The Sacred Quest: An invitation to the Study of Religion / Edition 6

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Examines the main ideas that characterize all religious thought and practice.

The Sacred Quest takes a thematic and comparative approach to the study of religion. It gives equal weight to theoretical issues and practices reflected in the major world religions.

The text identifies the theoretical issues surrounding the study of religion and focuses on fundamental topics such as ritual and sacred language.

Learning Goals

Upon completing this book readers will be able to:

  • Recognize main ideas that characterize all religious thought and practice
  • Identify theoretical issues surrounding the study of religion
  • Recognize fundamental topics of religion: ritual, sacred communication, and morality
Note: MySearchLab does not come automatically packaged with this text. To purchase MySearchLab, please visit: or you can purchase a ValuePack of the text + MySearchlab (at no additional cost): ValuePack ISBN-10: 0205797237 / ValuePack ISBN-13: 9780205797233.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780205191314
  • Publisher: Pearson
  • Publication date: 1/20/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 6
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 121,253
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Lawrence S. Cunningham is the John A. O'Brien Professor of Theology (Emeritus) at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author or editor of over 25 books and is the Christianity editor of the forthcoming Norton Anthology of World Religions.

John Kelsay is the Bristol Distinguished Professor of Religion and Ethics at the Florida State University. He also serves as Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences. Professor Kelsay's research and teaching focus is on moral and political aspects of religion. He has particular interests in Christian and Muslim perspectives on war. Professor Kelsay's most recent book in this area is Arguing the Just War in Islam (Harvard, 2007).

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Table of Contents

Found in this section:

1. Brief Table of Contents

2. Full Table of Contents



Chapter 1 Toward a Definition of Religion

Chapter 2 The Nature of the Sacred

Chapter 3 The Appearance of the Sacred

Chapter 4 The Language(s) of the Sacred

Chapter 5 Ritual

Chapter 6 Sacred Communities

Chapter 7 The Problem of Evil

Chapter 8 Religion and Morality

Chapter 9 The Quest for Salvation





The Breadth and Depth of Religious Experience

A Brief Outline of the Phenomenological Method

Attitudes and Institutions in the Study of Religion

A Final Word


Chapter 1: Toward a Definition of Religion

The Search for a Definition of Religion

Elements of Religion

Religion and Human Thought

Religion and Feeling

Religion and Action

Individual and Social Existence

Values and Religion

Substance or Function?

Toward Resolution

A Proposal

In Conclusion

Thought Experiments

Suggestions for Further Reading


Chapter 2: The Nature of the Sacred

The Complex Character of the Sacred

The Concept of Sacred Reality

Specially Distinctive

To Some Extent, Beyond the Volitional Control of Human Beings

Specially Prominent with Respect to Human Welfare

Properly Determinative of Various Aspects of Human Existence


Thought Experiments

Suggestions for Further Reading


Chapter 3: The Appearance of the Sacred

Types of Sacred Appearance

Varieties of Media

Sacred Persons

Sacred Objects

Sacred Time

Sacred Space

Sacred Appearance and the Complexity of Traditions

Thought Experiments

Suggestions for Further Reading


Chapter 4: The Language(s) of the Sacred



Story as Parable

The Preservation of Sacred Language

Oral Cultures

Scriptural Cultures

A Summary and Synthesis

The Language of Theology

The Visual Language of Religion

Language and Truth

Thought Experiments

Suggestions for Further Reading


Chapter 5: Ritual

Myth(os) and Ritual

The Passover

Holy Communion (The Eucharist)

Rites of Passage

Birth Rituals

Rituals of Initiation

Rituals of Mourning and Death

Temporal Rites and Celebrations

The Religious Meaning(s) of Ritual





Ritual as a Problem

Ritual as a System

Thought Experiments


Chapter 6: Sacred Communities

The Social Character of Religion

Religion and Social Resistance


Tradition and Innovation

The Social Aspects of Worship

A Word of Conclusion

Thought Experiments


Chapter 7: The Problem of Evil

Identifying Evil

Responses to Evil: Some Classic Patterns

Evil and Karma: The Indian Context

The Consolation of Promise

The Appeal to Sovereignty


Are the Answers Adequate?

Is It Logical?

Is It Coherent?

Is It Psychologically Satisfying?

What Are the Moral Consequences?

Thought Experiments

Suggestions for Further Reading


Chapter 8: Religion and Morality

Defining the Issues

Religion, Morality, and Justification

Justification: General Considerations

Practical Justification: Three Cases

Hinduism: The Caste System

Islam: The Justification and Limitation of War

Christianity: Why Pray?

Religion and Morality: Patterns

Thought Experiments

Suggestions for Further Reading


Chapter 9: The Quest for Salvation

Concepts of Salvation

Individual Salvation in This World

The Search for Meaning

The Desire to Be Remembered

The Ideal of Completion

Individual Salvation in Another World

Joining the Spirit World

Cosmic Cycling or Expansion

The Idea of Judgment

Group Salvation in This World

Salvation Through the People

Salvation Through the Tradition

Salvation in the Kingdom of God in This World

Group Salvation in Another World

Now That Distinctions Have Been Made

Paths to Salvation

The Path of Knowledge

The Path of Action

The Path of Aesthetics

The Path of Submission

The Path of Grace

A Closing Reminder

Thought Experiments

Suggestions for Further Reading




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