Working on God

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9780679447948: Working on God

Why do I exist? Is this all there is? What is my true nature? What is most important in life? How should I live? These are humanity's oldest spiritual questions. At the year 2000, however, many who ask them are profoundly estranged from religion. To some, religion is belief in the unbelievable--incom-patible with intelligence and learning. To others, it's just another bureaucratic institution--legalistic, hypo-critical, untrustworthy. Still others have been alienated by their birth traditions, while an increasing number lack any such grounding. What unites this diverse group of skeptical, ambivalent "neoagnostics" is a sense of something deep and vital that eludes the reach of their intellect and education and an inchoate desire for meaning.
        
A half-century of the great secular experiment of Einstein, Marx, and Freud has proved that if religion--the record of our struggle to understand existence and behave accordingly--has grave flaws, so do the materialistic "faiths" that were intended to replace it. After looking for answers in some obvious places, from relationships and accomplishment to art and science, Winifred Gallagher realized that she had not seriously considered religion since childhood's version of Chris-tianity collided with a college education. Asking the question "What if religion could be about something else?" she decided to explore her own heritage, as well as Buddhism, Judaism, and the New Age. She discovered a vast, quiet, "millennial" spiritual revolution that is transforming religion into a process of moving toward--and struggling with--the sacred. Transcending denom-inational boundaries, this new sensibility embraces modern realities from physics to psychiatry, addresses existential questions, values personal experience over institutional authority, draws insights from multiple traditions, welcomes women as clergy and teachers, and expands morality beyond the personal to the systemic, from economics to ecology.
        
A reporter of behavioral science, Winifred Gallagher began her investigation of postmodern religion with research and interviews, but watched it also become a very personal story of epektasis--straining toward mystery. Journalism and journey unfold over time spent in a Zen monastery and a cloistered convent, small-group discussions and healing rituals, a Conservative synagogue that shares a Christian church, and the birthplace of the New Age. Written with humor, empathy, and a rigorous curiosity, Working on God breaks new ground in depicting the broad-based spiritual move-ment that is transforming culture as well as religion.

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Review:

Speaking to Americans who are skeptical about religion, but nonetheless feel a spiritual hunger, Winifred Gallagher offers a humorous and profound discussion about the state of national spirituality. Before writing this book, Gallagher made her living reporting on behavioral sciences (The Power of Place). Relying upon her impressive research skills and powers of observation, Gallagher decided to embark on a pilgrimage to resolve her uncertainty regarding the role religion would play in her life. She meditates in a Zen monastery, meets with the head of an African American mosque, journeys to Israel, and enters the protective fold of cloistered nuns. In the process she comes to many provocative conclusions, including the following:

I'm beginning to grasp that religion needn't focus on beliefs, but can at least begin with trust in your own experience of what is, but is mysterious--a different kind of challenge for a neoagnostic.... Most important, I'm already thinking of religion as a process of working on God.
--Gail Hudson

From the Back Cover:

"A fascinating mosaic of contemporary religious thought.... A rich and beautifully written harvest for the reader."--The New York Times Book Review

"An intimate and revealing pilgrimage into America's restless soul. The result is an honest and sometimes poignant appraisal of a religious
revolution afoot in this country--.An outstanding piece of writing that shows the strength and beauty of America's beating religious heart."--The Boston Globe

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