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Extended Audio Sample In the Valley of the Shadow: On the Foundations of Religious Belief, by James L. Kugel Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: James L. Kugel Narrator: George K. Wilson Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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When James L. Kugel, one of the world’s leading biblical scholars, was diagnosed with an aggressive, likely fatal form of cancer, he said, “I was, of course, disturbed and worried. But the main change in my state of mind was that the background music suddenly stopped. Now I was just down to myself, one little person, sitting in the late summer sun, with only a few things left to do.” He recognized that same feeling of smallness expressed in many early religious writings, and in the months that followed, he began a journey of discovery, reexamining the most basic questions about the origins of religion and its universality, which had taken on immediate and vital importance for him.

Weaving reflections on his own struggle—the love of his family became “as tangible as bread”—with the writings of anthropologists, neuroscientists, and poets, he leads listeners from prehistoric religious practices to the religious doubts of modern times via an amazing array of topics: the eerie starkness of medieval cathedral architecture; the “looming Outside” revealed in African witchcraft; biblical encounters with angels; gospel album covers; and—through it all—the peculiar “sense of smallness” that, he argues, characterizes how all humans used to conceive of themselves.

Kugel’s look at the whole phenomenon of religion is rigorously honest, often funny, sometimes skeptical, but ultimately a deeply moving affirmation of faith in God. Believers and doubters alike will be struck by its combination of objective scholarship and poetic insight—a beautifully crafted consideration of life’s greatest mystery.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Kugel has the great critic’s knack for making difficult poetry seem much easier than it is…When he talks openly about his new, chagrined grasp of his all-too-human condition, he adds something raw and beautiful to his exegetical prowess.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Rich with original, exciting ideas…[In the Valley of the Shadow] is about a man’s sense of wonder as he ponders being a self-contained being in a vast universe.”

    Seattle Times

  • “Kugel has used his wide-ranging knowledge to affirm religious faith,doing so richly.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Written with eloquence suitable to a scholar of Biblical poetry, Kugel’s memoir-cum-meditation will appealto thoughtful Jewish and non-Jewish readers alike.”

    Library Journal

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