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A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural Paperback – January 6, 1970
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Berger explains how worldviews are built up and maintained by conversation and what he calls "plausibility structures." Without such social support structures one's knowledge of the world can be seen as deviant or even pathological. Berger tells us that there is an allegation in modern secular society that conversation about religion has shifted from a dialogue to a monologue. The process of secularization is alleged to have reduced the transcendent dimension of life to the status of an unconfirmed "rumor." Berger traces these rumors to their source and calls our attention to five "signals of transcendence" embedded into the fabric of society that indicate a transcendent dimension: order, hope, play, humor and damnation. These five signals aren't like the mystical symbol systems of the Christian Trinity (God, son, spirit), or of Marxism (thesis, antithesis, synthesis), or psychoanalysis (id, ego, superego), or of democracy (executive, judicial, legislative).
Without a social order life becomes meaningless, homeless, and loveless, even malevolent. The propensity to hope in the face of suffering and death is another example of the transcendent.Read more ›
This is not some "God-is-dead" theological exercise, nor is it liberal, secular theology a la Harvey Cox's "The Secular City." It does provide sociology's point of view on religion from a sociologist who is himself a believer. It takes seriously the threat posed to traditional dogma that sociology so forcefully poses, concedes its weaknesses, and yet doesn't conceded the fallacy and futility of religious belief.
All this leads up to a pluralistic view of religion: fundamentalists and literalists beware.
Surprisingly, the best part of the book is when Berger switches hats and becomes a bit of a philosopher of religion. While he doesn't call them "proofs," he does provide in the second half of the book "signals" that the divine exists.
This is one of my favorite books, and it has withstood the test of multiple reads through the years.
Peter Berger makes some particularly insightful comments on the so-called threat of sociological relativization which threatens the integrity of religious belief. The problem, he says, is that too often the relativizers do not apply their own tools of analysis to themselves. The upshot is that "When everything has been subsumed under the relativiziing categories in question...the question of truth reasserts itself in almost pristine simplicity. Once we know that all human affirmations are subject to scientifically graspable socio-historical processes, which affirmations are true and which are false?" (p.50) Sociology may present a challenge to traditional religious understanding, but this has little to do with whether that understanding is accurate. Sociology is descriptive but not prescriptive: "We may agree, say, that contemporary consciousness is incapable of conceiving of either angels or demons.Read more ›
He wrote in the Preface to this 1969 book, "This book is concerned with the possibility of theological thinking in our present situation. It asks whether such thinking is possible at all today and, if so, in what way. The first question is answered affirmatively, and the answer is, up to a point, supported by an argument that derives from sociology."
He observes, "The supernatural elements of the religious traditions are more or less completely liquidated, and the traditional language is transferred from other-worldly to this-worldly referents." (Pg. 25) He argues that theological thought "is inevitably affected by the kinds of knowledge that bring about the peculiar ecstasies of the time---regardless of whether these ecstasies are true or false ones by some extraneous criteria of validity, and pretty much regardless of whether theological thought seeks our or resists the same ecstacies." (Pg. 36)
He later argues that "world views remain firmly anchored in subjective certainty to the degree that they are supported by consistent and continuous plausibility structures." (Pg.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book was not in good condition as advertised. There is large amounts of underlining and writing in the book which greatly distracts from being bale to follow the author.Published 5 months ago by J. P. Sherblom
A good diagnosis of the present state of theology with some perceptive insights as to the way out.
Theology has either become entrenched in orthodoxy and perpetuated a... Read more
This book has made for excellent pillow talk with the wife. I have told her about the Rumor of Angels, then I take her to heaven.Published on May 29, 2013 by Melodramatic
Didn't realize the extent of the philosophical dive this book would take. Finally got to the meat of the title in the last chapter. Only finished it because I had paid for it.Published on January 4, 2013 by Nina
I really enjoyed Peter Berger's attempt to apologize for the apparent absence of God in the modern, and now post-modern world. Read morePublished on April 7, 2010 by Raymond C. Sigrist