With rigor and wit, Dawkins examines God in all his forms, from the sex-obsessed tyrant of the Old Testament to the more benign (but still illogical) Celestial Watchmaker favored by some Enlightenment thinkers. He eviscerates the major arguments for religion and demonstrates the supreme improbability of a supreme being. He shows how religion fuels war, foments bigotry, and abuses children, buttressing his points with historical and contemporary evidence. The God Delusion makes a compelling case that belief in God is not just wrong but potentially deadly. It also offers exhilarating insight into the advantages of atheism to the individual and society, not the least of which is a clearer, truer appreciation of the universe's wonders than any faith could ever muster.
A clear-sighted revelation, a deep penetration into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower, the now-classic study of al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attack. Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists—both famous and less well known—and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative ability to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.
At the book’s center, two men whom Wright brings vividly to life, showing how they have made Scientology what it is today: The darkly brilliant science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, whose restless, expansive mind invented a new religion. And his successor, David Miscavige—tough and driven, with the unenviable task of preserving the church after the death of Hubbard.
We learn about Scientology’s complicated cosmology and special language. We see the ways in which the church pursues celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and how such stars are used to advance the church’s goals. And we meet the young idealists who have joined the Sea Org, the church’s clergy, signing up with a billion-year contract.
In Going Clear, Wright examines what fundamentally makes a religion a religion, and whether Scientology is, in fact, deserving of this constitutional protection. Employing all his exceptional journalistic skills of observation, understanding, and shaping a story into a compelling narrative, Lawrence Wright has given us an evenhanded yet keenly incisive book that reveals the very essence of what makes Scientology the institution it is.
From the Hardcover edition.
Sam Harris’s first book, The End of Faith, ignited a worldwide debate about the validity of religion. In the aftermath, Harris discovered that most people—from religious fundamentalists to nonbelieving scientists—agree on one point: science has nothing to say on the subject of human values. Indeed, our failure to address questions of meaning and morality through science has now become the most common justification for religious faith. It is also the primary reason why so many secularists and religious moderates feel obligated to "respect" the hardened superstitions of their more devout neighbors.
In this explosive new book, Sam Harris tears down the wall between scientific facts and human values, arguing that most people are simply mistaken about the relationship between morality and the rest of human knowledge. Harris urges us to think about morality in terms of human and animal well-being, viewing the experiences of conscious creatures as peaks and valleys on a "moral landscape." Because there are definite facts to be known about where we fall on this landscape, Harris foresees a time when science will no longer limit itself to merely describing what people do in the name of "morality"; in principle, science should be able to tell us what we ought to do to live the best lives possible.
Bringing a fresh perspective to age-old questions of right and wrong and good and evil, Harris demonstrates that we already know enough about the human brain and its relationship to events in the world to say that there are right and wrong answers to the most pressing questions of human life. Because such answers exist, moral relativism is simply false—and comes at increasing cost to humanity. And the intrusions of religion into the sphere of human values can be finally repelled: for just as there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim algebra, there can be no Christian or Muslim morality.
Using his expertise in philosophy and neuroscience, along with his experience on the front lines of our "culture wars," Harris delivers a game-changing book about the future of science and about the real basis of human cooperation.
From Sam Harris, neuroscientist and author of numerous New York Times bestselling books, Waking Up is for the twenty percent of Americans who follow no religion but who suspect that important truths can be found in the experiences of such figures as Jesus, the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Rumi, and the other saints and sages of history. Throughout this book, Harris argues that there is more to understanding reality than science and secular culture generally allow, and that how we pay attention to the present moment largely determines the quality of our lives.
Waking Up is part memoir and part exploration of the scientific underpinnings of spirituality. No other book marries contemplative wisdom and modern science in this way, and no author other than Sam Harris—a scientist, philosopher, and famous skeptic—could write it.
In this enlightening book, Sam Harris argues that this truth about the human mind does not undermine morality or diminish the importance of social and political freedom, but it can and should change the way we think about some of the most important questions in life.
From as early as three years old, Juliana, Celeste and Kristina were treated as sexual beings by their 'guardians' in the infamous religious cult known as the Children of God. They were made to watch and mimic orgies, received love letters and sexual advances from men old enough to be their grandfather, and were forced into abusive relationships. They were denied access to formal schooling, had to wander the streets begging for money, and were mercilessly beaten for 'crimes' as unpredictable as reading an encyclopaedia.
Finally, unable to live with the guilt of what had happened to her children, their mother escaped with Kristina, cutting herself off from her remaining children in a bid to save at least one child. Desperate to save her sisters, Kristina eventually returned to the place of her torture to free Celeste. Years later, Juliana found the courage to escape, knowing that the child she was carrying would be subjected to the same fate if she did not.
Now the three sisters have finally come together to reveal in full and horrific detail their existence within the Children of God cult. Their stories reveal a community spread throughout the world and its legacy of anorexia, depression, drug abuse, suicide and even murder. Lives are ripped apart and painstakingly mended with a shared strength that finally enabled the sisters to free themselves from the shadows of their past.
Humanity has had a long fascination with blood sacrifice. In fact, it has been by no means uncommon for a child to be born into this world only to be patiently and lovingly reared by religious maniacs, who believe that the best way to keep the sun on its course or to ensure a rich harvest is to lead him by tender hand into a field or to a mountaintop and bury, butcher, or burn him alive as offering to an invisible God. The notion that Jesus Christ died for our sins and that his death constitutes a successful propitiation of a “loving” God is a direct and undisguised inheritance of the superstitious bloodletting that has plagued bewildered people throughout history. . .
At the core of Krakauer’s book are brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a commandment from God to kill a blameless woman and her baby girl. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this appalling double murder, Krakauer constructs a multi-layered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, polygamy, savage violence, and unyielding faith. Along the way he uncovers a shadowy offshoot of America’s fastest growing religion, and raises provocative questions about the nature of religious belief.
These interviews, lectures, and essays cover topics such as the goal of human life, seeking a true spiritual teacher, reincarnation, super-consciousness, Krishna and Christ, and spiritual solutions to today's social and economic problems.
Collins's faith in God has been confirmed and enhanced by the revolutionary discoveries in biology that he has helped to oversee. He has absorbed the arguments for atheism of many scientists and pundits, and he can refute them. Darwinian evolution occurs, yet, as he explains, it cannot fully explain human nature -- evolution can and must be directed by God. He offers an inspiring tour of the human genome to show the miraculous nature of God's instruction book. Sure to be compared with C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, this is a stunning document, whether you are a believer, a seeker, or an atheist.
Father Gary Thomas was working as a parish priest in California when he was asked by his bishop to travel to Rome for training in the rite of exorcism. Though initially surprised, and slightly reluctant, he accepted this call, and enrolled in a new exorcism course at a Vatican-affiliated university, which taught him, among other things, how to distinguish between a genuine possession and mental illness. Eventually he would go on to participate in more than eighty exorcisms as an apprentice to a veteran Italian exorcist. His experiences profoundly changed the way he viewed the spiritual world, and as he moved from rational skeptic to practicing exorcist he came to understand the battle between good and evil in a whole new light. Journalist Matt Baglio had full access to Father Gary over the course of his training, and much of what he learned defies explanation.
The Rite provides fascinating vignettes from the lives of exorcists and people possessed by demons, including firsthand accounts of exorcists at work casting out demons, culminating in Father Gary's own confrontations with the Devil. Baglio also traces the history of exorcism, revealing its rites and rituals, explaining what the Catholic Church really teaches about demonic possession, and delving into such related topics as the hierarchy of angels and demons, satanic cults, black masses, curses, and the various theories used by modern scientists and anthropologists who seek to quantify such phenomena.
Written with an investigative eye that will captivate both skeptics and believers alike, The Rite shows that the truth about demonic possession is not only stranger than fiction, but also far more chilling.
"The Teacha" also discusses the origination of Hip Hop Kulture and relays specific instances in history wherein one can discover the same spirit and ideas that are at the core of Hip Hop’s current manifestation. He explains Hip Hop down to the actual meaning and linguistic history of the words “hip” and “hop,” and describes the ways in which "Hiphoppas" can change their current circumstances to create a future that incorporates Health, Love, Awareness, and Wealth (H-LAW).
Committed to fervently promoting self-reliance, dedicated study, peace, unity, and truth, The "Teacha" has drawn both criticism and worship from within and from outside of Hip Hop Kulture. In this beautifully written, inspiring book, KRS ONE shines the light of truth, from his own empirical research over a 14-year period, into the fascinating world of Hip Hop.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
This is the original account of the extraordinary activities of Sri Krishna, who appeared on earth 5,000 years ago. Find out why He has enchanted people for centuries.
Always remember Krishna, God. That was the goal of the rich spiritual culture that flourished in India for thousands of years. Even today Lord Krishna is remembered and glorified through monumental achievements of art, architecture, drama, music, dance and philosophy.
Fifty centuries ago Krishna descended from the transcendental world to show us His eternal spiritual activities. His acts reveal the fullest concept of God and attract us to join Him again. They are tangible subjects upon which to meditate.
Sri Krishna's life is fascinating and highly entertaining-even children love the stories. His life is full of deep philosophical wisdom and spiritual insight, and is a window into the personality, thoughts, and feelings of God.
Krsna is a summary study of the Tenth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Without the Sanskrit of the Bhagavatam it's an easy way to read yourself into the spiritual realm.
Far from being eyewitness accounts, as is traditionally held, the Gospels are actually Jewish adaptations of ancient Pagan myths of the dying and resurrecting godman Osiris-Dionysus. The supernatural story of Jesus is not the history of a miraculous Messiah, but a carefully crafted spiritual allegory designed to guide initiates on a journey of mystical discovery.
A little more than a century ago most people believed that the strange story of Adam and Eve was history; today it is understood to be a myth. Within a few decades, Freke and Gandy argue, we will likewise be amazed that the fabulous story of God incarnate -- who was born of a virgin, who turned water into wine, and who rose from the dead -- could have been interpreted as anything but a profound parable.
Durkheim edited L'Année Sociologique, the first journal of sociology, and was instrumental in establishing the field as a social science. With The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, he explores totemism among Australia's Aborigines, offering the opportunity "to yield an understanding of the religious nature of man, by showing us an essential and permanent aspect of humanity." Durkheim's study focuses on the need and capacity of humans to relate to one another socially, with religion as the core of the moral universe. An excellent introduction to the influential sociologist's ideas, this book continues to speak to new generations about the intriguing origin and nature of religion and society.
There is no other religious ritual more fascinating, or more disturbing, than exorcism. This is particularly true in America today, where the ancient rite has a surprisingly strong hold on our imagination, and on our popular entertainment industry. We’ve all heard of exorcism, seen the movies and read the books, but few of us have ever experienced it firsthand.
Conducted by exorcists officially appointed by Catholic archdioceses and by maverick priests sidestepping Church sanctions, by evangelical ministers and Episcopal charismatics, exorcism is alive and well in the new millennium. Oprah, Diane Sawyer, and Barbara Walters have featured exorcists on their shows. The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Time, and other publications have charted the proliferation of exorcisms across the United States. Last year, the Archdiocese of Chicago appointed its first full-time exorcist in its 160-year history; in New York, four priests have officially investigated about forty cases of suspected possession every year since 1995.
American Exorcism is an inside look at this burgeoning phenomenon, written with objectivity, insight, and just the right touch of irony. Michael W. Cuneo attended more than fifty exorcisms and interviewed many of the participants–both the exorcists who performed the rituals and the people from all walks of life who believed they were possessed by the devil. He brings vividly to life the ceremonies themselves, conjuring up memories of Linda Blair’s astonishing performance in the 1973 movie The Exorcist and other bizarre (and sometimes stomach-churning) images. Cuneo dissects, as well, the arguments of such well-known exorcism advocates as Malachi Martin, author of the controversial Hostage to the Devil, self-help guru M. Scott Peck, and self-professed demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren of Amityville Horror fame.
As he explores this netherworld of American life, Cuneo reflects on the meaning of exorcism in the twenty-first century and on the relationship between religious ritual and popular culture. Touching on such provocative topics as the “satanic panics” of the 1980s, repressed memory, and ritual abuse, American Exorcism is a remarkably revealing, consistently entertaining work of cultural commentary.
From the Hardcover edition.
Grounded explores this cultural turn as Bass unpacks how people are finding new spiritual ground by discovering and embracing God everywhere in the world around us—in the soil, the water, the sky, in our homes and neighborhoods, and in the global commons. Faith is no longer a matter of mountaintop experience or institutional practice; instead, people are connecting with God through the environment in which we live. Grounded guides readers through our contemporary spiritual habitat as it points out and pays attention to the ways in which people experience a God who animates creation and community.
Bass brings her understanding of the latest research and studies and her deep knowledge of history and theology to Grounded. She cites news, trends, data, and pop culture, weaves in spiritual texts and ancient traditions, and pulls it all together through stories of her own and others' spiritual journeys. Grounded observes and reports a radical change in the way many people understand God and how they practice faith. In doing so, Bass invites readers to join this emerging spiritual revolution, find a revitalized expression of faith, and change the world.
For thousands of years, people on a spiritual quest have consulted the mystical, intensely philosophical Upanishads. As the name implies (upa-near; ni-down; shad-to sit), one is advised to sit near a spiritual teacher to learn. To learn what? This Upanishad's name gives the clue: Isha means "the supreme controller."
Let us sit near the spiritual guide to learn about the supreme controller: God.
The process is simple, provided one learns from an authentic guide. The translation and commentary of Srila Prabhupada strictly adheres to the book's intention, assuring you of a legitimate understanding of the depths of Upanishadic knowledge.
The Power of Myth launched an extraordinary resurgence of interest in Joseph Campbell and his work. A preeminent scholar, writer, and teacher, he has had a profound influence on millions of people--including Star Wars creator George Lucas. To Campbell, mythology was the “song of the universe, the music of the spheres.” With Bill Moyers, one of America’s most prominent journalists, as his thoughtful and engaging interviewer, The Power of Myth touches on subjects from modern marriage to virgin births, from Jesus to John Lennon, offering a brilliant combination of intelligence and wit.
This extraordinary book reveals how the themes and symbols of ancient narratives continue to bring meaning to birth, death, love, and war. From stories of the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece and Rome to traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity, a broad array of themes are considered that together identify the universality of human experience across time and culture. An impeccable match of interviewer and subject, a timeless distillation of Campbell’s work, The Power of Myth continues to exert a profound influence on our culture.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
“The best new play of the season. That rarity of rarities, an issue-driven play that is unpreachy, thought-provoking, and so full of high drama that the audience with which I saw it gasped out loud a half-dozen times at its startling twists and turns. Mr. Shanley deserves the highest possible praise: he doesn’t try to talk you into doing anything but thinking-hard-about the gnarly complexity of human behavior.”—Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal
“A breathtaking work of immense proportion. Positively brilliant.”—Melissa Rose Bernardo, Entertainment Weekly
“#1 show of the year. How splendid it feels to be trusted with such passionate, exquisite ambiguity unlike anything we have seen from this prolific playwright so far. In just ninety fast-moving minutes, Shanley creates four blazingly individual people. Doubt is a lean, potent drama . . . passionate, exquisite, important and engrossing.”—Linda Winer, Newsday
John Patrick Shanley is the author of numerous plays, including Danny in the Deep Blue Sea, Dirty Story, Four Dogs and a Bone, Psychopathia, Sexualis, Sailor’s Song, Savage in Limbo, and Where’s My Money? He has written extensively for TV and film, and his credits include the teleplay for Live from Baghdad and screenplays for Congo; Alive; Five Corners; Joe Versus the Volcano, which he also directed; and Moonstruck, for which he won an Academy Award for best original screenplay.
New to This Edition*Revised and updated with the latest theories, methods, and empirical findings.*Many new research examples.*Restructured with fewer chapters for better “fit” with a typical semester.*More attention to the differences between religion and spirituality*Covers emerging topics: genetics and neurobiology, positive psychology, atheism, and more.
For all the thousands of books that have been written about religion, few until this one have attempted to examine it scientifically: to ask why—and how—it has shaped so many lives so strongly. Is religion a product of blind evolutionary instinct or rational choice? Is it truly the best way to live a moral life? Ranging through biology, history, and psychology, Daniel C. Dennett charts religion’s evolution from “wild” folk belief to “domesticated” dogma. Not an antireligious screed but an unblinking look beneath the veil of orthodoxy, Breaking the Spell will be read and debated by believers and skeptics alike.
The authors challenge the popular image of the Amish as a homogeneous, static, insulated society, showing how the Amish balance tensions between individual needs and community values. They find that self-made millionaires work alongside struggling dairy farmers; successful female entrepreneurs live next door to stay-at-home mothers; and teenagers both embrace and reject the coming-of-age ritual, rumspringa.
An Amish Paradox captures the complexity and creativity of the Holmes County Amish, dispelling the image of the Amish as a vestige of a bygone era and showing how they reinterpret tradition as modernity encroaches on their distinct way of life.
Sincere faith in watchful Big Gods unleashed unprecedented cooperation within ever-expanding groups, yet at the same time it introduced a new source of potential conflict between competing groups. And in some parts of the world, societies with atheist majorities—some of the most cooperative and prosperous in the world—have climbed religion's ladder, and then kicked it away.
Big Gods answers fundamental questions about the origins and spread of world religions and helps us understand the rise of cooperative societies without belief in gods.
In The Hope, Andrew Harvey offers not only a guide to discovering your divine purpose but also the blueprint for a better world. It consists of the necessary elements that can inspire greatness in each of us. Based on Harvey's concepts of Sacred Activism, a global initiative designed to save the world from its downward spiral of greed, pain, and self-destruction, the book is an enlightening text that reflects our world today, while in turn, shapes our future.
There are seven laws of Sacred Activism that have the potential to transform our world. Each law, in its own unique way, promotes love above all other impulses. Sacred Activism is about finding gratitude, forgiveness, and compassion; it is about opening yourself up to the kindness within you, letting go of pain, and making a conscious choice to help heal the world.
Learn how to incorporate a spiritual practice into your life, transform anger into positive energy, and take part in a global community. Reclaim a world that for too long has been driven by selfishness and hatred. Discover the infinite joy of giving. Turn away from everything you have been and done and believed, and dive into the consciousness of a divine love that embraces all beings. While the future may appear bleak, The Hope provides practical advice to all those who want positive change.
The Editor in Chief of The Economist and its Lexington columnist show how the global rise of religion will dramatically impact our century in God Is Back. Contrary to the popular assumption that modernism would lead to the rejection of faith, American-style evangelism has sparked a global revival. On the street and in the corridors of power the authors shine a bright light on a vast yet until now hidden world of religion.
Twenty-first-century faith is being fueled by a very American emphasis on competition and a customer-driven attitude toward salvation. Revealing how the religion boom is destabilizing politics and the global economy, God Is Back concludes by showing how the same American ideas that created our unique religious style can be applied to channel the rising tide of faith away from volatility and violence.
When Dr. Eben Alexander told the story of his near-death experience and his vivid journey to the other side, many readers wrote to say it resonated with them profoundly. Thanks to them, Dr. Alexander realized that sharing his story allowed people to rediscover what so many in ancient times knew: there is more to life, and the to the universe, than this single earthly life.
Dr. Alexander and his co-author Ptolemy Tompkins were surprised to see how often his readers’ visions of the afterlife synced up with each other and with those of the world’s spiritual leaders, as well as its philosophers and scientists. In The Map of Heaven, he shares the stories people have told him and shows how they are echoed both in the world’s faiths and in its latest scientific insights. It turns out there is much agreement, across time and terrain, about the journey of the soul and its survival beyond death.
In this book, Dr. Alexander makes the case for heaven as a genuine place, showing how we have forgotten, but are now at last remembering, who we really are and what our destiny truly is.
Blaise Pascal was not a gambler, but he posited one of the most famous wagers of all time: Every man’s life is a bet against God. It is a wager that any man can win, however. Sacrifice earthly pleasures—drink, lust, sin, etc.—and a lifetime of happiness awaits, in this world or the next. Live every day as if God exists, and you can’t lose.
Pascal devised his wager in the seventeenth century, but the lessons written by this brilliant man ring true today. In this collection of fragments intended as a defense of Christianity, everything is up for debate. From the nature of love to the relationship between scientific inquiry and religious faith, Pascal shows that skepticism and devotion go hand in hand.
The last pope narrative regained importance with the historical abdication of Pope Benedict XVI in February, 2013. His resignation led to the surprising election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as the first Jesuit pope in history. It’s very unusual to have two popes living in the Vatican at the same time. What’s more, Pope Francis fits the profile of one whom many have prophesied to be the last, and who will oversee the final transformation and destruction of the Catholic Church. This book details the history of various prophecies, some of which were hidden away in the Vatican for hundreds of years, and predicts that the reign of the last pope will herald the beginning of “great apostasy” followed by “great tribulation.”
Pope Francis: The Last Pope? Money, Masons and Occultism in the Decline of the Catholic Church also explores the recent scandals within the Catholic Church and addresses questions including: What pressures decreed the end of the pontificate of Benedict XVI? What powers have an interest for the Church to end? and What is the relationship between the Vatican and the New World Order? Ideal for anyone interested in prophecies about the end of times, Pope Francis: The Last Pope? reveals the truth about the extent of Freemasonry’s influence in the Vatican and the darkness that may follow the parallel institutions, as well as fascinating investigations into the Gay Lobby, presence of Islamic prayers in the Vatican, the Jesuit agenda, the legend of the White Pope and the Black Pope, the Third Secret of Fátima, and how Benedict’s resignation may fulfill an ancient prophecy. The author substantiates his research by including secret, never before seen documents, as well as hard evidence from the heart of Freemasonry and the Holy See.
The Five Warning Signs of Corruption in Religion
2. Blind Obedience
3. Establishing the "Ideal" Time
4. The End Justifies Any Means
5. Declaring Holy War
In The God Delusion, philosopher Richard Dawkins evaluates popular arguments for the existence of God. The idea that God is not an object that can be accessed and reviewed using human reason is rejected. Instead, evidence that proves with at least 51% certainty is presented to prove that God does, in fact, not exist, casting reasonable doubt on the efficacy and usefulness of belief in God.
Genuine curiosity as disciplined by a sound scientific method is far more useful than religions. Religion is all too often based on superstition. An in depth investigation of the intellectual bankruptcies of polytheism and monotheism, the secular beliefs of the Founding Fathers, and the Galton and Stannard prayer experiments underscore this idea. In contrast, the argument for natural selection shows it can account for the whole of human life rather than the idea that there is one divine creator, a statement that in itself leads to more questions, such as the origins of that single creator…
PLEASE NOTE: This is key takeaways and analysis of the book and NOT the original book.
Inside this Instaread of The God Delusion:Overview of the bookImportant PeopleKey TakeawaysAnalysis of Key Takeaways
Before he began his recent travels, it seemed to Phil Zuckerman as if humans all over the globe were “getting religion”—praising deities, performing holy rites, and soberly defending the world from sin. But most residents of Denmark and Sweden, he found, don’t worship any god at all, don’t pray, and don’t give much credence to religious dogma of any kind. Instead of being bastions of sin and corruption, however, as the Christian Right has suggested a godless society would be, these countries are filled with residents who score at the very top of the “happiness index” and enjoy their healthy societies, which boast some of the lowest rates of violent crime in the world (along with some of the lowest levels of corruption), excellent educational systems, strong economies, well-supported arts, free health care, egalitarian social policies, outstanding bike paths, and great beer.
Zuckerman formally interviewed nearly 150 Danes and Swedes of all ages and educational backgrounds over the course of fourteen months. He was particularly interested in the worldviews of people who live their lives without religious orientation. How do they think about and cope with death? Are they worried about an afterlife? What he found is that nearly all of his interviewees live their lives without much fear of the Grim Reaper or worries about the hereafter. This led him to wonder how and why it is that certain societies are non-religious in a world that seems to be marked by increasing religiosity. Drawing on prominent sociological theories and his own extensive research, Zuckerman ventures some interesting answers.
This fascinating approach directly counters the claims of outspoken, conservative American Christians who argue that a society without God would be hell on earth. It is crucial, Zuckerman believes, for Americans to know that “society without God is not only possible, but it can be quite civil and pleasant.”
-- Francis Collins, Director, National Human Genome Research Institute
Many of history's greatest thinkers have wrestled with the ultimate question of belief and nonbelief in God. Though it might seem unlikely that any new arguments could possibly be raised on either side, the twentieth century managed to produce two men who each made brilliant, new, and lasting arguments, one in favor of belief and one opposed. Few spokesmen have ever championed their respective positions better than Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis. Sadly, as far as we know, they never met or debated each other directly.
In The Question of God their arguments are placed side by side, as if they were standing at podiums in a shared room. Both thought carefully about the flaws and alternatives to their positions; each considered the other's views. Both men considered the problem of pain and suffering, the nature of love and sex, and the ultimate meaning of life and death. Here, with their debate made explicit, we can take ringside seats at one of history's most profound encounters.
For more than twenty-five years Armand Nicholi has studied the philosophical writings of both men, and has taught a popular course at Harvard that compares the two worldviews. In The Question of God he presents the fruits of years of labor among the published and unpublished writings of Lewis and Freud, including an extensive exploration of their private letters. He allows them to speak for themselves on every major question of belief and nonbelief, but also skillfully draws conclusions from their own lives. Why did Freud have such difficulty maintaining lifelong friendships? How did Lewis's friendships change after his transition from atheism to belief? Why was Freud unable to willfully ignore his own internal moral sense, even though he believed it to be purely a product of socialization and not in any way eternally "true"?
The Question of God may be the best book about belief and nonbelief ever written, since it does not presuppose which answer is correct. Instead, it uses two of history's most articulate spokesmen to present arguments on both sides. In the end, readers must join Nicholi's hundreds of former students in deciding for themselves which path to follow.
Very simply, a virtue (or vice) is acquired through practice--repeated activity that increases our proficiency at the activity and gradually forms our character. . . . We often need external incentives and sanctions to get us through the initial stages of the process, when our old, entrenched desires still pull us toward the opposite behavior. But with encouragement, discipline, and often a role model or mentor, practice can make things feel more natural and enjoyable as we gradually develop the internal values and desires corresponding to our outward behavior. Virtue often develops, that is, from the outside-in. This is why, when we want to re-form our character from vice to virtue, we often need to practice and persevere in regular spiritual disciplines and formational practices for a lengthy period of time.
At two-thirty in the morning of June 6, 1998, Whitley Streiber was awakened by somebody knocking on his hotel room door. A man came in, and everything he said was life-altering.
This is the unsettling and ultimately enlightening narrative of what happened that night. Strieber was never really sure who this strange and knowing visitor was--a "Master of Wisdom"? A figure from a different realm of consciousness? A preternaturally intelligent being? He called him the Master of the Key. The one thing of which Strieber was certain is that both the man and the encounter were real.
The main concern of the Master of the Key is to save each of us from self-imprisonment. "Mankind is trapped," the stranger tells Strieber. "I want to help you spring the trap." In a sweeping exchange between Strieber and the stranger--which takes the form of a classical student- teacher dialogue in pursuit of inner understanding--the unknown man presents a lesson in human potential, esoteric psychology, and man's fate. He illuminates why man has been caught in a cycle of repeat violence and self-destruction--and the slender, but very real, possibility for release.
In its breadth and intimacy, The Key is on par with contemporary metaphysical traditions, such as A Course in Miracles, or even with the dialogues of modern wisdom teachers, such as D.T. Suzuki and Carl Jung.