This has only whet my appetite for more of Ingersoll's insightful, humanist oratory and one of these days I'll tackle that huge 12-volume set of his w...moreThis has only whet my appetite for more of Ingersoll's insightful, humanist oratory and one of these days I'll tackle that huge 12-volume set of his works that is so readily available on the interwebs. Minus 1 star for the fact that the speeches contained in this little volume are cut, clipped and snipped and therefore the full context is gone. However Ingersoll's speech about corporal punishment (especially toward children, which he is totally against) was very heartfelt and tender and should give parents pause before they whack their kids.(less)
My main reaction to this book: "Why didn't we learn ANY OF THIS in history class?" And well, the answer's fairly obvious.
Jacoby did a superlative job presenting a portrait of American history, this time including the atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, humanists, and secular Jews who often played as large a role in the titanic struggles in our nation's history (abolition, womens' rights) and yet have been written out of the record in favor of a narrative that such social change came about by devoutly religious people propelled by the strength of their righteous convictions.
For instance, Ernestine Rose was one of the founders of the feminist movement, standing by the side of Anthony, Stanton, and Mott. Anthony looked up to her. But she's totally ignored in accounts of that movement. Could it be that she said stuff like this?
"It is an interesting and demonstrable fact, that all children are atheists and were religion not inculcated into their minds, they would remain so."
Elizabeth Cady Stanton is famous and ubiquitous today as a founder of the movement, but she was pretty much erased out of the history until the 1970s when the second wave of feminism "re-discovered" her. She was always outspoken about her anti-religion views, but finally crossed the line when she published The Woman's Bible which alienated the Christian portion of the movement, headed by Lucy Stone.
Susan B. Anthony, who was political enough to keep her freethinking/atheist opinions in the private sector in the form of letters, has always been front-and-center in the history of women's rights.
This was by far my favorite chapter of the book, but the entirety of the work is outstanding. Jacoby's prose is very readable (not academic), and the best part: You learn something on every page.
It's difficult not to feel sad at the optimism during the Golden Age of Freethought in the late 19th century when the end of religion and priests was being predicted within their lifetimes, when they were confident that reason and logic would prevail over myths and superstition. Jacoby demonstrates that although the record of history is changed over time to favor the religious aspect, there have always been players whose motivation is not belief in a god, but belief in humanity.
I can't recommend this book enough, whether you're agnostic, religious, or atheist, if you're curious about the other side of our nation's history.
Half a star is deducted for the long section covering Walt Whitman which slowed down my momentum. Even atheism can't make a poet or poetry interesting to me.(less)
A fair share of reviews mention his anger, but I see it more as frustration and very well-founded frustration at that. The statistic he cites that the...moreA fair share of reviews mention his anger, but I see it more as frustration and very well-founded frustration at that. The statistic he cites that the U.S. placed #33 (out of 34, just above Turkey for cryin' out loud) of countries whose majority of population accepts the theory of evolution is an alarming one. As he states, we are a country built on ignorance which does not bode well for the rest of the world. Some have taken umbrage at his focus on the danger of Islam, but what I took from this book is that all religion is dangerous. It promotes ignorance, a "surrender of the mind" as Hitchens states. The satisfaction with not knowing, to say "God has mysterious ways" rather than seeking out knowledge or to take on personal responsibility for actions - it makes me want to tear my hair out.(less)
Much has been spoken of Dawkins' derisive or dismissive tone, but I read it more as impatience. Why on earth does the idea of God still hold such sway...moreMuch has been spoken of Dawkins' derisive or dismissive tone, but I read it more as impatience. Why on earth does the idea of God still hold such sway over humanity? Why haven't we as a species mentally moved past this mythology of the Bronze Age (and in the case of Islam, 7th century)? I love the entire book, but one part that I thought was particularly well-articulated was the possible evolutionary explanation for how humans became religious and the resulting tendency towards authority. His chapter on the altruism found across species in the absence of religion was also compelling. Why do people need God in order to be good? Dawkins was especially moving when stating his strong position against the labeling of children as Muslim, Christian, Jewish, etc. since they are not mature enough to come to that decision on their own, but the unsuspecting victims of indoctrination and programming.
I've been an atheist as long as I can remember (coming to that conclusion well before middle school through my own reason and observation) so I needed no persuading. For an open-minded religious person who may already be questioning their beliefs, this book could sway them all the way. I think "True Believers" would only get their backs up in response to Dawkins' prose and dig in their heels more than ever. A friend of mine hopped off the agnostic fence after reading this book, but has discovered he has more of an affinity with the prose/position of Hitchens.
I am enjoying the recent high visibility of atheism after religion has had so much airtime through the centuries. It's gratifying that (in non-Islamic societies, at least) atheists can now speak freely and not be in fear of burning, hanging, or similar execution at the hands of the religious Establishment.(less)
Upon the death of her father, Isabel Valderocas, the studious daughter of an upright Old Christian family, discovers that she is really a Marrano and...moreUpon the death of her father, Isabel Valderocas, the studious daughter of an upright Old Christian family, discovers that she is really a Marrano and that for generations her family has been building up their Christian bonafides and managed to erase all trace that their ancestors were really Jews. Being the headstrong wench that she is, she decides to become one of them and take on the stressful, OMG-the-Inquisition-could-arrest-me-at-any-moment life that any Marrano has to live. Because, you see, there shouldn't be any Jews in Spain because Queen Isabella signed an expulsion order in 1492 declaring all non-Catholics should leave the country (yes, that means you too, Moors, even though you've been in Spain way longer than we have) or stay and face the Inquisition.
Isabel quickly finds herself caught up in the Spanish Royal Court and all its intrigues as she joins her brother and confederates on what seems a quixotic quest to bring religious liberty back to Spain under the guise of saving Spain's economic future, because Spain has gone to shit since that expulsion order because it was the Jews and the Moors who provided the firm financial and merchant base of the country while the Spanish nobility played and sucked the treasury dry. This wasn't helped by the increasing imbecility and ineffectiveness of the Spanish monarchy after generations of extensive inbreeding. Go on, look at the culmination of that prized Spanish concept of limpieza de sangre. I dare you.
The cast of characters in this book is pretty staggering, and there are long and frequent conversations of political and religious intrigue which might not rev the engines of romance lovers, but it certainly rang my bell. Because this is really more of a historical novel with some romance thrown in. I loved the portrayal of Phillip IV and his scenes with Isabel were very human and real. However I wish I could say the same for our romantic leads. It just didn't ring true, and Isabel was a strong chick until Rafael showed up (in person or in her thoughts) and then she became an irritating and clingy co-dependant who couldn't imagine why Rafael didn't need her as much as she needed him. Gag. Barf. Puke.
Rafael, Isabel's Reason for Being, is clawing his way to the top of the Dominican order with the intention of becoming Grand Inquisitor of Spain. But wouldn't that make him her enemy and the foe of all secret Jews in Spain? Stay tuned...
I won't give anything away, because you really should read it for yourself - especially if you know next to nothing about Spain during this period of history. But be warned: There is NOT an HEA (but still very satisfying.) However...if you want to read a novel that focuses on history and the damage that religion does to a country and its society, this is a wonderful read.(less)