The life of Father Joseph, Cardinal Richelieu's aide, was a monstrous paradox. After spending his days directing operations on the battlefield Father Joseph would pass the night in prayer, or in composing spiritual guidance for the nuns in his care. He was an aspirant to sainthood, a practising mystic, yet his ruthless exercise of power succeeded in prolonging the Thirty Years War, with all its unspeakable horrors. In his masterful biography, Huxley explores how a religious man could lead such a life and how an individual could reconcile the seemingly opposing moral systems of religion and politics.
The soul is so closely connected to life that one cannot think that it could ever be separated from life and, consequently, be mortal. Therefore, it can only be immortal. This argument from Plato's Phaedo for the immortality of the soul exhibits both a great strength and a great weakness. Its strength is that it is difÂ ficult for anyone to think that the soul could ever exist without life. Its weakness is, first, that not all religions accept a soul that remains the same as the center of the person - thus one speaks, for instance, in Buddhism of a "soulless theory of the human being" - and, second, that what is true does not depend on what we can think, but on what we recognize in experience and thought. The religions believe in the existence of a power that can work contrary to our experience that the soul in death is not separated from life. How the reliÂ gions believe they can establish this continued life after death and how faith in this life is related in the religions to the interpretation of history, its progress, its apocalyptic end, and its eschatological completion and transfiguration is the theme of this book. In the culture of the West in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, faith in the secular progress of the technological control of nature and the economic orÂ ganization of society was the enemy of faith in the immortality of the soul.
The cognitive science of religion is a relatively new academic field in the study of the origins and causes of religious belief and behaviour. The focal point of empirical research is the role of basic human cognitive functions in the formation and transmission of religious beliefs. However, many theologians and religious scholars are concerned that this perspective will reduce and replace explanations based in religious traditions, beliefs, and values. This book attempts to bridge the reductionist divide between science and religion through examination and critique of different aspects of the cognitive science of religion and offers a conciliatory approach that investigates the multiple causal factors involved in the emergence of religion.
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