Why Religion?

Why Religion?

A Personal Story

Large Print - 2018
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New York Times bestseller

One of PW's Best Books of the Year

One of Amazon's Best Books of the Month

Why is religion still around in the twenty-first century? Why do so many still believe? And how do various traditions still shape the way people experience everything from sexuality to politics, whether they are religious or not? In Why Religion? Elaine Pagels looks to her own life to help address these questions.

These questions took on a new urgency for Pagels when dealing with unimaginable loss--the death of her young son, followed a year later by the shocking loss of her husband. Here she interweaves a personal story with the work that she loves, illuminating how, for better and worse, religious traditions have shaped how we understand ourselves; how we relate to one another; and, most importantly, how to get through the most difficult challenges we face.

Drawing upon the perspectives of neurologists, anthropologists, and historians, as well as her own research, Pagels opens unexpected ways of understanding persistent religious aspects of our culture.

A provocative and deeply moving account from one of the most compelling religious thinkers at work today, Why Religion? explores the spiritual dimension of human experience.

Publisher: New York, NY : HarperLuxe, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, [2018]
ISBN: 9780062860989
0062860984
Branch Call Number: 248.843 PAG
LP 270.8 PAGELS
Characteristics: xv, 296 pages (large print) : illustrations ; 23 cm

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Gigi76
Sep 25, 2019

This is an excellent book. Though not necessarily what I expected, I enjoyed it more once I let go of those expectations and appreciated it for what it was - a personal account and exploration of the role belief can play from a historian of religion who experienced the loss of a young son and adored husband within a year. The author achieves a powerful cumulative emotionality.
This is my first book by the author, and I am embarrassed to admit ignorance of her earlier writings and secret gospels she describes discovered in 1945 at Nag Hammand in Egypt, which I hope to remedy.
My favorite quotes include:
From the Gospel of Thomas, “Within a person of light, there is light. If illuminated, it lights up the whole world; if not, everything is dark.” (Pg.177)
Her description of the vision of the cross as a new tree of knowledge. “Instead of seeing suffering as punishment, this gospel (the Gospel of Truth) suggests that, seen through the eyes of wisdom, suffering can show how we’re connected with each other and with God.” (Pg.201)
Her comments on William James’ definition of religion as a person’s “total reaction upon life.” (Pg.205)

r
rlbeekman
Aug 22, 2019

This book is a personal memoir that claims initial interest as a kind of spiritual autobiography of an acclaimed and popular scholar of religious history focusing on New Testament and Patristic literature. However, the author's wrenching experiences of the death of her 6-year-old son of a hereditary lung disease followed a year later by the death of her husband in a fall on a Colorado mountain are what really shape the book. These events and the author's reflection on them through the ideas of her scholarship exceed -- and succeed -- beyond the somewhat conventional prose style and sensibility.

Bonus name dropping: Her group of friends early in her college days included Jerry Garcia -- long before he became famous too!

b
brangwinn
Aug 15, 2019

After great personal tragedy, Pagels talks about why religion is still meaningful in the 21st century and her finding strength in her spiritual beliefs after the death of her husband.

t
TMOK40
Jul 16, 2019

Mistitled. Touching memoir by a warm, articulate woman who lost both a son and her husband within a year. However, the title, "Why Religion?" is a misrepresentation of the book, big time, given her writings about various biblical documents etc. You'd expect the book to respond to that question of the title but it doesn't, very disappointing if that title attracted you. Bad move by the publisher and/or Pagels, whoever signed off on the title.

b
bakersfield
Mar 18, 2019

Jeremy and others have recommended this.

g
GummiGirl
Jan 17, 2019

More of a memoir than anything else, and a very touching one. Pagels tells how her studies of the Nag Hammadi manuscripts have enlarged her understanding of religion and enriched her personal life. She also refers back frequently to her previous books, "The Gnostic Gospels," "Adam, Eve, and the Serpent," "The Origin of Satan," and "Revelations," all of which are well worth reading.

a
amilee
Jun 30, 2018

I AM a great fan of her. I ve been falling in love with the works shes done .
im in hunger for her spiritual discovery .
why its so late to grab and read the new book?

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