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Religion Revealed

Christianity and Modernity

John R. Elford

This book is written for a generation curious about religion, largely ignorant of what it actually is and confused by signals about it in the modern world. The argument is, therefore, self-explanatory throughout. The first half explains the historic and worldwide phenomenon of religion in its major manifestations. It also discusses problems with religion. The second part focusses on Christianity, showing how it can be professed with intellectual integrity and to personal and social benefit. Whilst the author is critical of some forms of contemporary Christianity, he draws throughout on the Bible and Christian tradition in its reconstruction. Care is given in defining modernity and explaining how Christianity engages with some of life’s central concerns and responsibilities. In this the book shows how the Christian understanding of how to live responsibly and to the full remains as vibrant and relevant as it has ever been.


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Chapter One Religion in the Modern World In the comparatively recent past, many people assumed that religion in general had entered a period of terminal decline. The alleged reasons given for this were various. Some, for example, claimed that the long process of cultural secularisation, in which life is understood only from a human point of view, was in the final stages of its displacement of religion. Others pointed to the growth of materialism (whatever was meant by that). Yet others, pointed to the seemingly inexorable overall decline in Church attendance. And so on. Some, or all, of this might yet prove to be true, but at the moment, at least, it is far from self-evidently so. Indeed, ‘religion’ in general is very much back in the news. One central reason for this is the ever ongoing conf lict in the Middle East. There one group of people, who are of identical genetic stock, who occupy two countries and who profess three religions are seemingly incapable of resolving their disagreements. Whilst many, the majority, of those who profess these three religions do so amicably with the other two, there are significant numbers who do not do this. They exacerbate their dif ferences and, invariably, cite them to thwart international peace initiatives thereby hindering peaceful co-existence. As a result, repeated attempts by the United States to get Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders are rebuf fed. Neither Israel nor Palestine have for- mally recognised each other’s legitimacy as states and...

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