Saturday, January 26, 2019

Book - Why Religion by Elaine Pagels

Elaine Pagels, a scholor of religion at Princeton University, became famous with her first book, Gnostic Gospels in 1979. Since that book she has written several more on religious texts. Her latest book is quite different from her others in that it is a memoir of her personal faith journey.

Growing up in an agnostic scholarly family, Elaine, as a teenager, went to a Billy Graham crusade and became born again at age 15. A few years later, her friend, Paul, died in a car crash and she lost her faith. This traumatic loss precipitated her search for truth and meaning which continues to this day.

She and her husband struggled with infertility and then conceived a son, Mark, who had many physical disabilities and died at age 6. She and Heinz then adopted two children and a year after that Heinz died suddenly in a hiking accident when he fell off a cliff.

Elaine experienced years of grief and loss and while she returned to the agnostic faith of her family of origin, she found strength and comfort in many religious texts she focused on in her scholarly study. This experience of scholarly study seems to lead her to the conclusion that while belief in a personal deity does not make much sense, religion has played an important function in her life and the texts she has studied has contributed to her resilience in dealing with the tragic losses in her life.

Unitarian Universalists covenant together to affirm and promote the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. There can be, perhaps, no better example of the application of this principle in one's life, than the life of Elaine Pagels.

Unitarian Univeralism thinks of itself as a "living tradition" based on several sources one of which is the words and deeds of prophetic women and men. Elaine Pagels is one such woman.


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