The Importance of ReligionMeaning and Action in our Strange World
The Importance of Religion reveals the significance of religion in modern times, showing how it provides people with meaning to their lives and helps guide them in their everyday moral choices Provides readers with a new understanding of religion, demonstrating how in its actions, texts and world views religion is enduring and vividly engages with the mystery of the world Offers striking arguments about the relationship of religion to science, art and politics Engagingly written by a highly respected scholar of religion with an international reputation
Preface xi Acknowledgments xv Introduction: Religion and the Human Condition 1 Mediating Our Strange World 6 Theories of Religion 8 Religion and Religions 12 Defining Religion 14 The Argument 17 Alienation and the Human Condition 17 The Primacy of Perception and the System of Signs 23 The Invisible and the Transcendent 24 The Truths of Religion 26 Conclusion 27 Part One ACTION 1 Clearing the Ground 37 Reification: The Marxist Legacy 40 Rationalization: The Weberian Legacy 44 Knowledge and Action 46 Methodology 49 Conclusion 50 2 The Meaning of Religious Action 53 The Sociology of Religious Meaning 55 Meaning and Action 58 Moral Acts 60 Ritual and the Body 63 A Rite of Affliction 66 The Meaning of Sacrifice 69 A Phenomenology of Sacrifice 71 The Meanings of Death 73 Conclusion 74 3 The Inner Journey 80 Languages of Spirituality 83 The Spiritual Habitus 91 Conclusion 95 Part Two SPEECH 4 The Reception of the Text 101 Routes to the World of Life 102 Theories of the Text 106 The Reception of Sacred Texts 109 Sacred Text and Act 111 Conclusion 113 5 Tradition, Language, and the Self 115 Linguistic Universals 117 Linguistic Relativity 118 Language and Religious Experience 122 Language as a Model of Religion 125 Conclusion 127 6 Religion and Rationality 130 What is Rationality? 131 Rational Religious Communities 139 Rationality and Cosmology 141 Conclusion 146 Part Three WORLD 7 The Mystery of Complexity and Emergence 153 A History of Antagonism 155 Complexity and Constraint 159 The Ontology of Process 164 Conclusion 166 8 The Union of Nature and Imagination 171 Art and the Real 172 Cosmological Art 175 Pavel Florensky 177 Abhinavagupta 178 Secular Art 180 Re-Spiritualizing Art 182 Conclusion 185 9 Religion and Politics 189 Religion in the Public Sphere 190 The Secular Public Sphere 195 The Traditionalist View 197 Fundamentalism 200 The Religious Citizen 201 Conclusion 205 Summary 210 Epilogue 217 References 221 Index 237
“Finally, it should be pointed out that the book is well presented, with a wealth of interesting primary sources and secondary literature discussed. . . At any rate, the book should contribute to the ongoing debate between religionists and reductionists within our field.” (Numen, 1 May 2015) “Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty.” (Choice, 1 January 2013)
Gavin Flood is Professor of Hindu Studies and Comparative Religion at the University of Oxford where he is also the Academic Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. He is the author of Introduction to Hinduism (1996) and The Ascetic Self: Subjectivity, Memory, Tradition (2006); and editor of the Blackwell Companion to Hinduism (Wiley-Blackwell, 2003).
In spite of the noble efforts of scientific reason to reveal everything to us, in many ways the world remains a mysterious place. For so many people, religion continues to represent a decisive guide to navigating through the strange world we all inhabit - yet never in history has religion been more misunderstood. The Importance of Religion illuminates the central importance of religion in modern times, revealing how it crucially provides people with meaning to their lives and guides them in their everyday moral choices. Renowned religion scholar Gavin Flood argues that modern religions do not just represent passive notions about the nature of reality, but are active and inspirational - they show us ways of living, dying, choosing a good life, and inhabiting the strange and mysterious world of the twenty-first century. In a wide-ranging, engaging, and brilliant book, Flood discusses the nature and meaning of religion and spirituality, as well as religion's relationship with politics, science, evolutionary biology, human rights, culture, humanism, and more. The Importance of Religion offers rich insights into the myriad ways religion provides meaning to the lives of people and communities in the modern world.
"The book has a creativity, comprehensivness, and energy not often found in contemporary Religious Studies. It has the hallmarks of a milestone statement in theorizing about the phenomenology of religion." —William E. Paden, The University of Vermont "In this erudite work, Gavin Flood develops a powerful new understanding of religion as springing from the nature of the human condition itself. It will challenge and provoke, and will surely renew the field." —Oliver Davies, King's College London "Flood presents a thesis about 'religion' that is provocative, irenic, learned and wide ranging. His interdisciplinary intervention is an elegant challenge to those who think religion is dead or dying. It is a sensitive exploration of religion as the textual and ritual generator of meaning." —Gavin D'Costa, University of Bristol
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