A happy mix between the church histories that overdo the lavish at the expense of the comprehensive, and those that overdo the comprehensive at the ex...moreA happy mix between the church histories that overdo the lavish at the expense of the comprehensive, and those that overdo the comprehensive at the expense of your eyesight. David Bentley Hart appears to have read everyone, from all the Gnostics, through Nietzsche, to the Russian devotional mystics, and that, and his own Eastern Orthodox faith means that his church history isn't skewed just to the Western (heard of St Herman of Alaska? Me neither). I found hardly a misstep in the book. His hobby of unravelling the myths and fairy tales that New Atheists tell to their children at bedtime (for a fuller account of which, see his 'Atheist Delusions') informs some of his chapters, notably those about the early modern period. My favourite of all the church histories I have read. Get someone to give you this book for Christmas.(less)
Enjoyable, brief ramble from the former to the probably final state of philosopher Antony Flew's thinking, particularly about God, and including how h...moreEnjoyable, brief ramble from the former to the probably final state of philosopher Antony Flew's thinking, particularly about God, and including how he changed his mind from atheism to Deism. It is bookended by a lengthy introduction and an appendix by the actual writer of the book, Roy Abraham Varghese, and another by the biblical scholar of the hour, Tom, or NT, Wright. Flew took care to write, and personally sign, his own introduction.
Here's a quote, cue unreasoned, buttock-clenching joy from theists and wailing and gnashing of teeth from his former atheist pals:
I must stress that my discovery of the Divine has proceeded on a purely natural level, without any reference to supernatural phenomena. It has been an exercise in what is traditionally called natural theology. It has no connection with any of the revealed religions. Nor do I claim to have had any personal experience that may be called supernatural or miraculous. In short, my discovery of the Divine has been a pilgrimage of reason and not of faith. (p93)
The 'pilgrimage of reason' soundbite could not be more perfectly chosen to delight and infuriate in equal measure.
The book is a good read. The Internet is also a good read, seeing some atheists build a case against the book using the same kind of tactics usually employed by cigarette companies, traffic lawyers, climate-change deniers or creationists, on the lines of 'the old boy lost it, very sad, and was bundled into the back of a van by evangelicals and forced to sign a script someone else had written for him.'
Actually, the book is clear that Flew became a Deist, and never stopped personally rejecting all the received religions. He didn't believe in an afterlife. He thought Christianity was the best available religion, but he didn't claim to embrace it, despite the admittedly gorgeous scholarship of N T Wright. All this is in the book. It's nice to find good and honest atheist commentators who recognize this, and who agree with the broadsheet obituaries of Flew, not least in the New York Times which put some journalistic resource into investigating the circumstances of the book. Flew had his marbles and after a lifetime of brilliant atheist philosophical discourse, took to believing that the universe was created by an infinite, immutable, omnipotent, First Cause. Flew's widow agreed that that was his position. The jeers and hoots coming from the Theist side may be in bad taste, but perhaps we should be allowed our little moment of fun. Remember, we also have to put up with Creationists and Republicans, and sometimes even have to call them 'brother'.(less)
Enjoyable romp through the future, as being already developed in physics labs around the world. It lost a star in my review because the author, whenev...moreEnjoyable romp through the future, as being already developed in physics labs around the world. It lost a star in my review because the author, whenever he departs from his talks and interviews with technologists, reverts to Received Wisdom, the accumulation of various bits of reading detritus from whatever source. This adds no value to the book. But the rest is great fun. (less)
Amiable story of an eccentric Englishman who bought a run-down farmhouse in France in search of a more heroic life than that of being a professional c...moreAmiable story of an eccentric Englishman who bought a run-down farmhouse in France in search of a more heroic life than that of being a professional critic. Happy, lazy, pleasant book.(less)
So the alien that lands outside the geology museum believes in God. The geologist with whom he wishes to do research (on epoch-ending events) isn't. C...moreSo the alien that lands outside the geology museum believes in God. The geologist with whom he wishes to do research (on epoch-ending events) isn't. Cue an enjoyable and unusual SF novel with fun characters and plenty to think about, especially the Anthropic Argument. There are shades of Olaf Stapledon in his cosmology, which is high praise.
I enjoyed this book. It's not four or five stars because the plotting gets creaky in places and I wondered if he'd been guilty either of some injudicious spicing up of the plot, or an editor had some made some not-so-good suggestions which he had enacted. But it's good fun, and would be a particularly good book to sit round with friends and discuss. (less)
Witty, playful, endlessly taking the raw stuff of fantasy and asking 'what would it really be like if you had to live with that?', this is Sir Terry a...moreWitty, playful, endlessly taking the raw stuff of fantasy and asking 'what would it really be like if you had to live with that?', this is Sir Terry at his most effortless. He recycles a few of his best characters (Vimes, Nobbs, Vetinari, Chancellor Ridcully) adds a blinking, clumsy-with-women, very English hero and a respectable heroine who is wondering if a little disrespectability wouldn't, when you consider everything, be a good idea. Many scenes are stolen by Otto con Chriek, the vampire on the wagon from 'ze b-word' , who develops a suicidal fascination for flash photography. By the end, Ankh-morporkh has its own newspaper. Sheer joy and one of my favourites. I had to read it twice.(less)
So Katniss reaches the end of her story, accompanied by her hi tech bow and arrow, much blood and death, two boys to choose from, frequent TV appearan...moreSo Katniss reaches the end of her story, accompanied by her hi tech bow and arrow, much blood and death, two boys to choose from, frequent TV appearances, nationwide celebrity and a large set of outfits, lovingly hung on her by a team of stylists. It's tough being a teen heroine, in a world that (a) revolves around you and (b) is broken into bite-sized chapters with a reliably regular cliff-hanger in the last paragraph. Not really for me, I'm afraid.(less)
Not the best introduction to John Polkinhorne (for that it's best to read the man himself) but an interesting and engaging background to the man and h...moreNot the best introduction to John Polkinhorne (for that it's best to read the man himself) but an interesting and engaging background to the man and his thought. Typesetting went wrong in places in my edition.(less)
I thought I was going to enjoy this book when the librarian slowly handed it to me after reading the cover carefully and blinking several times. The f...more
I thought I was going to enjoy this book when the librarian slowly handed it to me after reading the cover carefully and blinking several times. The first law of librarianship requires me to hand this to you, I figured he was saying, but I had no idea that anyone could be so perverted as to want to read it. This book is blasphemous about some of the gods of our bestseller shelves. It thinks the New Atheists are not just wrong but intellectual dwarves who previous generations of atheists would be embarrassed to be seen with: the seven-day creationists of philosophical scepticism. This book is also extremely funny in places. Bentley-Taylor's home is in classical philosophy and history, so there is something compelling about the way he invites Dawkins and his ilk onto his patch. You feel it's unfair. All the New Atheists have to face this gladiator is the net and trident of having zipped through a few popular-level histories prior to writing their own.
The main thesis is that the Christian faith radically reordered the classical world. Perhaps it was its one true intellectual revolution. Such ideas as human rights, to take one example, didn't exist before the Christians invented it. The atheist myth makers, he says, do not see this, do not understand they are not overturning Christianity but merely making rude shapes with its discarded packaging. The book is overwritten, impolite, irreverent (towards atheism) and good fun.