Its awkward to read a memoir when you don't like the subject. It's awkward to read religious propaganda from a religion you don't subscribe to or everIts awkward to read a memoir when you don't like the subject. It's awkward to read religious propaganda from a religion you don't subscribe to or ever intend to subscribe to. And it's really awkward to feel the terrible sadness of a real person's death while gawking at the absurdity of her family and friends' visions of angels and spirits.
I have to admit I started off with the idea that I wasn't going to like Same Kind of Different As Me. I'd read some reviews and they were largely polarized, with religious folks loving it and everyone else complaining about the preachiness. I fully expected to be in the second camp and got to my nit-picking right away.
One of my pet peeves is book (and movie) descriptions that are not accurate. The subtitle is: A Modern-Day Slave, and International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together. No no no. Yes in his early years, Denver was a "modern-day slave" and lived through shit that most of us cannot imagine. However, he left that life 40+ years ago, and I'd not call the 1960s "modern day". While we're on the topic of slavery, isn't the word "bound" kind of in poor taste? And if anyone is going to bring together a wealthy snob and a jaded homeless man, a wealthy person with a passion for serving the homeless seems to be the most likely person to make the introduction (or is it unlikely for any wealthy person to be genuinely philanthropic?).
Once I got beyond the book jacket things didn't get a whole lot better. While, Denver's story was fascinating, Ron came across like a egomaniac, a woman-hating rich guy pushing his religion. Eventually the cancer story kicked into one heart breaking scene after another and I finally started to become involved with the story and my opinion of Ron slowly climbed. In the end, I did find the book to be inspirational from a civic-works kind of context and I was able to dig out a few pearls of wisdom from Denver's messages.
Once I realized I was reading evangelical propaganda, it all made a little more sense. (Make no mistake this isn't a memoir that happens to be religious, it's published by a publisher who deals exclusively in Christian books.) In a way, I read it as kind of a social-studies text-a view into a world I don't normally see. There are people who believe this stuff and talk like this and attempt to disguise their proselytizing as humanitarian work. Ron and Deborah are probably supposed to be roll models. I could see that the things I disliked about Ron are part of that whole culture. In all, Same Kind of Different As Me reinforced some of the negative stereotypes I already had about evangelicals. I wish that wasn't the case as I'd like to be less judgmental.
Denver's fascinating early life, Deborah's good works, her good intentions and her emotional story all lead me to like this book more than I'd expected to. But the self congratulations, religiousness and propaganda subtracted largely from my ability to like this book....more
Since the purpose of this book is teaching how to achieve enlightenment, it doesn't cover things likeThis was my first real introduction to Buddhism.
Since the purpose of this book is teaching how to achieve enlightenment, it doesn't cover things like Buddhist history or explanations of the basic concepts and so I realize I have a lot to learn to understand this religion.
There are essentially 3 steps to enlightenment: Practicing Morality, Concentrated Meditation and Practicing Wisdom. These are the steps to totally enlightenment and becoming a Buddha, as such they go beyond the layperson. My goal is not to become a Buddha (I'm not even a Buddhist!) but to find peace of mind and be a more compassionate person. So, I found much of this to be beyond my willingness to practice.
The Practicing Morality section interested me the most and there are things here that I really took away. While I can respect and strive for nearly every aspect of the Dalai Lama's teaching here, some parts have me thinking more than others. The meditation section of the book was a bit over my head. I'm going to go back to it, or find another resource. The wisdom chapters were where things got totally out of my grasp. He says that it takes lifetimes to fully master morality and meditation enough to fully start to understand wisdom, so I don't feel too bad about not getting it. ...more
I expected this book to be amazing and change my life and finally allow me to fully understand how Buddhism and atheism can play well together. UnfortI expected this book to be amazing and change my life and finally allow me to fully understand how Buddhism and atheism can play well together. Unfortunately, I was expecting too much. It's not the book I was expecting to read. I'd describe it as HHT Dalai Lama's memoir of science and how he resolves it with traditional Buddhist beliefs.
I remember when I first heard of The Universe in a Single Atom. In fact, I'm fairly certain that reading the book jacket in Powells was the spark for my interest in Buddhism over the past year or so. For no good reason, I didn't get around to reading it until last month. And it took me a full two months to finish it. I'm glad I didn't read it right away, I think it would have been too over my head had I not had the basic understanding of Buddhism that I have now. Yet, even so, some of the concepts were over my head!
It's tough text to sit down with.
The chapters on Buddhist psychology were the only that really interested me.
The rest was hard to get through. Example: the concept of Emptiness and quantum mechanics complementing each other: I don't get it. Maybe because I don't truly understand either topic. Or maybe because it's a stretch to compare them. Same goes for karma/evolution. I don't see the parallel and completely and totally fail to understand how reincarnation can jibe with science.
Additionally, I think he was grasping with the descriptions of ancient Tibetan explanations of the world. All cultures have stories and explanations on topics like the origin of the universe/Earth/life and the makeup of stuff (elements). They can't all be true, even if they are the basis of The Dalai Lama's home culture. He seemed to be trying to claim that science is proving the Tibetans to be correct- another stretch. Can we admit confirmation bias here?
In all, I hate to give a bad review, because I admire the Dalai Lama so much. So I'm lets call this a moderate review. Glad to have read it, maybe even will try again if I ever get to a point where I understand the Buddhist philosophy well enough. But definitely wouldn't recommend this as casual or scientific reading....more
I found Galileo's Daughter to be both slow and fascinating. Or rather, it lead me to several fascinating thoughts, mostly more about the time period tI found Galileo's Daughter to be both slow and fascinating. Or rather, it lead me to several fascinating thoughts, mostly more about the time period than the actual book/story, and mostly rage-filled. Everything I have to say is more about the time period described in the book than about the book itself.
The book itself: not a page-turner.
Let me just be strait and say: I'm really glad that it is 2010 and not 1610.
I'm really grateful that I live in the US and not a church-state. And I really really am motivated to continue supporting the separation of church and state in every single aspect of life.
I am thankful for freedom of speech. Thankful that writers and scientists and thinkers are not censored by a church.
I am thankful that it is no longer deemed acceptable (and celebrated even by the writer of this book) to imprison pre-teens in convents where they will be forced to live in abject poverty, endure malnourishment, perform unlimited manual labor, Catholicism, imprisonment and alternating celibacy/sexual abuse by priests for the rest of their lives!
I am shocked by the gall of someone who would imprison his daughters and then ask those daughters to do his damn laundry and manage his household and feel compassionate that he's on house arrest on his estate with plenty to eat and visitors and servants. And that his daughter did those things happily.
I don't understand the concept of doing someone's penance for them.
I don't understand the concept of respecting a church/organization that refuses to acknowledge the obvious just because it disagrees with something someone said once.
I don't understand the concept of being kicked out of believing something. In fact, this idea of religion as something you can be kicked out of is a huge and interesting concept.
I don't understand the concept of taking the Bible as fact.
I am horrified by the plague.
I do not and will not believe that church officials are particularly religious/good/spiritual...
What on earth were they teaching in universities before the understandings of physics that Galileo introduced. They even had complicated degree programs and credit requirements and all that stuff we have now... But they taught engineering without the concept of gravity, and medicine without the concepts of germs and with the nonsense of astrology! Makes you wonder what kind of bogus we're teaching each other these days.
I am amazed that anyone lived to be 70 years old when they were treating major diseases with candied oranges....more
I was really into and interested in a few of the main points. Unfortunately, I was unable to be mindful (or stay awake) while reading and much of it wI was really into and interested in a few of the main points. Unfortunately, I was unable to be mindful (or stay awake) while reading and much of it went right in one eye and out the other. The prose just isn't readable to me....more
I especially was interested in President Carter's discussions about fundamentalism, in religion and in politics. HeI like Jimmy Carter. Even more now.
I especially was interested in President Carter's discussions about fundamentalism, in religion and in politics. He defines fundamentalism in a way I'd not through of it before, but seemed dead on to me. He says that fundamentalism is the idea that we're right, and chosen and everyone else is wrong and therefor un-chosen and therefore disposable. Also that it gives power to leaders instead of to people, which leads to abuses of power. These are exactly the qualities of so many vocal religious groups that make me hostile to religion in general. Sometimes I forget that there are other kinds of religiosity. It's really rare to hear a public figure, especially a Christian public figure, standing up to the idea that some churches and church leaders have taken a selfish and corrupt path. I was preparing myself to really disagree with President Carter for the religious chapters, and I did disagree with him, especially when he talked about missionary work. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed what he had to say. He really shows that it is possible to separate religion and politics without being disloyal to your strongly held beliefs.
I was also so refreshed to hear him talk about religion in politics in a way that promotes peace, environmentalism and kindness, things that the most vocal religious political groups condemn. I want to give this book to all my Christian relatives who seem believe that Jesus wants them to starve the poor and bomb the middle east and all that other evilness.
I "read" this as an audio book, and I have to admit that I probably wouldn't have got through the book format. The second half or so got a big dull, but listening I could just tune out a bit without giving up entirely....more
American Gods didn't have enough (or any really) criticism of organized religion or fanaticism for my taste or to accurately represent Gods in AmericaAmerican Gods didn't have enough (or any really) criticism of organized religion or fanaticism for my taste or to accurately represent Gods in America. If it had, it would have been pushed over the edge into one of the best books of all time. I would have loved to see the gods of the various Christian flavors and how the they fit in with the war between old and new gods. Even with those glaring holes, a fantastic book. Enough layers and symbolism and reoccurring themes to garner 5 stars from me....more
Full disclosure: I'm a Bad Religion Fan Girl. Or something. Fan Girl sounds awfully frivolous, but what else do you call it?
I'm a Bad ReligiFull disclosure: I'm a Bad Religion Fan Girl. Or something. Fan Girl sounds awfully frivolous, but what else do you call it?
I'm a Bad Religion fan. And I have been for something like 17 years. Bad Religion was a huge influence on my life and world view as a teenager. You know those years where everyone is figuring things out for themselves and starting to ask the big questions? Those were the years that I listened to and studied Bad Religion albums. And I sang along. I knew every lyric (still do) and found so much to think about. So Yeah. I pretty much grew up with Greg Graffin's philosophic influence. And, not necessarily as a result, but as it happens, I'm an atheist and a monist and I find evolution in everything. I am not a scientist, but I sometimes wish I was. Pretty much I've been so influence by Greg Graffin and I've listened to and read his lyrics for so long that Anarchy Evolution is just common sense to me. I'd like to say that I think like him, but maybe it's more correct to just say that I understand what he's saying. It's what I would say if I were eloquent (OK, I wouldn't write the personal memoir-type stuff, but the philosophy/atheism/evolution stuff).
In short. I'm going to buy my own copy of this book because I want to read it again with a hi-lighter (they frown on that with library copies) and I want to hi-light the crap out it. And I want to shove my neon yellow copy into the hands of the next person who asks me some dumb question about atheism or what I believe and say read the yellow parts.
Then, there's also the fact that it's a punk rock memoir. Awesome.
I don't believe in self-important folks who preach No Bad Religion song can make yourself complete You'll get no direction from me.
**spoiler alert** The "moral" of The Life of Pi pissed me off so much that it detracted significantly from my overall impression.
I enjoy a good story.**spoiler alert** The "moral" of The Life of Pi pissed me off so much that it detracted significantly from my overall impression.
I enjoy a good story. I am capable of doing so without PRETENDING that I believe that it is true. The very idea that anyone would believe in God simply because it's a better story blows my mind.
First and foremost, that idea presupposes that we can choose to believe something we know to be false. In the first part of the book, Pi becomes devoted to three religions. I'm not familiar with Hinduism, but I know the other two each have a central tenant stating that they are the one true religion. So right for the start we have Pi saying that he believes in three things that by definition cannot all be true. To actually hold three religions is to admit that you don't really believe they are true. I kept wondering, with the same fascination that I, as an atheist, always hold toward religious stories, about how he was going to resolve that conflict. And it turns out that the resolution was completely half-assed and insincere. Believing is fun.
And second it assumes that God is a better story, which shows a complete lack of fascination and/or appreciation for the natural world. Even on the very surface, this one story, that idea proves questionable at best. I did enjoy the story with animals. It was a fascinating story. And given the telling and by comparison, the alternative story did sound awfully plain and possibly too terrible for a person to live with. But certainly it was not uninteresting, and given a better telling, it probably would have been a superior story as human interactions, particularly in extreme circumstances are more relateable than tigers and zebras. I recently read Unbroken and was captivated by the lost-at-sea portion of that book, despite a lack of tigers, which proves that you don't need tigers to tell a lost-at-sea story that people want to read.
There is a statement in the introduction about how this is a story to make atheists into believers, (with the subtle hint that the author doesn't believe that atheists are sincere) which can be totally reversed. What this story demonstrated is that some believers only believe because they prefer a magical story (or can't deal with reality), which is to say that they don't really believe at all. ...more
The Happiness Hypothesis is an excellent discussion book. I read it in an informal, impromptu book club. We met every few weeks and discussed a just 1The Happiness Hypothesis is an excellent discussion book. I read it in an informal, impromptu book club. We met every few weeks and discussed a just 1-2 chapters at a time and had amazing AMAZING discussions.
The most important thing to know about this book is that Haidt uses a completely different definition of "divinity" and "divine" than the rest of the world. After being really into this book, the sudden inclusion of those words upset me and turned me off and made me hate it for a while. My book club had to talk me down and convince me that divine means "super special" instead of "super natural". I reread the last few chapters with that substitution and all was well. Or, mostly well. I still take a lot of issue with those chapters for other reasons, but I was able to take what I needed from those parts as well.
I have a hell of a lot more to say, but I can't even organize that many thoughts into something coherent. ...more