Jonathan Edwards & William James on Religion

Jonathan Edwards and William James were preoccupied with religion, and both responded in print, and profoundly, to religious crises in their own cultures: Edwards wrote his Treatise on Religious Affections in response to the hysteria and factionalism spawned by the Great Awakening, and James his Varieties of Religious Experience in reaction to the crisis in faith afflicting his generation. Edwards in Religious Affections provides a model of emotional religion that is neither anti-intellectual nor fanatical, whereas James in Varieties reveals that religion is intellectually respectable and occupies a rightful place in the economy of life. Though disagreeing as to the letter of religion, both agree as to its spirit. Both understand religion to be essentially experiential and emotional, though not excluding the intellect. They alike assign an important role to reason in the religious life. And, significantly, they concur that religion is ultimately validated by the behavior of its adherents.

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