Living with the Gods: On Beliefs and Peoples
No society on Earth lacks beliefs about where it has come from, its place in the world, and the connection of individuals to the eternal. Neil MacGregor traces how different societies have understood and articulated their place in the cosmic scheme. He turns his kaleidoscope of objects, monuments and ideas to examining mankind’s beliefs – not from the perspective of institutional religions, but by focusing on the shared narratives that have shaped our societies, and our relationships with each other.
Following the award-winning BBC Radio 4 series, a panoramic exploration of peoples, objects and beliefs from the celebrated author of A History of the World in 100 Objects and Germany
‘Riveting, extraordinary … tells the sweeping story of religious belief in all its inventive variety. The emphasis is not on our differences, but on shared spiritual yearnings’ Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The Times, Books of the Year
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 unique power to define – and to divide – us, and are a driving force in the politics of much of the world today. Throughout history they have most often been, in the widest sense, religious.
Yet 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 interrogates 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 are.
For in deciding how we live with our gods, we also decide how to live with each other.
‘The new blockbuster by the museums maestro Neil MacGregor … The man who chronicles world history through objects is back … examining a new set of objects to explore the theme of faith in society’ Sunday Times