“True Religion,” Component II (Perceiving God’s Presence)


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In the promos for the Television series, “The Story of God,” Morgan Freeman asks, “What occurs when a person sees, or feels, the presence of God?”

For persons for whom the “rational” is absolute, any answer to this query is merely “anecdotal,” not worthy of consideration in debates about what matters. And though I agree that anecdotes are insufficient in choices such as what medicine to take, I think a significant quantity of witnesses more than a lengthy period – such as with the Judeo-Christian tradition in religion – carries a lot of weight.

Our courts recognize this in the significance offered to eye-witness accounts.

So the book, “Why Religion? A Individual Story,” by Princeton University religious historian Elaine Pagels, is useful. In the book’s Introduction, she describes herself as a “historian who talks about human beings and the cultures we make.” The book’s central query seems to be why religion is nonetheless about in the 21st century.

Fulfills a Require
“Everything we encounter shapes what we are capable of understanding…,” she writes, and the book is written on a platform of her encounter. Religion is nonetheless about simply because it fulfills the want we humans have to be connected to God.

“Many of us … have left religious institutions behind…. I’ve carried out each – had faith, and lost it joined groups, and left them. To my personal surprise, I then went back, in search of to comprehend what happened….”

Her father “a distinguished scientist,” was soft-spoken but with an explosive temper. Her mother was distant, “fearful and anxious.” She discovered about adore from her grandparents.

Elaine Pagels
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As a 15-year-old, she was moved by a rally in which Billy Graham was the most important speaker and says she discovered his invitation to “accept Jesus into your heart irresistible.”

“My parents have been horrified,” she writes. “My father was angry he hated religion….” Later, she herself decided against this brand of religion.

As an adult, she skilled double tragedy. Her six-year-old son, Mark, died from incurable pulmonary hypertension. Her husband, Heinz, a 49-year-old theoretical physicist and director of the New York Academy of Sciences, died in a hiking accident.

As in the case of several who’ve skilled such adversity, she had to address the “theodicy query:” How can a very good God permit evil? In a overview of the book in the National Catholic Reporter, Presbyterian elder Bill Tammeus calls this “the open wound of institutional religion.”

Not content material with “a bumper-sticker-size answer,” writes Tammeus, the only sincere reply is that we just do not know. Having said that, religion is not principally meant to answer inquiries but be a conduit to God.

Pagels was for a time a member of an evangelical church “in which simplistic answers to knotty theological inquiries have been generally on the menu.” But she ultimately started to see that religion is not “primarily a matter of what you think,” writes Tammeus, who quotes Pagels at length.

Felt a Burst of Joy
As her son died in her presence, she “sensed that he’d felt a burst of joy and relief to leave his exhausted physique.

“Before that moment, I’d taken for granted what I’d discovered, that death was the finish, any believed of surviving death only a fantasy…what I skilled that day challenged that assumption.

“I was startled to comprehend that somehow I nonetheless wanted to think that we reside in a morally ordered universe, in which a person, or some thing – God or nature? – would preserve track of what’s fair.”

Religion need to not offer you the “facile comfort that churches usually dole out like Kleenex,” Pagels wrote. “Rather, it need to proclaim “that each and every 1 of us is woven into the mysterious fabric of the universe, and into connection with every other, with all becoming and with God,” whom “we can not totally know.”


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