With the advent of modernity, the questions on which philosophers and religious thinkers had been reflecting for centuries underwent a dramatic and unprecedented change. For over a thousand years, the existence of God and the importance of religion had gone unquestioned in the Western world. Any discussion was confined to the best ways of understanding and putting into practice a religious truth that had already been revealed.
Acclaimed humanities teacher Phillip Cary explores thousands of years of deep reflection and brilliant debate over the nature of God, the human self, and the world. It's a debate that serves as a vivid introduction to the rich and complex history shared by the West's central religious and philosophical traditions.
“Once upon a time…” Those four words bring us comfort, joy, and hope, as they start a plethora of stories that often end with “happily ever after.” We carry these stories in our hearts like dear old friends, turning to them for inspiration, courage, and entertainment—much in the same way as those who originally told them used them to pass the time and share lessons among family and friends. However, the stories we know now are not always the same ones that were told centuries ago, and were not always told for the same reasons.
Famed for great thinkers, poets, artists, and leaders, ancient Greece and Rome were also home to some of the most creative engineers who ever lived. Many of their feats have survived; others have disappeared into the mists of time. But modern research is shedding new light on these renowned wonders—impressive buildings, infrastructure systems, and machines that were profoundly important in their own day and have had a lasting impact on the development of civilization.
When does the Jewish Sabbath begin? Who are Vishnu and Shiva? What are Buddhism's Four Noble Truths? What are the Five Pillars of Islam? These questions are more than an academic exercise. Religious belief has been innate to humans everywhere and in every age, from the time of the Neanderthals to the 21st century. It's also one of the strongest motivators of human behavior and has a profound impact on all aspects of our culture—our spiritual beliefs, our rituals, our politics, and the very foundations of our democracy.