Conversation moderated by author and journalist Rena Pederson
When renowned religion scholar, National Book Award winner, and New York Times bestselling author Elaine Pagels was dealing with unimaginable loss—the death of her young son, followed a year later by the shocking loss of her husband—questions on the persistence and nature of belief and why religion matters took on a new urgency. Why is religion still around in the 21st century? Why do so many still believe? And how do various traditions still shape the way people experience everything from sexuality to politics, whether they are religious or not?
In Why Religion?: A Personal Story, Pagels looks to her own life to help address these questions. She weaves together a personal story with the work that she loves, illuminating how religious traditions have shaped how we understand ourselves; how we relate to one another; and, most importantly, how to get through the most difficult challenges we face.
Drawing upon the perspectives of neurologists, anthropologists, and historians, as well as her own research, Pagels opens unexpected ways of understanding religious aspects of our culture. The Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University, Pagels was awarded the Rockefeller, Guggenheim, and MacArthur Fellowships in three consecutive years. She is the author of The Gnostic Gospels, Beyond Belief, and Revelations.