Elizabeth Castelli began her career as an academic leper. As a Brown University undergrad in the mid '70s, she chose to study religion—specifically, the history of early Christianity—which was then viewed as antiquated and impractical. In fact, some social scientists concurrently touted the so-called secularization hypothesis (attributed to German sociologist Max Weber), which Castelli describes as equating religion with a vestigial organ in the body politic. Religion, like the human appendix, would stop being useful and eventually fade away, they proposed. "We were studying these texts and histories, and it was kind of assumed that what one was up to didn't really have that much to do with the contemporary world," Castelli muses today. "We are now living in an age when we can recognize how wrong those social... More >>>