multiple and even conflicting theological understandings of childhood and how actual children should be treated by adults and society. What is more, considerations of childhood have frequently shaped—and been shaped by—other fundamental Christian beliefs and practices. However, in part because of the actions and sayings of Jesus that are recorded in the gospels, Christians throughout...

  7. 3 Islam
    (pp. 151-216)

    What exactly do we mean byIslamwhen referring to ʺThe Child in Islamʺ? Do we mean the beliefs and practices of the about 213 million Muslims, who constitute 88 percent of the population of Indonesia, making it the largest Islamic country in the world? Or those of the about 380 million Muslims living in the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh)? Is it the religious world view of the 73 million Muslims in Egypt, of the 70 million Iranians, the 33 million Moroccans or the 65 million Muslims in Nigeria that we have in mind? Is it the Islam...

  8. 4 Hinduism
    (pp. 217-276)

    Recent work on childhood in India has made the crucial point that the child is defined by what the child isnot. As the classical literature on childhood has also argued, there are several ways we can think about the idea of the ʺchildʺ and its opposite.¹ We can understand a child as a small homunculus, with lesser physical capacities than the adult, but with the same basic makeup. We can romanticize the child as a creature of innocence, closer to the sources of life (both ʺwildʺ and ʺdivineʺ) than adults. We can think of the child as a creature...

  9. 5 Buddhism
    (pp. 277-336)

    Like many religions, Buddhism was not created with an eye to its long-term viability as a social institution. Instead, Buddhism came into its full institutional presence in a gradual manner, with much of the ʺarchitectureʺ of Buddhist thought and practice fashioned long after the death of the Buddha. This seems particularly true for the range of Buddhist positions on children and childhood, positions that emerged slowly and for a variety of different reasons. Thus, if we can trust accounts of the Buddhaʹs career (all of which were written hundreds of years after his death in the sixth or fifth century...

  10. 6 Confucianism
    (pp. 337-392)

    For most of its long history in China, Confucianism was a moral system that rested on the religious underpinnings of ancestor worship and operated with the strong support of the stateʹs political and legal apparatus. A good way to approach our topic, as a chapter inChildren and Childhood in World Religions, is to begin with ancestor worship, what it is, and how it provides a key to understanding the perception and treatment of children in Confucianism.

    Known as the ʺessential form of Chinese religion,ʺ ancestor worship had been practiced in China long before the time of Confucius (551–479...

    (pp. 393-394)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 395-400)