Religion for the Rest of Us

William James, American philosopher and psychologist, pondered the role that experience plays in the religious lives of both ordinary believers and in the lives of what he called religious geniuses. In his 1902 book, "The Varieties of Religious Experience," James writes that religious geniuses are those people for whom religion comes not "as a dull habit, but as an acute fever." They experience religion in such a way that their beliefs get entangled with fixed ideas and obsessions, and they show signs of "nervous instability" and even "abnormal psychically visitations" that the psychologist might deem "pathological."

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