Does Religion Still Matter When We Need It Most? | Connecticut Public Radio

Does Religion Still Matter When We Need It Most?

Jul 21, 2020

Religious scholar Elaine Pagels trusted the Gospel of Thomas to get her through the almost unbearably painful years after the death of her six-year-old son -- born with a congenital heart defect -- followed one year later by the unexpected death of her husband. 

Thomas was one of many hidden texts discovered in a cave in Egypt in 1945, written around the time of Jesus but omitted from the New Testament. 

Pagels's exploration of the secret gospels revealed early Christianity to be a mix of traditions, stories, music, mysticism, art, and poetry that were lost in later versions perpetuated by individual Christian groups. Pagels wonders how Roman Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, and Quakers -- to name a few -- could all proclaim themselves the one true version of Christianity.

The Gnostic Gospels challenged thousands of years of Christian ideology regarding our views on God, women, sexuality, and death that still dictate the cultural values we follow today. How had we not become aware that thousands of years of censoring Christianity has come to contradict our own experience of what is meaningful in our lives?

So often, religion fails us in our time of need. The Gnostic Gospels gave Elaine Pagels hope. She was grateful for that. 


  • Elaine Pagels - Professor of Religion at Princeton University and the author of several books including The Gnostic Gospels, Beyond Belief, and, most recently, Why Religion? A Personal Story

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Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show, which originally aired February 21, 2019.