Elaine Pagels on Faith

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“Is faith necessary to receive the wisdom of religion?”

“I don’t think so at all. Faith is a particularly Christian preoccupation. Protestants talk about it more than Catholics do. If you talk to a Buddhist or many Jews, it’s about practice; it’s about what you do. If you take something like the Torah–“You shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall honor your parents”–there are very specific ways of acting, and that’s what really matters. It’s about justice and mercy. Buddhism is about the practice of compassion and generosity; it’s about seeing reality the way it is and attempts to do that through meditation. It’s about how you act, what choices you make.”

Elaine Pagels on Religion

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“When a life-changing event happens to us, we instinctively ask ourselves, “What does this mean?” “Is it good luck?” “Is it God’s will?” “Is it random?” “Is it because I did everything right?” “Is it because I did everything wrong?” That is, we’re not just experiencing–we’re always interpreting. So how we interpret events matters enormously. And religious traditions offer cues for the ways to interpret things. Do you go into fear, anger, isolation? Or is it possible to deal with events in a creative and open kind of way that allows for becoming more alive and aware and creative? Those are the questions that are crucial in these traditions. I’m fascinated by these traditions because as I read them, they’re about what art and music and poetry and drama are about. In fact, most of them consist of art, music, poetry, and stories. People can deal with those questions through any of these modes of experience, or through science.”