Rating and reviewing this book puts me in a quandary. I didn't enjoy it ... except when I did, despite myself. It's funny and awful, comic and absolutRating and reviewing this book puts me in a quandary. I didn't enjoy it ... except when I did, despite myself. It's funny and awful, comic and absolutely bleak, a sermon on atheism that turns out to be a pretty intense Christian sermon after all (maybe? who knows?). I have to give Flannery O'Connor credit for being able to combine those disparate characteristics in one novel.
But oh, it's just so painful and ugly! I think that's the point, and this definitely isn't the only Southern Gothic novel I've squirmed the entire way through. But for that reason, I can't quite give it the four or five stars it certainly deserves for its importance, legacy, and sheer color. Ability to make your readers squirm is itself a great skill, as little as I enjoy being the subject....more
An interesting and respectful little conversation between Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini (a Catholic and scholar) and Umberto Eco (an agnostic who knowsAn interesting and respectful little conversation between Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini (a Catholic and scholar) and Umberto Eco (an agnostic who knows more about Catholicism than ... well, practically anyone) about faith and ethics. There were some moments in this little volume when I felt the language was more flowery than it needed to be, while the depth was less than it could have been. And of course the debate is very Catholicism-centered, as you would expect given the debators (other religions are not discussed at all). But it's worth reading just for Eco's last chapter, where he discusses the basis for an agnostic ethos.
It turns out that agnostics and believers can discuss ethics and religion respectfully and without blasting each others' point of view. This is a refreshing change from the shrill, spiteful, absolutist polemics of the Atheism vs. Fundamentalism debate. If you have any interest in religion at all (even if your interest is in criticizing it), you should read this book just to learn how to talk about belief (and nonbelief) without making a complete ass of yourself....more
This is a well-written, balanced account of one branch of the Christian right, and I recommend it, despite the fact that it filled my heart with fearThis is a well-written, balanced account of one branch of the Christian right, and I recommend it, despite the fact that it filled my heart with fear and dread, and, no kidding, kept me up at night.
For more details, I commend you, my dear reader, to the many excellent reviews on Goodreads, which describe the book, and the movement, better than I can (translation: I am too lazy to write a long review).
A personal note: I had an "aha" moment when I went back to reading Anthony Trollope after finishing this, and realized that, even in the 19th century, when docile and submissive women were the cultural ideal, authoritarian, domineering, and "patriarchal" husbands were definitely not. Another reminder that "traditional" cultural movements are usually based on a revisionist, imaginary past....more
I found this in searchable form on Google books (it's also in the Gutenberg Project). Normally, I prefer my books in hard copy, but as this is flat-ouI found this in searchable form on Google books (it's also in the Gutenberg Project). Normally, I prefer my books in hard copy, but as this is flat-out impossible to find otherwise, I count myself lucky to have a PDF of it.
Anyway. Isaac Watts rocks. Did you know that, as a child, he drove his parents crazy by answering all of their questions in rhyme? Awesome....more
This book was so gorgeous, so beautiful, that it made me realize I have given other books five stars far too cheaply! No review could do it justice. JThis book was so gorgeous, so beautiful, that it made me realize I have given other books five stars far too cheaply! No review could do it justice. Just make sure to pick this one up sometime....more
Here's the thing: I expected this to be terrible. I read it because this is the book that Christians recommend to skeptical, questioning sorts (alongHere's the thing: I expected this to be terrible. I read it because this is the book that Christians recommend to skeptical, questioning sorts (along with the far more articulate C.S. Lewis), and I was curious about it. But I just knew I would hate it.
I've never been much of a fan of religious "proofs." Some things cannot be proven logically or scientifically. I hate to see someone trying to shoehorn faith into some kind of logical structure, especially one that is full of gaping holes and problems. To me, this trivializes and undermines the essential mystery that makes faith so compelling and beautiful.
For this reason, I was actually surprised to find The Case for Christ to be something of a mixed bag, rather than a total loss, and I was glad I read it.
Each chapter features an interview with a different Christian theologian, purportedly to address a different essential question of Christianity (such as "Did Jesus really rise from the dead?").
The bad part: Lee Strobel's prose offers little subtlety and lots of pat answers (that beg more questions that he has no pat answers for). His flip smugness about the "one true religion" borders on offensive at times. Also, his journalistic style feels very "dumbed down" and annoys me no end. In fact, I would say that at times I took his arguments less seriously than they perhaps deserved simply because his style feels condescending.
The book also seems vaguely dishonest. Strobel claims to be a skeptic, atheist "investigative journalist," but he only interviews Christians. Wouldn't a real investigative journalist interview people of all faiths and lack thereof? Furthermore, he is far more easily satisfied with their answers than any atheist I know would be! The investigation is therefore entirely one-sided and shallow, and the pat, easy conclusions are suspect. At the end, Strobels speaks of his own conversion, and you can't help but feel that the whole "skeptic atheist" thing was a bit of a ploy (actually, it feels like a ploy all along).
The good part: He interviews some genuinely interesting people! People who tackle these problems with far more nuanced reasoning than Strobel can muster. For example, the chapter where he interviews Gregory Boyd blew my mind, and I've since added several of Boyd's books to my to-read list. Several other chapters hinted at treasures to be found in the interviewee's works. So there's some good information here, if you're willing to put up with some irritating writing to get at it.
So while I do not actually recommend this book, I will say that it has turned out to be an interesting starting point for further research for me....more
Okay! I wanted a very radical approach to Christianity, and this is it! Whoa! Very challenging, and very cool, even if it did push my buttons in someOkay! I wanted a very radical approach to Christianity, and this is it! Whoa! Very challenging, and very cool, even if it did push my buttons in some respects (specifically, I really shouldn't make money or pay taxes? ouch! can lawyers even get into heaven? get ready to pass a camel through the eye of a needle!). But in addition to some seriously fringy and radical interpretations of scripture, this book is full of ideas about how to truly be of service. I'll be thinking about this one for a while.
But unfortunately, it's not as well-written as it could have been - very redundant. It was a struggle to read this from beginning to end, and my attention constantly wandered (it's overdue now, so I finally got around to finishing it). This book would have benefited from a much better editing - actually, I just wanted to pull out a pen and start editing it myself. But there are some amazing, challenging ideas here.
I recommend it, but I would suggest skipping around a bit....more
Okay, my favorite part of this book was the afterwards, wherein Ms. Lindbergh acknowledges just how dated the book's appraisal of feminism was (the boOkay, my favorite part of this book was the afterwards, wherein Ms. Lindbergh acknowledges just how dated the book's appraisal of feminism was (the book was written in 1955, so you can't blame her for what she didn't know was right around the corner - still, her somewhat negative appraisal bugged me and I was relieved that she acknowledged its problems). She also hints at how difficult it is to follow her type of super-zen advice in real life.
I hate to say it, because so many women just L.O.V.E. this book, but it just didn't do much for me. There were definitely some lovely moments here, but much of it was cliched platitudes, and sounded pretty stale and New Age-y to me. It's the kind of stuff that sounds pretty wise, but it's hard to figure out what it really means.
To give Ms. Lindbergh, who I have much respect for, the maximum amount of credit, these ideas might be cliches because this book is just that popular. If so, good for her.
Maybe I am at the wrong time in my life for this book - it's quite possible. Being a married but childless lawyer, I don't spend a lot of time worrying about "giving too much of myself." This is more a (perfectly legit) concern of mothers and homemakers.
There may be some personality issues as well. I'm pretty social. I like hanging out with people. I do enjoy my alone time (which I spend reading, hello), but I'm just not desperate for it like more introverted types often are. This book is definitely very supportive of introverts, but that was a little lost on me. I actually like bustle. I don't like silence and quiet (I mean, that's what ipods were invented for!). I'm tired of preachy introverts suggesting that this means I'm not contemplative!
I'm not giving up on this book entirely - I may come back to this - but for now, "Eh."...more
I finished the Gospel of Thomas, and I'm generally baffled. Lots of it sounds very familiar, and echoes the canonical gospels. Other sayings are basicI finished the Gospel of Thomas, and I'm generally baffled. Lots of it sounds very familiar, and echoes the canonical gospels. Other sayings are basically nonsense. I'm not a scholar, but I don't think that this adds anything to the canonical gospels.
So I'm putting this back on my to-read list in case I decide to read any of the other non-canonical texts. ...more
Despite my recent decision to stop engaging in the increasingly vicious atheism vs. religion blood bath, a recent Salon interview with this author cauDespite my recent decision to stop engaging in the increasingly vicious atheism vs. religion blood bath, a recent Salon interview with this author caught my interest. (The letters section? Still scorched earth.)...more
Well, this one only took me 13 months to finish! Ha!
George Eliot is wonderful, of course, and Gwendolen Harleth must be one of my favorite charactersWell, this one only took me 13 months to finish! Ha!
George Eliot is wonderful, of course, and Gwendolen Harleth must be one of my favorite characters in fiction now.
But ... but ...
(GENTLE SPOILER ALERT)
Am I the only one who found Daniel to be a bit too-perfect, a bit priggish, a lot holier-than-thou? And the ending to be tied up a bit too neatly, with Gwendolen so thoroughly punished and brought low? Throw the poor woman some scraps, why don't you?!
Here's the thing: George Eliot is so excellent at drawing flawed human beings, but when she gets moral and preachy, run for cover, because she can be merciless!
And Daniel - I wish he had had just one tiny flaw. I know that it was important that her Jewish protagonist be worthy of respect and adoration, but just one endearing fault would have been nice.
That said, this is a beyond-fascinating look into the state of 19th century English Judaism, and the only novel of that era, written by one of the mainstream greats, that approaches Jews and Judaism with sympathy. The very negative stereotypes of that time are shown, and sometimes the reader winces a bit when Eliot differentiates between the more "common" Jews and the high-falutin' intellectuals. EEEK. But, still, this is an incredibly unusual and interesting book. ...more