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Beyond Literal Belief: Religion as Metaphor

Beyond Literal Belief: Religion as Metaphor

David Tacey
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Biblical stories were metaphors appropriate for their time. The Virgin Birth, Physical Resurrection, Son of God, Heaven, Satan and Apocalypse - all this meant something once, years ago, and made sense. But these stories no longer make sense.

Even students in religious schools recoil from the 'fairytales' of religion. They seem unbelievable and make a mockery of their intelligence. Such students often say, 'You cannot believe half of it, so why believe any of it?'

But we ought not 'believe' religious language. To do so is to miss its spiritual meaning. To 'believe' suggests that we take it literally, at face value. Such language was not designed as historical reporting, as eye-witness accounts of real events. Biblical language is florid, metaphorical. It should not be read as history and was never intended as literal description.

David Tacey, a professor of literature, reveals the mystery of biblical language in a voice that is accessible, open and public. The Bible is closer to poetry than history. Its images are meant to resonate in the soul and direct us toward transcendent realities. Tacey shows that, with the aid of contemporary thought and depth psychology, we can re-read religious stories as metaphors of the spirit and the interior life. Moving beyond literal thinking could save religion from its greatest enemy, itself.

‘Extraordinarily provocative, at times I found Tacey's 'Beyond Literal Belief' shocking and even offensive. Yet it became clear that the author's intention was not to destroy but to conserve the truth of faith. David Tacey challenges the reader to find a deepened personal and cultural meaning in narratives such as those of the virgin birth and the resurrection, not as historical truths which confound science and reason, but as myths to live by.  In a world riven with fundamentalist extremism born of literalism, this book has the potential to be profoundly consequential. Read it!’
Anne Boyd, AM,
University of Sydney

 ‘This book is a major achievement. In reading the gospels as myth – which, as David Tacey argues, is how they were written, he has demonstrated the difference between faith and belief, and brilliantly repudiated both Christian and atheistic fundamentalism. In an age when the conventional expressions of the religious message appear increasingly absurd, this is exactly what we need.’
Bernie Neville,
Swinburne University

 ‘David Tacey makes a compelling case that the restoration of symbolic awareness would enhance religion and the contribution it could make to our wider culture. The work is an attempt to save religion from itself.’
John Dourley,
Emeritus Professor of Religion,
Carleton University, Ottawa

'In this ground-breaking work David Tacey shows in terms a general audience can follow, and without preconceived theories, how the truth of Christian myth and Gospel shift into metaphor, with its indirectness, and inter-connectedness and meaningfulness; even what might seem to be literal and propositional is basically metaphorical. The effect is to deepen faith consciousness and to call for such a deepening...  A must-read for every Christian and atheist.'
Matthew De Nevo,
Professor of Philosophy,
Catholic Institute of Sydney 

We have broken this clip up into small pieces and highlights! To find it, click on Here! 

About David Tacey
David is Emeritus Professor of Literature at La Trobe University, Melbourne and Research Professor at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, Canberra. He is a public intellectual who has written extensively on spirituality, religion, youth experience and mental health.

He is the author of fourteen books, including Edge of the Sacred and Re-Enchantment. His books have been published internationally and have been translated into Mandarin, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese and French.

The Age made Beyond Literal Belief thie 'Pick fo the Week' in June, 2015! 

Listen to David Tacey talking with Jon Faine

Listen to David Tacey on this podcast from the ABC’s ‘The Spirit of Things’


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