Synopses & Reviews
A leading scholar explores the importance of physical objects and sensory experience in the practice of religion.
Humans are needy. We need things: objects, keepsakes, knickknacks, bits and pieces, junk and treasure. As Brent Plate argues in A History of Religion in 5½ Objects, exploring the stuff of everyday existence is a window into the way humans have formed religious communities, performed rituals, and connected with the realm of the sacred. Beginning with the desirous, incomplete, human body (symbolically evoked by “½”), Plate tells the stories of five types of ordinary objects, each corresponding to a particular sense, that people have engaged with in sensory, symbolic, and sacred ways: stones, incense, drums, crosses, and bread. These objects have been used in religious ceremonies throughout history and across the world. As Plate looks at each of these objects, drawing on insights from poets as well as philosophers, modern artists as well as anthropologists, jazz as well as literature, he traces the history of the world’s religions and finds remarkable similarities and recurring themes throughout the millennia.
A History of Religion in 5½ Objects moves our understanding of religion away from the current obsessions with God, fundamentalism, and science. Religion, Plate shows, has more to do with our bodies than with our beliefs.
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