OK - when I clicked "want to read," that wasn't exactly true. I don't want to read this, just like I don't want to visit Ham's Creation Museum. But fa...moreOK - when I clicked "want to read," that wasn't exactly true. I don't want to read this, just like I don't want to visit Ham's Creation Museum. But family being family and me being me, I will probably read this thing cover to cover. (Ugh. Anticipating that with more dread than that with which I faced my last MRI.) I received it yesterday as a birthday gift from my mother, along with what was almost an apology as she explained that she and Dad are reading it in Bible study at their (increasingly fundamentalist) Lutheran church. (Not sure why you'd read this for Bible study, but that's another issue...) I read the first chapter last night and was appalled at just how far some people will go to cling to a worldview that is simply no longer relevant, and yet he also has a point, which seems to be that Christians who accept some aspects of modernity are hard-pressed to explain why they kept what they kept while discarding what they discarded. Not sure Ham would agree with my conclusion, which is that you might just want to chuck the whole "Christianity" enterprise... (less)
I developed a love-hate relationship with this author when I worked at San Francisco's A Clean, Well-Lighted Place for Books. I loved her because she...moreI developed a love-hate relationship with this author when I worked at San Francisco's A Clean, Well-Lighted Place for Books. I loved her because she had the audacity to create unwieldy books that would not fit on any standard-sized bookshelf, and I hated her for the very same reason.
Turns out that not only are these books nearly impossible to shelve, but their design "innovations" also make them challenging to read, particularly in the case of the current book, which is around the same size as a dorm room poster. So the outrageous design is strike one against this book. (Admittedly, the big doors comprising the front cover provide an interesting, and somewhat literal, entrée into the world of religious architecture, but the user-unfriendliness of the design overwhelmed its cleverness.)
It also seems that more effort was spent on designing the book than obtaining photographs and writing text, because the book, while enormous, didn't contain nearly enough imagery, and the text was less than inspiring. (The main review describes the writing as "lively"? Compared to what, I wonder? The book of Leviticus?) Two more strikes against the book.
The selection of churches (all Christian, by the way, if your definition of "Christian" is broad enough to include Mormons, Unitarians, and Christian Scientists; religious architectural awesomeness like the Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette, IL, was omitted) seemed pretty arbitrary, as did the order in which they were presented. You have masterpieces like Hagia Sophia, Chartres Cathedral, and even Unity Temple alongside forgettable monstrosities like Church on the Water. I would love to know how Dupré selected the churches she included.
Finally, the introductory interview with a contemporary church architect was so tedious and filled with art-babble (e.g., praising hideous architecture and elevating it to Chartres status) that I almost quit reading this book before I made it past the preamble. Maybe I should have taken the hint.(less)
I didn't know what to expect when I checked this out from the library, but I was pleasantly surprised, at least until the very end. Murphy takes The T...moreI didn't know what to expect when I checked this out from the library, but I was pleasantly surprised, at least until the very end. Murphy takes The Truman Show as his model, but ups the ante by making the star of his reality show a clone of none other than Jesus Christ himself. Throw in a Herod-like media mogul who has no problem killing newborns and manipulating adults to achieve his banally evil ends, a conflicted 6'7" ex-IRA terrorist-turned-bodyguard who is the crux (no pun intended) of the story, and an in-your-face punk ethos which challenges every middle-class assumption, and you have the most engaging engagement with the gospels since Jésus de Montréal.
As a spiritual agnostic and former instructor of world religion with one foot in Chrstianity and the other in Buddhism, I found Murphy's religion-bad/science-good dichotomy overly simplistic (to say the least), but I appreciated it nonetheless with my tongue firmly in cheek. After all, I'm reading a comic, and not a serious work on theology or the philosophy of science. The glibly certain and nihilistic ending undermined the overall effect of the rest of the book, and brought the review down by a star, but until that point I thought the book rocked.
Many reviewers have questioned the realism of gullible TV audiences, limitless corporate power, and knuckleheaded Christian fundamentalists, and I honestly don't know what world these people live in; they must not shop at the same grocery stores as me. And while I think Yeshua ben Miriam would take exception with Murphy's atheism, I also suspect he would be down with the radical message of a punk rock Jesus: to break past those aspects of religion, media, politics, etc., that enslave our spirits and to seek truth wherever it is to be found. (less)
You have to admire the audacity of the man who wrote "The Declaration of Independence." Who else would take a knife and pot of glue to the very Gospel...moreYou have to admire the audacity of the man who wrote "The Declaration of Independence." Who else would take a knife and pot of glue to the very Gospels, and, with an intuitive hermeneutic rooted in his own Enlightenment-era deistic presumptions, attempt to strip away what he considered the "dung" and reveal the "diamonds" of Christ's teachings? Jefferson's attempts to find the universal, essential teachings of Jesus foreshadowed the higher critical approaches of the 19th century, and the 20th century's searches for the hypothetical Q sayings gospel and the "authentic" words of the "historical Jesus". Those facts, plus the insightful preface (by the late UU minister Forrest Church) and afterword (by the late scholar Jaroslav Pelikan), would, by themselves make this a four- or -five star book.
Unfortunately, since the only English translation of the Gospels that Jefferson had on hand was the King James Version, the resulting "Jefferson Bible" retains the usually impenetrable and too often stultifying language of that translation. He also didn't have access to gospel parallels, and evidently didn't think to look at the Gospels synoptically, because his redaction includes many duplicate stories and parables that make reading it more tedious than necessary. Finally, in reading through what remains of the Gospels, I began to see, for the first time, what many of my atheist friends have argued for some time: that there are fewer clear and flawless "diamonds" in Christ's teachings than Sunday school would leave one to believe. The import of many parables, even with interpretations provided, is lost on a modern reader (heck, it might have been lost on a 1st century reader), and the various discourses and teachings don't sum up to a comprehensive ethical or cosmological vision. This book left me wondering whether Jesus' ethics really were that profound (or even coherent!) after all, or if we just continue to assume so as inheritors of a tradition that insists on this as a fact, even after the obviously mythical elements get stripped away. (less)
After I finished The Quantum and the Lotus, I was drawn to this volume. Instead of a conversation between two individuals from two interesting backgr...moreAfter I finished The Quantum and the Lotus, I was drawn to this volume. Instead of a conversation between two individuals from two interesting backgrounds—a scientist turned Tibetan Buddhist and a scientist raised Vietnamese Buddhist—the conversation here is within one individual, and it seems on its face to be a much more challenging discourse than the one between "new physics" and Buddhism. Biologists seem to me to be far less amenable to "spiritual" themes than their peers in physics, particularly when those themes are explicitly theist and Christian.
I anticipated an interesting read. Alas, this was mostly a slog. Firstly, his take on evolution was weak. Wright accepts the fact that evolution occured/occurs pretty much as per biology textbooks, but rejects the concomitant philosophical naturalism (a "worldview") he dubs evolutionism. He lays out three possible views of evolution for Christians (all of whom he assumes to be conservative when it comes to "Scripture"): Young Earth Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Evolutionary Theism, and affirms that the last is most in line with his own beliefs. He never acknowledges that Neo-Darwinian evolution is a major challenge to theistic faiths; not just because its explanation for where we all came from undermines the central importance of a Creator, but also because much apparent ugliness and cruelty in nature suggests that such a Creator, if one were to exist, would be malign rather than beneficent. Secondly, Wright discusses performing science as a "methodological naturalist," without going into much detail of what this looks like or what challenges it poses to the Christian scientist (not to be confused with the Christian Scientist). Third, these crucial issues were cursorily dealt with before the author went on to talk about (monolithic) Christian approaches to genetic engineering, population, global warming, etc.
Maybe this book will challenge the thinking of a Young Earth Creationist, or other blinkered fundamentalists, and open them up to accepting the fact of evolution. Maybe it will encourage another kid from a Christian home to continue to study and practice science. Those would good things. Otherwise, meh.(less)
**spoiler alert** I really wanted to like this alternate history version of Batman, set in a theocratic America with its origins in Oliver Cromwell's...more**spoiler alert** I really wanted to like this alternate history version of Batman, set in a theocratic America with its origins in Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth of England. Unfortunately, as noted in Sam Quixote's review, the plot is "mind-numbingly boring." Father Bruce Wayne loses his religion as he discovers his parents were murdered, not by a lone nut, but by a politico-religious conspiracy at the highest levels. Lots of familiar DC heroes are introduced and killed off along the way. I guess this could have been worse—it could have been the other Batman/Holy Terror.(less)
When I first encountered this book on the Waldenbooks new age shelf, I thought that Vedanta was a person, as in "the Gospel according to Matthew," etc...moreWhen I first encountered this book on the Waldenbooks new age shelf, I thought that Vedanta was a person, as in "the Gospel according to Matthew," etc. (This was in 1989 or 1990, when I was high school senior in Decatur, IL; I discovered this book at the same time as the Bhagavad Gita, which at the time was mainly noteworthy because it rhymed with "pita," itself another "foreign" item intruding on my culturally impoverished youth. Sad but true.)
In the subsequent two-plus decades, I spent a lot of time and energy attempting to answer my dad's perennial question, "What do you believe?" I knew I didn't accept my family's fundamentalist Lutheran take on Christianity (and hadn't since the fateful day I brought home that book on human evolution from the public library, only to be told that science was a lie when it contradicted stories in the Bible). I also knew that atheism, at least as I understood and experienced it, was not for me—it seemed too easy an out for me to say, "Oh to hell with the Jesus thing." And so in college I studied science (specifically biology and anthropology) alongside religion, trying to figure it all out. Then I got a Master's degree studying Buddhism and contemplative aspects of other religious traditions, including the Christianity in which I had been reared. I gradually arrived at a (loosely held) worldview in which I affirmed the relevance of Jesus to my own life, just not on terms my parents would, or do, understand. That worldview is one in which Jesus is a yidam, Tibetan for "tutelary deity," a concept akin to the Hindu notion of the iṣṭa-devatā.
So what does all of this rambling have to do with the book in question? Well, after having this book on my shelf for twenty years, and finally getting around to reading it, I found that my current worldview was more or less spelled out in these 126 pages. Perhaps I need not have taken the trip I took if only I had read it way back when, but then, of course, if I had read it 20 years ago, I wouldn't have gotten as much out of it (if anything at all). The decades of searching and pondering were, and are, my path. (less)
I started by saying that one of the most fateful errors of our age is the belief that the problem of production has been solved. This illusion, I suggested, is mainly due to our inability to recognize that the modern industrial system, with all its intellectual sophistication, consumes the very basis on which it has been erected. To use the language of the economists, it lives on irreplaceable capital which it cheerfully treats as income. I specified three categories of such capital: fossil fuels, the tolerance margins of nature, and the human substance. Even if some readers should refuse to accept all three parts of my argument, I suggest that any one of them suffices to make my case. (21)
There is wisdom in smallness if only on account of the smallness and patchiness of human knowledge, which relies on experiment far more than on understanding. The greatest danger invariably arises from the ruthless application, on a vast scale, of partial knowledge such as we are currently witnessing in the application of nuclear energy, of the new chemistry in agriculture, of transportation technology, and countless other things. (37)
Above anything else there is need for a proper philosophy of work which understands work not as that which it has indeed become, an inhuman chore as soon as possible to be abolished by automation, but as something "decreed by Providence for the good of man's body and soul." Next to the family, it is work and the relationships established by work that are the true foundations of society. If the foundations are unsound, how could society be sound? And if society is sick, how could it fail to be a danger to peace? (38)
The market... represents only the surface of society and its significance relates to the momentary situation as it exists there and then. There is no probing into the depths of things, into the natural or social facts that lie behind them. In a sense, the market is the institutionalisation of individualism and non-responsibility. Neither buyer not seller is responsible for anything but himself. It would be "uneconomic" for a wealthy seller to reduce his prices to poor customers merely because they are in need, or for a wealthy buyer to pay an extra price merely because the supplier is poor. Equally, it would be "uneconomic" for a buyer to give preference to home-produced goods if imported goods are cheaper. He does not, and is not expected to, accept responsibility for the country's balance of payments. (46)
[T]he task of education [should] be, first and foremost, the transmission of ideas and values, of what to do with our lives. There is no doubt also the need to transmit know-how but this must take second place, for it is obviously somewhat foolhardy to put great powers into the hands of people without making sure that they have a reasonable idea of what to do with them. At present, there can be little doubt that the whole of mankind is in mortal danger, not because we are short of scientific and technological know-how, but because we tend to use it destructively, without wisdom. More education can help us only if it produces more wisdom. (86)
Science cannot produce ideas by which we could live. Even the greatest ideas of science are nothing more than working hypotheses, useful for purposes of special research but completely inapplicable to the conduct of our lives or the interpretation of the world. If, therefore, a man seeks education because he feels estranged and bewildered, because his life seems to him empty and meaningless, he cannot get what he is seeking by studying any of the natural sciences, i.e. by acquiring "know-how." That study has its own value which I am not inclined to belittle; it tells him a great deal about how things work in nature or in engineering; but it tells him nothing about the meaning of life and can in no way cure his estrangement and secret despair. (92)
The ideas of the fathers in the nineteenth century have been visited on the third and fourth generations living in the second half of the twentieth century. To their originators, these ideas were simply the result of their intellectual processes. In the third and fourth generations, they have become the very tools and instruments through which the world is being experienced and interpreted. Those that bring forth new ideas are seldom ruled by them. But their ideas obtain power over men's lives in the third and fourth generations when they have become a part of that great mass of ideas, including language, which seeps into a person's mind during his "Dark Ages." (95)
The leading ideas of the nineteenth century, which claimed to do away with metaphysics, are themselves a bad, vicious, life-destroying type of metaphysics. We are suffering from them as if from a fatal disease. It is not true that knowledge is sorrow. But poisonous errors bring unlimited sorrow in the third and fourth generation. The errors are not in science but in the philosophy put forward in the name of science. (96–7)
The true problem of living—in politics, economics, education, marriage, etc.—are always problems of overcoming or reconciling opposites. They are divergent problems and have no solution in the ordinary sense of the word. They demand of man not merely the employment of his reasoning powers but the commitment of his whole personality. Naturally, spurious solutions, by way of a clever formula, are always being out forward; but they never work for long, because they invariably neglect one of the two opposites and thus lose the very quality of human life.... To have to grapple with divergent problems tends to be exhausting, worrying, and wearisome. Hence people try to avoid it and to run away from it. (104)
The most powerful ideas of the nineteenth century, as we have seen, have denied or at least obscured the whole concept of "levels of being" and the idea that some things are higher than others. This, of course, has meant the destruction of ethics, which is based on the distinction of good and evil, claiming that good is higher than evil. Again, the sins of the fathers are being visited on the third and fourth generations who now find themselves growing up without moral instruction of any kind. The men who conceived the idea that "morality is bunk" did so with a mind well-stocked with moral ideas. But the minds of the third and fourth generations are no longer well-stocked with such ideas: they are well-stocked with ideas conceived in the nineteenth century, namely, that "morality is bunk," that everything that appears to be "higher" is really nothing but something quite mean and vulgar. The resulting confusion is indescribable. (105)
What is to take the place of the soul- and life-destroying metaphysics inherited from the nineteenth century? The task of our generation, I have no doubt, is one of metaphysical reconstruction. It is not as if we had to invent anything new; at the same time, it is not good enough merely to revert to the old formulations. Our task—and the task of all education—is to understand the present world, the world in which we live and make our choices. (106–7)
The higher animals have an economic value because of their utility; but they have a meta-economic value in themselves. If I have a car, a man-made thing, I might quite legitimately argue that the best way to use it is never to bother about maintenance and simply run it to ruin. I may indeed have calculated that this is the most economical method of use. If the calculation is correct, nobody can criticise me for acting accordingly, for there is nothing about a man-made thing like a car. But if I have an animal&mdashy;be it only a calf or a hen—a living, sensitive creature, am I allowed to treat is as nothing but a utility? Am I allowed to run it to ruin? (113)
We know too much about ecology today to have any excuse for the many abuses that are currently going on in the management of the land, in the management of animals, in food storage, food processing, and in heedless urbanisation. If we permit them, this is not due to poverty, as if we could not afford to stop them; it is due to the fact that, as a society, we have no firm basis of belief in any meta-economic values, and when there is no such belief the economic calculus takes over. This is quite inevitable. How could it be otherwise? Nature, it has been said, abhors a vacuum, and when the available "spiritual space" is not filled by some higher motivation, then it will necessarily be filled by something lower—by the small, mean, calculating attitude to life which is rationalised in the economic calculus. (123)
As Gandhi said, the poor of the world cannot be helped by mass production, only by production by the masses. The system of mass production, based on sophisticated, highly capital-intensive, high energy-input dependent, and human labour-saving technology, presupposed that you are already rich, for a great deal of capital investment is needed to establish one single workplace. The system of production by the masses mobilises the priceless resources which are possessed by all human beings, their clever brains and skilful hands, and supports them with first-class tools. The technology of mass production is inherently violent, ecologically damaging, self-defeating in terms of non-renewable resources, and stultifying for the human person. The technology of production by the masses, making use of the best of modern knowledge and experience, is conducive to decentralisation, compatible with the laws of ecology, gentle in its use of scarce resources, and designed to serve the human person instead of making him the servant of machines. I have named it intermediate technology to signify that is is vastly superior to the primitive technology of bygone ages but at the same time much simpler, cheaper, and freer than the supertechnology of the rich. (163)
Strange to say, the Sermon on the Mount gives pretty precise instructions on how to construct an outlook that could lead to an Economics of Survival. (166)
It is always possible to create small ultra-modern islands in a pre-industrial society. But such islands will then have to be defended, like fortresses, and provisioned, as it were, by helicopter from far away, or they will be flooded by the surrounding sea. Whatever happens, whether they do well or badly, they produce the "dual economy" of which I have spoken. They cannot be integrated into the surrounding society, and tend to destroy its cohesion. (177)
It is a strange fact that some people say that there are no technological choices. I read an article by a well-known economist from the U.S.A. who asserts that there is only one way of producing any particular commodity: the way of 1971 [i.e., the way of the present]. Had these commodities never been produced before? The basic things of life have been needed and produced since Adam left Paradise. He says that the only machinery that can be procured is the very latest. Now that is a different point and it may well be that the only machinery that can be procured easily is the latest. It is true that at any one time there is only one kind of machinery that tends to dominate the market and this creates the impression as if we had no choice and as if the amount of capital in a society determined the amount of employment it could have. Of course this is absurd. (226)
The idea of intermediate technology does not imply simply a "going back" in history to methods now outdated, although a systematic study of methods employed in the developing countries, say, a hundred years ago could indeed yield highly suggestive results. It is too often assumed that the achievement of western science, pure and applied, lies mainly in the apparatus and machinery that have been developed from it, and that a rejection of the apparatus and machinery would be tantamount to a rejection of science. This is an excessively superficial view. The real achievement lies in the accumulation of precise knowledge, and this knowledge can be applied in a great variety of ways, of which the current application in modern industry is only one. The development of an intermediate technology, therefore, means a genuine forward movement into new territory, where the enormous cost and complication of production methods for the sake of labour saving and job elimination is avoided and technology is made appropriate for labour-surplus societies. (198)
Everything becomes crystal clear after you have reduced realit to one—one only—of its thousand aspects. You know what to do—whatever produces profits; you know what to avoid—whatever reduces them or makes a loss. And there is at the same time a perfect measuring rod for the degree of success or failure. Let no one befog the issue by asking whether aa particular action is conducive to the wealth and well-being of society, whether it leads to moral, aesthetic, or cultural enrichment. Simply find out whether it pays; simply investigate whether there is an alternative that pays better. If there is, choose the alternative. (272–3)
1. In small-scale enterprise, private ownership is natural, fruitful, and just.
2. In a medium-scale enterprise, private ownership is already to a large extent functionally unnecessary. The idea of "property" becomes strained, unfruitful, and unjust. If there is only one owner or a small group of owners, there can be and should be, a voluntary surrender of privilege to the wider group of actual workers.... Such an act of generosity may be unlikely when there is a large number of anonymous shareholders, but legislation could pave the way even then.
3. In a large-scale enterprise, private ownership is a fiction for the purpose of enabling functionless owners to live parasitically on the labour of others. It is not only unjust but also an irrational element which distorts all relationships within the enterprise. (284)
Some inequalities of wealth and income are no doubt "natural" and functionally justifiable, and there are few people who do not spontaneously recognise this. But here again, as in all human affairs, it is a matter of scale. Excessive wealth, like power, tends to corrupt. Even if the rich are not "idle rich," even when they work harder than anyone else, they work differently, apply different standards, and are set apart from the common humanity. They corrupt themselves by practising greed, and they corrupt the rest of society by provoking envy. (298)
In the excitement over the unfolding of his scientific and technical powers, modern man has built a system of production that ravishes nature and a type of society that mutilates man. If only there were more and more wealth, everything else, it is thought, will fall into place. Money is considered to be all-powerful; if it could not actually buy non-material values, such as justice, harmony, beauty or even health, it could circumvent the need for them or compensate for their loss. The development of production and the acquisition of wealth have thus become the highest goals of the modern world in relation to which all other goals, no matter how much lip-service may still be paid to them, have come to take second place. The highest goals require no justification; all secondary goals have finally to justify themselves in terms of the service their attainments renders to the attainment of the highest.
This is the philosophy of materialism, and it is this philosophy—or metaphysic—which is now being challenged by events. There has never been a time, in any society in any part of the world, without its sages and teachers to challenge materialism and plead for a different order of priorities. (313&ndash4)
Everywhere people ask: "What can I actually do?" The answer is as simple as it is disconcerting: we can, each of us, work to put our own inner house in order. The guidance we need for this work cannot be found in science or technology, the value of which utterly depends on the ends they serve; but it can still be found in the traditional wisdom of mankind. (318)
I enjoyed this novel far more than I initially expected, and especially relished the central sections, an astoundingly accurate reminiscence of a perc...moreI enjoyed this novel far more than I initially expected, and especially relished the central sections, an astoundingly accurate reminiscence of a perceptive adolescent's take on Christian, particularly Roman Catholic, theology. Those who endured confirmation classes of any sort as a teenager will appreciate Joyce's vividly imagined/remembered preachments and conversations on sin, hell, and God. As I was reading this novel, I remembered a night of drinking with my best friend noyoucmon, 15 or so years ago, in which we enjoyed a "hell off": I read descriptions of Tibetan Buddhist hells from Words of My Perfect Teacher, while he read from the present volume. Fun times. (less)
Lots of great material in this series of lectures, although most is about the study of religion in general and less about the specific discipline of c...moreLots of great material in this series of lectures, although most is about the study of religion in general and less about the specific discipline of comparative religion. (less)
I checked this book out from the library hoping that it would explain holy cards to non-Catholic reader, in the same way that Windows to Heaven expla...moreI checked this book out from the library hoping that it would explain holy cards to non-Catholic reader, in the same way that Windows to Heaven explained Orthodox icons to the non-Orthodox reader. Alas, this was not the case. Instead, it is a coffee table book that collects images of holy cards from the last few centuries and presents them with little explanation. Many of the images are beautiful, but there isn't enough context for the non-Catholic to appreciate them properly. (less)