Excerpts from Touching the Elephant

Design by Mindy Reznik
Illustration by Xiachun Li

Read Chapters 1 and 2

Excerpt from “Introduction”

Many religions have perished from the earth, but others have endured all over the world for thousands of years. If religions were utterly without redemption, purely controlling, evil and violent, oppressive and misery-making, why haven’t they died out completely, especially as democracy and science and reason have spread? What do they offer people? Why has religion persisted in places that have tried to obliterate it, even when the people who practiced it were persecuted for their beliefs?  Further, why haven’t reason and science eradicated the social problems – crime, poverty, war, violence?

Let’s complicate things even more. How is it possible that people who may not believe in God have strong religious beliefs? That they do is more common than many people might at first realize.

I’m starting with a lot of questions because throughout this book I try to answer them. My goal in writing this book is to bridge two realms: the sacred and the secular. I don’t want to convert readers. I am not going to tell readers that they should or must believe in God. I am not going to urge anyone to hurry down to the local church, temple, mosque, or synagogue. Rather, I want to help readers understand an important idea, regardless of whether they believe in God or not. The idea is that the world’s diverse religious texts have certain themes and values in common. These themes and values are stressed for practical reasons that matter to us as individuals and societies. The values can mesh to make a beneficial difference in our lives, families, and communities. People do not need to “get religion” to benefit from them.

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Illustrations by Xiao Chun Li
Graphic Design by Mindy Reznik