books of the day … RELIGION

  • This issue of Lapham’s Quarterly doesn’t trade in divine revelation, engage in theological dispute, or doubt the existence of God,” the editor says in introducing the Winter 2010 issue. “What is of interest are the ways in which religious belief gives birth to historical event,  makes law and prayer and politics, accounts for the death of an army or the life of a saint.” It is difficult to imagine a more enticing invitation to the subject of religion, and the writings of nearly 100 thinkers, deep and accessible, Laphams’s “Voices in Time,” grouped in categories of faith—declarations, acts, crises. LAPHAM’S QUARTERLY COMES TO BOOKCOURT TONIGHT TO CELEBRATE THE NEW ISSUE.

36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Goldstein: Book Cover$27.95 hardcover

  • Lapham’s will more than whet the appetite for the more detailed examinations of  God and faith that are current today, including a new novel called 36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein that is a a brilliant, amusing and compelling examination of the clash between faith and reason. After Cass Seltzer’s book becomes a surprise best seller, he’s dubbed “the atheist with a soul” and becomes a celebrity. He wins over the stunning Lucinda Mandelbaum, “the goddess of game theory,” and loses himself in a spiritually expansive infatuation. A former girlfriend appears: an anthropologist who invites him to join in her quest for immortality through biochemistry. And he is haunted by reminders of the two people who ignited his passion to understand religion: his mentor and professor—a renowned literary scholar with a suspicious obsession with messianism—and an angelic six-year-old mathematical genius who is heir to the leadership of a Hasidic sect. Each encounter reinforces Cass’s theory that the religious impulse spills over into life at large.

The Case for God by Karen Armstrong: Book Cover$27.95 hardcover

  • Moving from the Paleolithic age to the present, Karen Armstrong details the great lengths to which humankind has gone in order to experience a sacred reality that it called by many names, such as God, Brahman, Nirvana, Allah, or Dao. Focusing especially on Christianity but including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Chinese spiritualities, Armstrong examines in The Case for God the diminished impulse toward religion in our own time, when a significant number of people either want nothing to do with God or question the efficacy of faith. Why has God become unbelievable? Why is it that atheists and theists alike now think and speak about God in a way that veers so profoundly from the thinking of our ancestors? Karen Armstrong is the author of numerous other books on religious affairs—including A History of God, Islam and Buddha.

The Evolution of God by Robert Wright: Book Cover$12.95 paperback

  • In a sweeping narrative that takes us from the Stone Age to the Information Age, Robert Wright unveils an astonishing discovery: there is a hidden pattern that the great monotheistic faiths have followed as they have evolved. Through the prisms of archaeology, theology, and evolutionary psychology, Wright’s findings articulated in The Evolution of God overturn basic assumptions about Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and are sure to cause controversy. He explains why spirituality has a role today, and why science, contrary to conventional wisdom, affirms the validity of the religious quest. And this previously unrecognized evolutionary logic points not toward continued religious extremism, but future harmony. Robert has taught in the philosophy department of Princeton University and the psychology department at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Faith Instinct by Nicholas Wade: Book Cover$25.95 hardcover

  • Noted science writer Nicholas Wade offers in The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures a convincing case based on a broad range of scientific evidence for the evolutionary basis of religion. For at least the last fifty thousand years, and probably much longer, people have practiced religion. Yet little attention has been given, either by believers or atheists, to the question of whether this universal human behavior might have an evolutionary basis. Did religion evolve, in other words, beacause it helped people in early societies survive? In this original and controversial book, Wade gathers new evidence showing why religion became so essential in the course of human evolution, and how an instinct for faith has been hardwired into human nature.

The Reason for God by Timothy Keller: Book Cover$16.00 paperback

  • Timothy Keller, the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, addresses in The Reason for God the frequent doubts that skeptics and non-believers bring to religion. Using literature, philosophy, anthropology, pop culture, and intellectual reasoning, Keller explains how the belief in a Christian God is, in fact, a sound and rational one. To true believers he offers a solid platform on which to stand against the backlash toward religion spawned by the Age of Skepticism. And to skeptics, atheists, and agnostics he provides a challenging argument for pursuing the reason for God.

A Literary Bible by David Rosenberg: Book Cover$35.00 hardcover

  • A Jewish sage once said of the original Bible, “Turn it and turn it, for everything is in it.”David Rosenberg has done just this and thus created A Literary Bible, a breathtaking translation that sets a new standard for reading and interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures. Until the present moment, translators have presented a homogeneous Bible in uniform style—even as the various books within it were written by different authors, in diverse genres and periods, stretching over many centuries. Now, Rosenberg’s artful translation restores what has been left aside: the essence of imaginative creation in the Bible. In A Literary Bible, Rosenberg presents for the first time a synthesis of the literary aspect of the Hebrew Bible— howing how, when, and by whom the various books of the Bible were written, and allowing the reader to experience each book in discrete and contemporary idiom, as if it were written in modern times.

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