What do people believe about death and the afterlife? How do they negotiate the relationship between science and religion? How do they understand apparently paranormal events? What do they make of sensations of awe, wonder or exceptional moments of sudden enlightenment?
The volunteer mass observers responded to such questions with a freshness, openness and honesty which compels attention. Using this rich material, Mass Observers Making Meaning captures the extraordinarily diverse landscape of belief and disbelief to be found in Britain in the late 20th-century, at a time when Christianity was in steep decline, alternative spiritualities were flourishing and atheism was growing. Divided as they were about the ultimate nature of reality, the mass observers were united in their readiness to puzzle about life's larger questions. Listening empathetically to their accounts, James Hinton – himself a convinced atheist – seeks to bring divergent ways of finding meaning in human life into dialogue with one another, and argues that we can move beyond the cacophony of conflicting beliefs to an understanding of our common need and ability to seek meaning in our lives.