The Varieties of Religious Experience
"The Varieties of Religious Experience" by William James is one of the greatest and most readable books ever written on the subject of religion. While James is not making a "case" for belief here, or any case for any particular religious "system", he does study religious experience, trying to get to the bottom of what brings it about and what it means for human beings. Thus, he pays little attention to what we call "organized religion." He spends his time, rather, with the various ways that people have experienced God or the supernatural or the spiritual. James's style is very subtle, ornate, and powerful. Just let yourself soak in it for awhile and then try to learn. His metaphors are stunning enough to be memorable for a lifetime. His discussion of the healthy-minded, the sick soul, and the mystic will enthrall, thrill, and become touchstones in your own religious experience and your own study of religion for the rest of your life. Religion is a living reality for William James. He gives a powerful analysis of what it can, should, and does mean to men and women in the modern world. If you wish to understand modern thought on religion, by the way, you must read James, for much of it springs from his thought. Lastly, James is the kindest thinker who ever put pen to paper. James never chides or derides or condemns. He gently disagrees, looks for the best from every idea and every experience and every person, and lavishes praise on what he finds excellent and meaningful. His thought and writing and philosophical depth and style are an inspiration. Spend some time with one of the greatest thinkers ever. You won't regret it.
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