The Sacred Quest

The Sacred Quest

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This text provides a thematic and comparative approach to the study of religion. The focus of individual chapters gives equal weight to both theoretical issues and to practices as they are reflected in the major religions of the world. It examines the main ideas that characterize all religious thought and practice, focusing on such fundamental topics as ritual, sacred language, ethics, salvation, and the problem of evil.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 176 pages
  • 152 x 230 x 9mm | 236g
  • Pearson
  • Upper Saddle River, NJ, United States
  • English
  • 5th edition
  • 0136061524
  • 9780136061526
  • 2,260,998

Back cover copy

Cunningham and Kelsay's "The Sacred Quest: An Invitation to the Study ofReligion, Fifth Edition "takes a thematic and comparative approach.This textprovides a clear, concise introduction to the study of religion. It examines the mainideas that characterize all religious thought and practice, focusing on such fundamentaltopics as ritual, sacred language, ethics, salvation, and the problem of evil. New to the Fifth Edition: - Updated and revised content throughout- Enhanced ethical considerations- Expanded glossary- Updated bibliographies
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Table of contents



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


Suggestions for Further Reading.

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


Suggestions for Further Reading.

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



Suggestions for Further Reading

3. The Appearance of the Sacred.

Types of Sacred Appearance

Varieties of Media

Sacred Objects

Sacred Time

Sacred Space

Sacred Appearance and the Complexity of Traditions


Suggestions for Further Reading

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


Suggestions for Further Reading.

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


Suggestions for Further Reading.

6. Sacred Communities.

The Social Character of Religion

Religion and Social Resistance


Tradition and Innovation

The Social Aspects of Worship

A Word of Conclusion


Suggestions for Further Reading.

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?


Suggestions for Further Reading.

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


Suggestions for Further Reading.

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


Suggestions for Further Reading.


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About Lawrence S. Cunningham

Lawrence Cunningham is a Rev. John A. O'Brien Professor of Theology in the Department of Theology at Notre Dame University. Cunningham's research interests are in the history and practice of Catholic spirituality as well as the intersection of theology and culture. The author or editor of twenty books, he writes regularly for journals both learned and pastoral. Twice honored by the university for his teaching, he also received a Presidential Award in 2001 for his service to the church and the academy. He is currently finishing a book on Roman Catholicism for Cambridge University Press and is the Christianity editor for the the forthcoming Norton Anthology of World Religions.

John Kelsay is Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Religion at Florida State University. He is the author of Arguing the Just War in Islam (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2007) and other works dealing with Muslim and Christian teaching about war. A past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, he also serves as co-editor of the Journal of Religious Ethics.
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78 ratings
3.52 out of 5 stars
5 21% (16)
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3 33% (26)
2 12% (9)
1 4% (3)
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