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One of the central facts of human existence is that every society shares a set of beliefs and assumptions a faith an ideology a religion that goes far beyond the life of the individual These beliefs are an essential part of a shared identity They have a uniue power to define and to divide us and are a driving force in the politics of much of t. Like MacGregor s other books this is both immensely readable and a testament to his own wide curiosity knowledge and sense of humanity in its broadest sense I hesitated before reading this having no religious sensibility at all and while its focus did make it slightly less absorbing for me personally than either his A History of the World in 100 Objects or Shakespeare s Restless World this approaches faith and religion not via dogma or creed but via objects rituals and places It is thus less tied to British Museum exhibits than the previous books and overall concerned with how the appurtenances of religious faith function in terms of group identity and community MacGregor acknowledges freely that this sense of identity can be the cause of violent conflict or operate as the basis of a positive sense of a community of humanity Each short chapter focuses on a specific topic such as sacrifice water the sun religious festivals icons and images pilgrimage polytheism atheism and so on and within the chapter MacGregor ranges freely geographically and in terms of thought bringing in expert opinion where necessary It s this diffuse approach which makes this book such a pleasure there is so much to learn so many interesting connections made between disparate cultures and times from Siberia to Plymouth from human sacrifice in the Aztec empire to the creation of Christmas in puritan Massachusetts from sun worship in prehistoric caves to seal worship in Iceland from the iconic moment when Barack Obama started singing Amazing Grace to crosses made from capsized refugee boats on the shores of Sicily The text is lavishly illustrated with colour photos definitely a book that is as pleasurable as a material object as as a text Thanks to PenguinAllen Lane for an ARC via NetGalley

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Living with the Gods On Beliefs and Peoples

He world today Throughout history they have most often been in the widest sense religiousYet this book is not a history of religion nor an argument in favour of faith It is about the stories which give shape to our lives and the different ways in which societies imagine their place in the world Looking across history and around the globe it in. Every known society shares a set of beliefs and assumptions a faith an ideology a religion that goes far beyond the life of the individual and is an essential part of a shared identity Although people around the world hold very different religious and cultural beliefs how they interact with those beliefs seems fairly consistent across distance and time As long as human history has been recorded its surviving material culture has been the product of faith that inescapable human longing to find a pattern to human existence and of course its history and what might come after the ending of individual life No less a philosopher than Rousseau simply stated that no state has even been founded without religion servings as its base Political systems also demand faith nowhere so than with communism and currently many believe that the pragmatic myth of liberal capitalism is dying It is the stimulating mission of this marvellous book which draws no conclusions asking uestions rather than providing answers to draw our attention to all the man made things that attempt to portray visions of the invisible world and how humans interact with their imaginings The objects may be stable and solid from the smallest coins and even American dollars are adduced for their religious phrases to vast temples but human reactions are anything but There are no solutions to the human uest here but myriad embodiments of varied hopes expectations and journeys

Neil MacGregor ✓ 6 characters

Terrogates objects places and human activities to try to understand what shared beliefs can mean in the public life of a community or a nation how they shape the relationship between the individual and the state and how they help give us our sense of who we areFor in deciding how we live with our gods we also decide how to live with each other. This book is truly a stunning journey that spans every corner of the globe with thought provoking exhibitions of religious traditions and objects from 40 000 years ago up to the present day I gave this book 5 stars because of the way it made me feel and because it was profoundly aesthetically pleasing from the way the book felt and smelt in my hands to the choice of pictures and poems spread throughout the pages It may be weird to say but this is the first book I m actually giving a higher rating purely based on it s physical properties because for a book like this it is actually important I m not a religious person but this book made me feel like I assume a religious person feels when they are in the thrall of the moment so to speak When they are for example singing or praying with hundreds of others in their church or mosue and nothing is on their mind but bliss and a feeling of belonging That is what this book made me feel like I finally got it Why people have this profound need to believe in something supernatural and a world beyond our own Humans are supremely aware beings Aware that we and everyone we know will one day die Aware that our hard work might be for nothing as the forces of nature turn against us Aware that disease conflict and disaster could be right around the corner As only one example of many I will refer to one of the chapters that stood out the most to me one describing a religious monument in Ireland called Newgrange It is a roughly 5000 year moundtomb containing a passage with 3 alcoves The striking aspect of it is that the passage is constructed in such a way that when the sun turns at winter solstice a ray of light shines into the passage and for 17 splendid minutes the beam of light continues its journey along the whole passage until the whole chamber is illuminated Building the massive and elaborate religious site must have taken decades in an age where life expectancy was 30 40 years so the construction was undoubtedly a multi generational prospect The blood sweat tears and engineering know how that must have gone in to build this thing is truly astounding considering we are talking about an essentially Neolithic late stone age society here That is the power of hope These people built this tomb in this way to celebrate the light and the return of new life from the cold and dark of winter Somehow this image stuck with me What must they have felt those ancient humans sitting there in the dark every year waiting for the sun to finally rise and illuminate the chamber What a profound religious experience it must have been to see those rays of light penetrating the darkness and giving hope that life can triumph over death


10 thoughts on “Living with the Gods On Beliefs and Peoples

  1. says:

    Like MacGregor’s other books this is both immensely readable and a testament to his own wide curiosity knowledge and sense of humanity in its broadest sense I hesitated before reading this having no religious sensibility at all and while its

  2. says:

    This is a beautifully illustrated book which provides a somewhat objective view of our religious shared beliefs and the stories and objects that support them In his comparisons of the shared objects events and beli

  3. says:

    Neil MacGregor’s Living with the Gods On Beliefs and Peoples explores objects rituals and places in terms of what they reveal about faith and spirituality Beginning with the 40000 year old Lion Man of Ulm MacGreg

  4. says:

    This is another excellent book from Neil MacGregor I have no expertise in this area but as a lay reader I found it a thoughtful erudite and immensely illuminating bookMacGregor takes a similar approach to that in his previous outstanding boo

  5. says:

    The Beginnings of Belief The programme visits the cave in southern Germany where fragments of ivory were discovered in 1939 These fragments were gradually pieced together by archaeologists decades later to re assemble the figure Some smoothing on the torso suggests that the Lion Man was passed from person to person in the cave230 Fire and S

  6. says:

    “Every known society shares a set of beliefs and assumptions — a faith an ideology a religion — that goes far beyond the life of the individual and is an essential part of a shared identity”'Although people around the world hold very different religious and cultural beliefs how they interact with those b

  7. says:

    Book Porn I'm sorry for the crass title it can't be helped I couldn't think of a better means of describing this book I f

  8. says:

    I do think this deserves five stars although in a somewhat weird way; it's a different kind of book than I've ever read before Not rigorous enough to be an academic work but full of scholarly insights on various traditions around the world Not particularly concerned with theology much less faithful to any one r

  9. says:

    This book is truly a stunning journey that spans every corner of the globe with thought provoking exhibitions of religious

  10. says:

    Similar to A History of the World in 100 Objects but this time focusing on religious or indicative of religious events artefacts Especially en