Review ¿ Why Religion?: A Personal Story 102

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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 uestionsThese uestions took on a new urgency for Pagels when dealing with uni. A rare lung disease killed Elaine Pagels’s 6 year old son and then about a year later her husband fell to his death while mountain climbing After that Job like run of tragedies no one would have blamed Pagels if she had decided to “curse God and die”But she held on Through rage and terror and despair so overwhelming that it made her faint she held on“I had to look into that darkness” she says at the opening of her new memoir “Why Religion” “I could not continue to live fully while refusing to recall what happened”Pagels acknowledges that “no one escapes terrible loss” but as the country’s most popular historian of religion she brings a uniue reservoir of spiritual wisdom to bear on the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to A MacArthur “genius” and a professor at Princeton University she has long been one of those rare bilingual academics capable of speaking to lay and scholarly readers Her foundational work “The Gnostic Gospels” 1979 revolutionized our To read the rest of this review go to The Washington Posthttpswwwwashingtonpostcomentert

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Why Religion A Personal StoryMaginable 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 faceDra. Elaine Pagels is clearly comfortable addressing her chosen field of study than she is writing about her own personal struggles While she outlines the horrific tragedies of losing her young son and husband within a year of each other she never does a deep dive into her agony and any ramifications it may have had on her own religious experience or faithTo say it's A Personal Story is only partially true She gives us the physical details but unlike most successful memoir there's too much telling and too little showing We understand the events and can imagine their devastation but that's all we can do is imagine because Pagels keeps the reader at arm's length We are not drawn into her raw emotion on a deep personal level We are moved because of our own empathy and not because she strips herself bare and invites us inWe learn nothing of the childhoods of the two children she adopted and suddenly we're at the end of the book with a lengthy scholarly discussion on reframing the gospel narrative The uestion of Why Religion never uite dovetails with her own journeyShe writes My own experience of the 'nightmare' the agony of feeling isolated vulnerable and terrified has has shown that only awareness of that sense of interconnection restores euanimity even joy So this is what Pagels tells us but she never shows us what that isolation vulnerability terror and joy look or feel like I think fans of Pagels earlier work The Gnostic Gospels for example will love this book Others who are looking for a memoir along the lines of Mary Karr's Lit Jeannette Walls The Glass Castle or recently Tara Westover's Educated and Julie Barton's Dog Medicine will be sorely disappointed

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Review ¿ Why Religion?: A Personal Story 102 È 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 addreWing 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 cultureA 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 harpercollinsco. Elaine Pagels is fairly well known for her writing about early Christianity especially the Gnostic Gospels and the Gospel of Thomas This memoir doesn’t so much answer the uestion of “Why have religion” as it does the uestion her not yet husband asked her with the two title words which was “Why study religion of all possible subjects” Pagels was brought up in an atheist family But she was drawn into evangelical Christianity as a teen when she attended a Billy Graham rally where he preached a fiery socialist message that sounded very different from what evangelical Christian leaders seem to preach these years She then lost her specifically Christian faith after the death of a close Jewish friend when her Christian friends insisted that he could not enter Heaven on account of having the wrong religion But she never lost her fascination with why people have religion at all Then with the discovery of the Nag Hammadi scrolls in Egypt and their delivery to Harvard when she was studying in the divinity school there her curiosity was fueled as to how modern Christianity came to be the particular collection of books that it is when there were so many gospels to choose from 2000 years ago Around these intellectual concerns she married and gave birth to a doomed son whose heart defect at birth led to fatal pulmonary hypertension If you would rather not know what it’s like to care for a child who has no hope of ever reaching adulthood do not read this book It will tear your heart out She also had several mystical or psychic experiences the feeling of the presence of her deceased friend and the awareness that a group of friends was praying for her while she was giving birth among others Then her husband also died only a year after their eldest son leaving Elaine to care alone for two small children This is a memoir about grief as much as it is about religion And while it doesn’t really answer the uestion “Why religion” at the same time it does In Pagels’s experience at least religion mitigates grief It provides a hope that we may know our lost loved ones again even as we miss them with all of our hearts every day that we are here and they are not It provides comfort whether it seems like a “rational” comfort or not This book is beautiful moving and thoughtful I’m glad I read it but at the same time parts of it left me so sad that I’m hesitant to recommend it Judge for yourself whether you want to experience this vivid recounting of love loss and continuing onward