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Philosopher Kurtz’s magnum opus. Brilliantly compares ancient religions with modern New Age beliefs, showing the magical thinking that goes into the temptation we all experience to transcend the here and now for otherworldly spirituality.
In this highly acclaimed and controversial book, Paul Kurtz critically analyzes the bases of religion: How provable are the claims of the famous prophets who founded religions in the names: Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, Ellen G. White, and others? Do their claims justify religious belief? Finally, is there any evidence that God exists, or that there is life after death?
In The Transcendental Temptation: A Critique of Religion and the Paranormal, Kurtz attempts to demonstrate that the major monotheistic religions—Christianity, Judaism, and Islam—all rest on myths of revelation. Yet each succeeding generation appears to be impervious to the victories of skepticism over theology in the past or create new and even more irrational religions. Why is this so? Why are the ancient messages of the prophets as well as the notions of extraterrestrial divinities and demons of the occult still persuasive?
Drawing upon extensive research in the parnormal fields—parapsychology, spiritualism, UFOlogy—Kurtz points out the striking similarities between the popular paranormal belief systems of today and the classical religions of the past. He finds similar processes at work: on the one hand, fraudulent conjurers posing as prophets or psychics deceiving a gullible public and, on the other, self-deluded individuals acting out their revelatory fantasies. Kurtz attributes the willingness of large sectors of humanity to accept these claims to the proclivity in human nature for “magical thinking”—which undermines the power of critical judgement and allows many people to accept occult claims (e.g., belief in ghosts, psychics, horoscopes, UFOs), even though there is insufficient evidence in their belief or strong evidence to the contrary.
Given the deep-seated temptation that persists in human culture to accept supernormal phenomena, Kurtz asks, what are the prospects for developing a genuinely humanistic society based upon scientific and humane foundations? The Transcendental Temptation is an original and absorbing work that has stirred heated debate.
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