Religion is not a theory about reality; it is a reality. And yet we must not forget that it is a reality, which includes a theory.
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In The Religious Experience philosopher James Bissett Pratt attempts to describe religious consciousness as an unprejudiced observer who has no thesis to prove. He demonstrates the universality of religious experience, however varied the verbal descriptions employed by persons who have had it. Topics covered in the book include the Religion of Childhood, the Belief in Immortality, the Cult and its Causes, and the Place and Value of Mysticism.
JAMES BISSETT PRATT (1875 -1944) was strongly influenced by his deeply religious mother who awakened him to the phenomenon of religion and one's personal relationship with God.
Pratt obtained his doctorate from Harvard University under the aegis of William James, who influenced his philosophical development, and became a mentor and good friend. Shortly afterwards he was hired by William College, where he became a professor of philosophy. Although raised an American Protestant, he did his best to experience Roman Catholicism in Europe, and Hinduism and Buddhism in India, Burma, and Sri Lanka.
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CHAPTER XI THE BELIEF IN IMMOETALITY The individual's attitude toward the Determiner of Destiny, which is religion, has always an essentially practical coloring. It involves a belief, to be sure, but this belief is never a matter of pure theory, but bears a reference, more or less explicit, to the fate of the individual's values. Hence in nearly every religion which history has studied or anthropology discovered, the question of the future in store for the individual believer has been of prime importance.1 Fortunately we are not called upon in this place to consider the various ideas of a future state which the various religions have devised; such a subject would require a chapter, if not a volume, by itself. Nor is much to be gained by an investigation of the ideas of the future life as held by men and women round about us. I have nearly a hundred responses to questions about the soul, heaven and hell, etc., but on reading them over find little in them that is either instructive or interesting, beyond the fact that the old ideas of golden streets and of fire ' and brimstone seem to have been pretty generally given up. Heaven is spoken of as a " state " rather than as a place, and is characterized by moral progress and opportunity for service quite as much as by joy and rest. Only a small proportion of my respondents believe in anything like the old-fashioned hell.2 11 mean by this that the question here referred to is of prime importance among the bcliefa of every such religion. A few societies have been reported in which cult seems to be very much more important than any belief. 2 For some years I have amused myself by collecting, from my friends and students, descriptions of the" soul." I cannot call the answers very instructive but the experiment has often prov...