Sacred Darkness: Encountering Divine Love in Life’s Darkest Places by Paul Coutinho

Before there was light, God was. In fact, darkness is the medium God worked in to create the world, the universe, and all material things. Certainly, God lives in the warmth of sunlight and within our happiest days–but God also dwells in darkness.

In Sacred Darkness, Paul Coutinho, SJ, examines how many Christians are fearful of dark times and struggles, yet it is often darkness that sheds light on our world and helps us live more effectively and more fully in the painful situations of our lives. Throughout the book, Coutinho shares powerful stories of how darkness can empower us–from a self-destructive alcoholic, to St. Ignatius, to the author himself.

Ultimately, Sacred Darkness encourages us to overcome our “fear” or the dark by exploring the legitimate role of darkness on the spiritual journey. By learning to embrace darkness rather than run from it, we can experience God’s love in ways and in places where we would least expect it.

Paul Coutinho, SJ—Eastern Influences

Fr. Paul Coutinho talks about how his Eastern upbringing influenced his Catholicism.

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Our Religious Brains What Cognitive Science Reveals about Belief, Morality, Community and Our Relationship with God By Rabbi Ralph D. Mecklenburger

A Revolution in Human Self-Understanding Is Underway—
What Does It Mean for Religion and Our Belief in God?

“The brain and consciousness are themselves awe-inspiring. So learning about them no more undermines religion than learning about how symphonies and paintings are crafted takes away from our appreciation of music and art. Science alone does not provide the ultimate answers or firmly rooted values for which we yearn. But religion alone does not have all the answers either. We are blessed, as moderns, with both.” —from the Introduction

In the last several decades, scientific research on the way the brain functions has revolutionized more than clinical psychology and medicine. Our brains do not simply process information. They create what each of us knows as reality and how we construe its meaning. This has dramatic implications not only for psychology, but for virtually every field, including religion.

This groundbreaking, accessible book examines the implications of cognitive study for theology. It reviews current theory on how our brains construct our world in order to guide us safely through life, creating and appreciating meaning as we go. It explores what religious experience is as it plays out in our brains and how modern science challenges historic ideas about free will and morality, and undermines the religious concept of the soul as a metaphysical entity separable from the body. Finally, it examines what cognitive science reveals about community, which we not only like but need, and asks why we should be loyal to one faith if, in fact, all major religious traditions deal effectively with universal human needs.

Avoiding neurological jargon and respectful to all faiths, Our Religious Brains ranges over biblical foundations, medieval philosophers and mystics, modern theologians and psychologists, and scholars who study how worship works. The chapter titles provide a good idea of where Rabbi Mecklenburger will take the reader, who may not agree with every conclusion, bit will find himself or herself fascinated and enlightened both about a revolution in modern science and the continuing importance of religion:

>Our Believing Brains: On Not Being Overwhelmed
>Taking God Personally
>Mystical and Spiritual, Neurological and Theological
>The Soul Which Thou Hast Given Unto Me?
>Free Will and Free Won’t: Programming Your Brain
>Morality: The Hop of Faith
>Life Is with People: Organized Religion
>Why My Religion? What of Yours?

Ralph D. Mecklenburger speaks nationally on topics related to science and religion, Judaism and Jewish-Christian dialogue. He is rabbi at Beth-El Congregation in Fort Worth, Texas, an adjunct faculty member at Brite Divinity School, and has served as the Jewish co-chair of the Texas Conference of Churches’ Jewish-Christian Forum.

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