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The Quest for God: Personal Pilgrimage, A [Paperback]

By Paul Johnson (Author)
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Item description for The Quest for God: Personal Pilgrimage, A by Paul Johnson...

A highly acclaimed and bestselling author offers an incisive, intelligent, and probing discussion of the nature of God and the need for religious faith. Who and what is God? What is Hell? Why must we experience death? His answers surprise, provoke, inspire and comfort.

Publishers Description

In this probing, challenging and personal account of his feelings about God and religion, Paul Johnson shares with others the strength and comfort of his own faith. Informed by his great knowledge of history, The Quest for God is written with force, lucidity and eloquence by the author of Intellectuals, Modern Times, A History of the Jews and other works.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Harper Perennial
Pages   224
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.97" Width: 5.37" Height: 0.62"
Weight:   0.35 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 28, 2015
Publisher   Harper Perennial
ISBN  0060928239  
ISBN13  9780060928230  
UPC  099455014007  

Availability  0 units.

More About Paul Johnson

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Paul Johnson is the author of the bestselling books "Napoleon: A Penguin Life "and "Churchill, " among others. He writes a monthly column for "Forbes "and has also written for "The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, "and many other publications. He lives in London.

Paul Johnson was born in 1928.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Apologetics
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > General
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Quest for God: Personal Pilgrimage, A?

One Jewish reader comments   Jul 27, 2005
I do not really have any interest in Catholic doctrine. Many of the subjects Johnson writes about I know little or nothing about.
But what I did find in the book is a deep personal quest of an individual to be in relation with a personal God. I found the story of this quest and of Johnson's faith instructive and illuminating.
I think that anyone who takes the idea of a personal God seriously will be able to learn from this work.
I contrast this work by the way with the much touted work of Karen Armstrong who however much she writes about God reveals only her disbelief.
Johnson is a person of religious faith and this work is one the reading of which will I am certain inspire and deepen the religious faith of others.
Structured religion vs. identity-cause "new religions"  May 14, 2005
Johnson's belief comes down to this: "Conscience exists" and who else could have put it there but God? (p.3/66) "Without God death is horrific." (p.32) With God, death can be seen to have meaning, a purpose, and a hope. Humanists made their case against religion, peaking in the 1880s, offering an alternitive view. Prometheans viewed belief in religion, in theological religion as the "enemy of mankind". (p.19) Johnson states that environmentalism, racial politics, anti-globalization et al. are modern claimants herein; as alternitives to religion, filling the vacumn in the hearts and souls of the members of these movements left by the waning within themselves of formal religion. (p.84) Society doesn't evince the restraints it once did as much anymore, consequently. Johnson laments this, arguing that only structured religion can impose these restraints in human appetities. (p.23) Persistance in prayer is the essence of supplication. (p.185) That's why churches and their spires were so big and tall amidst peoples communities. They were designed to instill awe in those same people as well as being erected to "show the glory of God". (p.75) But toward what end? Judism is about moral behavior too, the author admits, but since Jews reject Jesus he rejects their religion as an equel to his own. He respects others religions, he says, but nevertheless is in favor of converting everyone to Catholicism. People desire structure in their lives, Johnson states, but the Catholic church can only offer such structure if it adheres to strict historical religious doctrine: anti-abortion, maintaining celibacy for priests, etc. Although this, at least in part, has accounted for its decline, paradoxically. How to solve this conundrum, though, is not addressed by the author. In the meantime a fair number of people are embracing, in Johnson's view, seemingly alternitive religions such as those existing under the banner of anti-globalization, militant environmentalism, and other such causes. It used to be that those individuals inclined toward such structure as offered by religious belief embraced fascism or marxism when conventional religions failed them in some way. Now such individuals embrace crusades against globalization and/or in support of militant environmentalist causes. Johnson acknowedges that fewer and fewer people in western countries practice their religion, but takes solace that "the number of those prepared to state their disbelief in God openly and specifically is minute." (p.2) It's as if people have had their thoughts of heaven stilled, in some measure, while retaining some of the fear that hell was seemingly designed to instill in individuals. Hence the attraction of utopian political systems, anti-globalization and militant environmentalist movements. It's not particularly rational to embrace such, but then again neither is religious belief inherently rational. But we have had increasingly more of the former (especially in Europe of late) owing to the perceived failure of ecclesiastical religion to remain as relevent as Mr. Johnson, among others, would desire it to be in our world of today. Thanks for considering my thoughts on this book. God bless.
What the World Needs Now ...  Jun 7, 2003
It is no accident that this unapologetic blow for conservative Catholicism was written by a layman. The same spring that saw HarperCollins release The Quest for God saw Oxford University Press publish academic Steven Pals' Seven Theories of Religion. All but one (Mircea Eliade) of the theorists Pals discusses see religion as dependent on some other phenomenon. That means that they have not so much a theory of religion, as a theory of x, whereby x is NOT religion. Religion then becomes so much "garbage," as when computer scientists speak of "GIGO: garbage in, garbage out." Religion, politics, accounting, sports: Same difference.

Not so, says Paul Johnson, who goes to great lengths to make clear that only God is God. In a time when militant secularists insist on seeing God as a front for politics, Johnson says, "No! There is no substitute for the real thing." According to Johnson, it is the secularists who are deluding themselves with God-substitutes, which he sees as the cause of the twentieth century's genocidal history.

Although Johnson begins a bit pompously, and even weirdly, with some bad science, after the first two chapters this book becomes quite charming, exhibiting a droll sense of humor and, at times, a refreshing modesty. However, to appreciate Johnson's modesty, one must be able to countenance the notion that a belief in moral absolutes can accommodate tolerance towards those with whom one disagrees on doctrine. Thus, if you believe that all values (or principles or virtues) are relative; have an absolute contempt for anyone who disagrees with you; and third, believe in showing "no tolerance for the intolerant!," then this book is probably not for you. If, on the other hand, you are at all curious about Catholicism; you feel that unlimited access to abortion on demand for young girls, and detailed, public school instruction in safe "fisting" by the Gay Men's Health Crisis are not quite the answers to what ails us; or if you have deep spiritual yearnings, then you could do worse than devote a day or so to The Quest for God.

While barely 200 pages long, and written by a popular historian used to having closer to one thousand oversized pages to get the job done, Quest... is an incredibly meaty -- but not overstuffing -- meal. In summing up his own life and work, Johnson recalls his childhood, the famous and not-so-famous whose paths he has crossed, and tells quite a bit of church and secular history. The personal anecdotes and capsule histories, often coming from his historical studies, all bear on Johnson's quest(ion): How does one live, and die, in the proper Christian manner?

There is much of philosophical substance here, yet Johnson is at once both more personal and more philosophical than most academic texts I see on philosophy of religion. The successors to the social gospel, whether feminists, Afrocentrists, or even gay activists, see in religion no more than a worldly, political tool. Some sharp, less politicized minds, on the other hand, offer merely arid analysis; both sides seem to have lost sight of the prize. Johnson hasn't. And so, his philosophical considerations are guided always by the same, simple consideration: How best may I serve God, and thereby, hope to attain Heaven?

If you're a Christian, that's what it's all about. Of course, it may well be harder for a Catholic to keep matters in perspective, as a 2000-year-old tradition of bad theology has rejoiced in complicating matters. With great good humor, Johnson seeks to explain some of these complications as briefly as possible without needlessly confusing or alienating the reader.

"Catholicism - the Holy Roman Catholic Church - Rome - the Scarlet Woman - the Whore of Babylon -- has no terrors for me because I am as used to it as a much-loved old teddy bear or a favorite armchair or a smelly old favorite dog.... I have, as it were, been married to the church all my life and am used to her ways, be they slatternly or tiresome, noble, loving, admirable, foolish or insupportable.... I have a fondness for old institutions which have high pretensions but are also timeworn and manipulable, theoretically rigid but in practice accommodating, which demand everything but will settle in practice for less, often much less."

In sixteen brief chapters, Johnson tussles with contemporary conflicts and perennial problems: The challenges of atheism, feminism, environmentalism and gay activism; the nature of God; the problem of evil; the consequences of there possibly being other rational beings in the cosmos; the roles of dogma and authority, respectively, in the Church; the relationship of Christians to Jews; death; Judgment Day; Hell; Heaven; and the role of prayer. Finally, he has appended some prayers he has composed for the reader's possible inspiration and use.

Johnson notes, early on, that "the most extraordinary thing about the twentieth century was the failure of God to die." He believes that, rather than costing men their faith, the atrocities of the twentieth century actually turned them towards God.

The biggest problem I have with The Quest for God is with Johnson's insistence in the one moment that God is inconceivable in terms of petty, human emotions, and his description in the next of God as "angry" or "impatient." If even Paul Johnson confounds the human with the godly, no wonder the rest of us are so confused!

Informative but confusing mix of seemingly incongruous views  Oct 7, 2002
was great in the first fifty pages. Johnson
shows clear-headed thinking and tears apart many of the destructive
forces in our world, Feminism being one of the many. Like Chesterton
before him, Johnson (up to this point in the book at least)
does not let trendy thinking and popular
ideology cloud his judgement. All seemed well and good until about
a quarter of the way through, where he
turns about face and calls himself a Feminist;
promulgates ordaining of female priests; and denounces meat eating,
since we have so many wonderful substitutes for meat given
the advances in food science, etc. (I can't for the life of
me imagine what kind of food he is referring to but it
doesn't sound as delicious as a good pork chop or
even a hamburger). Nevertheless Johnson is a brilliant scholar,
and his knowledge of Western civilization is profound and
almost always helps us to enrich our knowledge.
As for the commendable parts of
his book I would cite two: 1. as a means of comprehending
the experiences of a British Catholic; and 2. his illumination, a la C.S. Lewis, of some
of the deeper meanings of Christian life.
On the other hand it is a big mistake to consider him
a conservative Catholic. For while
his thinking is soundly orthodox (small 'o') Christian on some issues,
it is brazenly contra-Magisterium on others.
Good if taken on it's own terms  Jul 20, 2002
Perhaps the negative reviewers neglected to read Johnson's prefatory remarks: he doesn't claim to be a theologian nor is he out to convert others to his singular Christianity. He merely explains his beliefs. And he does so with his usual verve.
Imagine praying to Sammuel Johnson or Jane Austen for intercession!(Perhaps he will convince you.) Read the book to understand the author not the Catholic faith. Oh, and big surprise, Johnson doesn't approve of homosexuality. But give him a chance to explain his views. He's not the beast some of the more touchy reviewers make him out to be.

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