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.
... searing and wise ... [Pagels'] account of [her son's] five years of life are tender and wrenching, sketched with exquisite detail ... Loss proves a powerful prod to a fiercely able scholar. [Pagels] is tenacious, prodigious, exhaustive ... Interestingly, the most powerful moments in this narrative are not her arguments with other exegetes, however. They are a series of remarkable visions and mystical experiences Pagels interweaves with her more intellectual journey and that leave her (and the reader) undone. She is strangely transformed by these brief moments, drawn beyond the labyrinth of grief and into a place of grace.
... the story [Pagels] tells is compelling and persuasive, and her nonsectarian perspective means her faith story will resonate with followers of various religious traditions ... Pagels's book is therefore a personal testimony, but it simultaneously reflects her scholarship as a student of the ancient texts. It is that combination that makes her story distinctive and gives it unusual power.
Brings a unique reservoir of spiritual wisdom to bear on the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to ... [Pagels] has long been one of those rare bilingual academics capable of speaking to lay and scholarly readers ... a wide-ranging work of cultural reflection and a brisk tour of the most exciting religion scholarship over the past 40 years ... As she speaks of profound spiritual and religious matters, I pined for a more poetic and contemplative style ... miraculous and yet entirely believable.