Meaning and Mystery: What It Means To Believe in God / Edition 1

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Philosophers typically assume that the appropriate way to reflect on God's existence is to consider whether God is needed as a hypothesis to explain generally accepted facts. In contrast David Holley proposes that the question of belief should be raised within the practical context of deciding on a life-orienting story, a narrative that enables us to interpret the significance of our experiences and functions as a guide to how to live. Using insights from-sociology and cognitive psychology to illuminate the nature of religious beliefs, Holley shows how removing religious questions from their larger practical context distorts our thinking about them.

Meaning and Mystery makes abundant use of illustrative material, including examples drawn from television shows such as Joan of Arcadia, from films such as Stranger Than Fiction, as well as from literature such as Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Flatland, and Leo Tolstoy's A Confession. Challenging the way philosophy has traditionally approached the question of God's existence, this book will be of interest to anyone who wants to think seriously about belief in God.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"With these minor criticisms in mind, Holley's work should be commended for its unique and provocative approach of defending religious belief in the age of modernity which, at the same time, defends naturalism and atheism. He has revealed to us that one need not be legitimized at the expense of the other." (International Journal For Philosophy of Religion, 8 January 2011)

"Holley makes strong but subtle arguments for a transcendent agent conception of God, and the need for this image for a coherent morality, the value of revelation-bearing traditions, and the priority of practice for discovering belief." (CHOICE, September 2010)"The question of the existence of God has been part of the philosophical debate ...with arguments advanced for and against it. In this heartfelt ... argument for God’s existence, the author studies the subject from every perspective. Echoes of ancient thinkers as well as more contemporary observers of the religious scene are well represented herein. Holley is clearly well versed in the arguments on both sides of the question. And he shows some insight into those who find belief in God to be a thing devoutly to be avoided even while espousing belief as part of his own life. In the end, Holley chooses faith over doubt and offers guidelines for those seeking an experience with the divine. His observations are well worth reading." (Publishers Weekly, January 2010)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781405193450
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 1/19/2010
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David M. Holley is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Southern Mississippi. His previous book, Self-Interest and Beyond (1999), develops an account of the proper use and limits of self-interested thinking. His articles on topics in philosophy of religion, ethics, and moral psychology have appeared in numerous professional journals.

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Table of Contents



Introduction: Does Anyone Actually Believe in God?

1 Life-Orienting Stories.

2 God of the Philosophers.

3 Reasons for Believing in God.

4 Resistance and Receptivity.

5 Belief As a Practical Issue.

6 Anthropomorphism and Mystery.

7 Naturalistic Stories.

8 Theistic and Naturalistic Morality.

9 Meaning and the Limits of Meaning.

10 Conviction, Doubt, and Humility.

Suggestions for Further Reading.


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