My rating of this book varies from one chapter to another. The first chapters explaining the attempts of Lutherism and Calvinism to fill the void free...moreMy rating of this book varies from one chapter to another. The first chapters explaining the attempts of Lutherism and Calvinism to fill the void freedom created during the early era of capitalism were good. Basically, when the feudal system was being replaced by capitalism, man was more free, but also more isolated and insecure. The solution offered by Protestanism was total submission to God and work as a means of searching for a sign of salvation. That laid the groundwork for the unhealthy mentality of submission or domination as the panacea for the isolation and aloneness in the modern time. The middle part of the book where Fromm analyses the modern society is not quite original (possibly because his argument has been so popular that I've come across it too many times) and quite repetitive. (the words isolations/ powerlessness/ insignificant were used 3 times per page, which makes them really insignificant/ powerless). In the chapter about the psychology of Fascism, his remark that "as a matter of fact, certain features were characteristic of the middle class: their love of the strong, their hatred of the weak, their pettiness, their hostility" was quite unfounded and arbitrary. The last chapter on democracy and freedom was the best one. I didn't expect Fromm to provide a solution to the miserable state of the modern man, but surprisingly he does. His answer sounds reasonable, attainable and inspirational. (less)
I confess my crime that I never actually finished this book. For some odd reason, I got fascinated by Nietzsche in my first year, and that led to Dost...moreI confess my crime that I never actually finished this book. For some odd reason, I got fascinated by Nietzsche in my first year, and that led to Dostoevsky. Basically, I just found the book terribly boring and deleterious (Dostoevsky loves this word doesn't he?) and I couldn't care any less about the main character. And I knew exactly how the book was going to end, so I couldn't bring myself to finish it. I don't find his reasoning justifiable and the conclusion concerning atheism and rationality is just abhorrent. Absolutely hate the idea we need an all-powerful man in the sky to have a sense of right or wrong. I think that's a very immature argument that I wouldn't even waste my time debating. But Christian fundies will love it, they sure will. (less)
I’ve always been semi-interested in religion. Interested enough to have many conversations and debates about it, but not enough to read any thorough b...moreI’ve always been semi-interested in religion. Interested enough to have many conversations and debates about it, but not enough to read any thorough book on it. Not even the Bible. And admit it, most of the time, books on religion are quite dry and intense, like you need to know lots of the details and stories before you can even make sense of what they’re trying to argue about. Or the other end of the spectrum is militant bastards like Richard Dawkins, who I’m totally fed up with or apologists like Francis Collins. They don’t really educate me at all on the subject matter. So stuff that, I have many other interesting things to read in my life.
So I was quite reluctant to read this book when my friend Matt introduced it to me. You know the sort of book atheists recommend to other atheists, don’t you? But the fact that he was religious and is now atheistic and can defend his viewpoint so convincingly made me think this book must be good. And it turns out to be a wonderful book, Bart Ehrman is like totally my hero these days.
The book is not just what he learns about religion, but really his life story and how he changed his mind from being a devout Christian to an agnostic. Not the kind of getting frustrated with God and giving up the faith, but he certainly reflected on it very deeply and rationally. He was raised in an evangelical family and when he was in highschool, he found a void in his soul. He turned to Christianity and was so overwhelmed by the solace of God that he decided to spend the rest of his life to it. Ehrman went to a super fundamentalist school, and thank God, went on to study theology at Princeton. Here, he had access to the most extensive collection of Christian texts and decided to learn many ancient languages so he could read these manuscripts himself.
What he found out shook him to the core. There are many variations in the canon over time and he gradually came to realize that the Bible is a totally human text, with very human errors, emotions, inspiration and prejudices. It drove him to learn more about ancient Christian history and traditions, not to refute it completely, but to point out the inconsistencies and alternative texts that were left out in the process. And this guy obviously knows his stuff, knows it so well and can argue so persuasively with reason and empathy that you find it hard to believe he's no longer a Christian. He doesn’t convince you to become an agnostic like himself, and he doesn’t need to. All he does is be an honest historian and present all the evidence, examine it closely and weigh the possibility of each event, and I think every reasonable person can walk out learning a lot from this man.
So much for his life story. Jesus, the first millennium apocalyptic prophet is an amazing book. I mean, if a religiously retarded moron like me can understand it, you can be guaranteed of its quality. In this book, he points out a lot of inconsistencies in the four Gospels, such as the account of the birth of Jesus or his death. How do you reconcile the story of King Herod and the wise men in Matthew with the shepherd in Luke? Did he die on the Passover or the day after? What was his reaction to his crucifixion, did he cry out in pain as in Mark or did he accept it willingly as in John? What happened to the women who found the tomb, what did they see, did they go straight to Jerusalem or go to Galilee first?
These contradictions are inevitable because the first account of Jesus’ life was Paul’s letters, which were written 20 years AFTER Jesus’ death. The earliest Gospel, Mark, possibly 30 years, other gospels, 50-80 years. So here you go, you have four accounts written decades after the events, not by eyewitnesses, in a different language (Greek, Jesus spoke Aramaic). There is also very little evidence of a man called Jesus living around that time in other sources, either pagan or Christian. Other Christian sources such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas or Coptic Gospel of Thomas or the Gnostic Myth all tell very little and different stories about Jesus’ life and deeds. What we can really construct about Jesus is quite limited and we must always take it with a grain of salt.
The best point of the book deals with what I’ve always been wondering about Jesus: was he a revolutionary? A social reformer? A self-sacrificing loving saint? What exactly was his purpose? Why did he teach bizarre things such as turn the other cheek, or give away everything, or if someone wants to enslave you, let them or forgive all acts of evil? No, I won’t pretend that any of these things ever made sense to me. The question of forgiveness strikes me as the most puzzling thing Jesus preached. I don’t believe in complete mercy, I do believe in just and humane punishment. Forgiveness is not given, but earned. So why did he teach these things?
Bart Ehrman offers a hypothesis, a very good one to explain it. Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet who was expecting the coming of the Kingdom of God WITHIN HIS GENERATION. His ministry began with his association with John the Baptist, also an apocalyptic prophet. Throughout the gospels, you can find his teachings about the coming judgment, the coming Son of God, when those oppressed will be vindicated and rewarded and unbelievers will be sent to hell, all governments and institutions will be destroyed.
And if you put all his teachings in that context, everything makes perfect sense. He was not so concerned with this life, because the end is coming imminently when you’ll live in perpetual heaven, and if you don’t care about this life, why would you care if someone steals your money, enslaves you, slaps you in the face? He did not intend to be a social reformer because he advocated the ABOLITION of all governments and institutions. He did not expect this world to become better; he expected it to end and every believer to enter the Kingdom of God IN THIS WORLD, not in heaven. His point is, simply put, believe in God, repent, sacrifice, forgive, give away, do anything to enter the Kingdom of God. Ah, Remember to be quick because it’s coming within your generation. He might have taught a few good things but maybe it wasn’t his purpose after all.
Bart Ehrman is simply a beautiful writer, he writes eloquently, coherently and honestly. He doesn’t attack religion, he analyses it and leaves us to find an answer for ourselves. We definitely need more people like him in this world. Thanks Matt, you’re my hero for introducing this book to me. (less)
Definitely the most amusing science book I have read this year. I love Daniel Gilbert after watching his really cool video on youtube. Instead of bei...more Definitely the most amusing science book I have read this year. I love Daniel Gilbert after watching his really cool video on youtube. Instead of being a lame self-help guide which it may look like, this is a psychology book which analyzes how we think about what happiness is, what is going to make us happy, might be fundamentally wrong. The ability that sets human beings apart from a lot other animals is imagination, functioned by the frontal lobe. However, our imagination can be misleading because it adds and removes details, makes the past or the future more pleasant than they actually were (or will be), fails to realize that things will feel differently once they actually happen. Gilbert's advice is to use other people's experiences to predict the future, instead of imagining it. However, at this point I disagree with him because people's personalities, perception of the world and situation will have impact on their level of happiness over the same event. This is where the book is very American-or European-centered because it assumes that everyone has enough to eat, has the same holiday option or lives in a basically homogeneous culture. Therefore, their experience of similar events will be similar. However, Gilbert's imagination of the usefulness of this advice in making people happy can be wrong too. Overall, Gilbert rocks! Highly recommended(less)
an interesting and hilarious exposure of the dark side of the Chinese civilization from an insider. comparing with the works by Lu Tun, nothing much s...morean interesting and hilarious exposure of the dark side of the Chinese civilization from an insider. comparing with the works by Lu Tun, nothing much seems to have changed in the Chinese way of thinking. Bo Yang blames the current situation on the very long history of Confucianism and its incompatibility with competition, commerce, innovation, and change of the status quo. consequently, the Chinese are: 1, intolerant of criticism (Bo Yang was imprisoned 9 years for writing these things) 2, constantly jealous of others' success 3, curious but not inquisitive 4, intuitive but irrational 5, subjugated, fearful, suspicious and antagonistic 6, selfish, devoid of real or deep emotions, hypocritical etc. the most interesting part is when other apologists dismiss Bo Yang's criticism and denounce him as a traitor, a Western xenophile, and unpatriotic. i guess it's true to a certain extent, considering Vietnam is very Chinese in many ways. (less)
when i got this book from the library, i was excited maybe it's what i've always been looking for, a philosophy for the oppressed, the illiterate, the...morewhen i got this book from the library, i was excited maybe it's what i've always been looking for, a philosophy for the oppressed, the illiterate, the destitute. it starts off pretty much like a reiteration of Erich Fromm and Frantz Fanon, and then an interesting concept of banking method of education (i.e, imposition, prescription, lack of dialogue). but then the book seems to repeat itself over and over again without any examples, so it becomes fairly dry. chapter 3 feels very out of place with the rest of the book, because er, it's very pedagogical. and take this paragraph for example, how many average people can actually understand, let alone the poor and not so well-educated: " When human beings perceive reality as dense, impenetrable, and enveloping, it is indispensable to proceed with the investigation by means of abstraction. This method does not involved reducing the concrete to the abstract which would signify the negation of its dialectical nature but rather maintaining both elements as opposites which interrelate dialectically in the act of reflection. This dialectical movement of thought is exemplified perfectly in the analysis of a concrete existential, coded situation. If the decoding is well done, this movement of flux and reflux from the abstract to the concrete which occurs in the analysis of a coded situation leads to the supersedence of the abstraction by the critical perception of the concrete, which has already ceased to be a dense, impenetrable reality." maybe, i was misled in the first place about the target of the book. other than that, i agree with most of the book but it still does not transcend the us vs. them, the oppressed vs. the oppressor dichotomy and seems to have a very limited definition of history "there is no history without humankind". (less)
Brilliant. Not easy, but irresistible. In fact, some parts of it are very difficult to understand because they require a certain amount of understandin...moreBrilliant. Not easy, but irresistible. In fact, some parts of it are very difficult to understand because they require a certain amount of understanding of psychoanalysis. The book is merely 200 pages but it took me a handsome 7 hours because there were some lines I had to read up to 5 times to finally grasp. Some parts are very random with a combination of excerpts from many different authors and don't follow a clear structure, which makes it a bit hard to follow. Some chapters feel like prose, others like psychoanalysis, others mere description. Apart from that, the book has some great passages that almost brought me to tears. Fanon says from the start that he doesn't believe in fervor. But every single line in the book carries great weight, not only of vehement critique of European racism but also the outrage of an anguished soul of a white Negro at the traumatization of his fellows. Anger but not vindictiveness. The soul of the Negroes became exactly what the white civilization wanted it to become: denying one's roots, fantasizing whitening and losing the sense of worth in one's existence. Or as Fanon put it "It is the racist who creates his inferior" or Sartre "It is the anti-Semite who makes the Jew". What I find very interesting about this book is Fanon doesn't follow the well-trodden path of exclusively decrying European racism but he emphasizes on the liberation of the Negroes from an inferiority complex and the revival of the desire to find one's value through their existence. The last chapter is the most inspiring, simply shines with its brilliance. Here are some of my fav quotes: "No, I do not have the right to go and cry out my hatred at the white man. I do not have the duty to murmur my gratitude to the white man. If the white man challenges my humanity, I will impose my whole weight as a man on his life and show him that I am not that "sho' good eating" that he persists in imagining. I have one right alone: that of demanding human behavior from the other. One duty alone: that of not renouncing my freedom through my choices. The disaster of the man of color lies in the fact that he was enslaved. The disaster and the inhumanity of the white man lie in the fact that somewhere he has killed man. But I as a man of color, to the extent that it becomes possible for me to exist absolutely, do not have the right to lock myself into a world of retroactive reparations. I, the man of color, want only this: That the tool never possess the man. That the enslavement of man by man cease forever. That is, of one by another. That it be possible for me to discover and to love man, wherever he may be. The Negro is not. Any more than the white. Both must turn their backs on the inhuman voices which were those of their respective ancestors in order that authentic communication be possible." I recommend this book to everyone. (less)
with a symbolic and philosophical book that doesn't offer any new insight into the old themes of "following your dreams" and "the treasure is in your...morewith a symbolic and philosophical book that doesn't offer any new insight into the old themes of "following your dreams" and "the treasure is in your heart", Paulo Coelho has failed to convince me with his message. The fable itself is worth contemplating but isn't intriguing enough to inspire or enlighten. No more than a fabricated and subtle form of Rhonda Byrne's "The secret". I guess if you're younger than 13 years old, you might believe "When you pursue your personal legend the universe will conspire with you to make it happen." (less)
Errr... I must say this is a very heavy read I did finish the book but couldn't retain much. As a polymath in mythology, psychology, religion and phi...more Errr... I must say this is a very heavy read I did finish the book but couldn't retain much. As a polymath in mythology, psychology, religion and philosophy, Jung offers an (insanely difficult?) exciting and novel analysis of the fundamental unconscious foundation that we as human beings all share. They are: mother, rebirth, spirit and trickster. Surveying their role in myth, fairytale and scripture, Jung challenges the way we perceive ourselves. However, if you fall asleep when reading this book, it's okay, I did too, wink! I guess it's so hard that nobody reads it on amazon.com(less)