It was a bit of a challenge writing this book review without revealing or spoiling the number of anecdotal gems contained within. Herb Silverman, if yIt was a bit of a challenge writing this book review without revealing or spoiling the number of anecdotal gems contained within. Herb Silverman, if you’re unfamiliar, is an atheist, activist, and the President of the Secular Coalition for America. When asked to review Candidate Without a Prayer, I was at first concerned that it would be a three hundred page advert for the Coalition. It wasn’t.
This book doesn’t take off quickly; in fact, the first three chapters have a very slow pace. These pages, though, are packed with information that is vital to explaining the role Silverman’s home-life played in his development. Incrementally, the book progresses into an insightful look at the life of a passionate and wise gentleman.
We’re all shaped by our families. Herb Silverman’s thoughtful introversion was carved in childhood by a family shaped by the Great Depression and the Holocaust. While his mother appears a caricature, her controlling personality leads to several humorous tales.
From an early age, Silverman questioned authoritarian leadership, and was actually “dishonorably discharged” from the Cub Scouts for such “rebellious” behaviour. Sometimes, it’s a simple question that can lead a person to begin questioning their faith; this was very true for Silverman. His telling of such experiences, throughout the book, is consistently concise; and it is the accumulation of these tales that gradually reveals the core of the whole man.
Outside of activism, Silverman had an education and career based in theoretical mathematics. Scattered in a few places of this autobiography, his background reveals itself in dry language, but quickly recovers with rich tales of personal development. While I enjoyed learning more about the work that Silverman has championed throughout his life, the chapter I was most enthralled by was one about the global travels that he and his wife ventured on. From Israel to India, the pair experienced a broad range of cultures, and religious mandates; Silverman acknowledges these differences, and he retells each memory with precision and wit. This was one of the few autobiographies that I would pick up again; there is much to be learned from those, like Silverman, that have been actively and positively changing the world around them for so many years.
This past October, while attending the TX Freethought Convention, I had the opportunity to hear Sean Faircloth speak. Directly following his presentatThis past October, while attending the TX Freethought Convention, I had the opportunity to hear Sean Faircloth speak. Directly following his presentation, I ventured to the bookstore and purchased his first book, Attack of the Theocrats! How the Religious Right Harms Us All — and What We Can Do About It (which is officially released today).
Earlier in the day I had perused the bookstore and had bypassed the gaudy bookcover a few times. The maxim rings true, as the contents of this book are superb. Attack of the Theocrats! addresses current issues, and I recommend it for atheists & moderately religious people.
The book opens with a forward from Richard Dawkins that gives a concise preview of what is to come. Don’t skip the preface; it contains a valuable image of Faircloth that helps the reader understand his passion for justice. Using his wealth of knowledge through a background of politics and law, Faircloth starts off strong with an extensive critical review of religious bias in American politics and the social arena. As he exposes a multitude of issues, they begin to fester inside of you. I would like to have seen more of the book dedicated to “What You Can Do,” than the brief section on p. 132, but this book is at least educating and creating a dialogue — especially around child related issues.
The focus later shifts to an intimate look at the Christian fundamentalists and Dominionists that are bent on reshaping the United States into a theocracy. Anyone strongly opposed to gay equality and those who consider zygotes sacred will have a challenging time, at first, agreeing with Faircloth due to his unapologetic stance on the issues. Through ample examples, he conclusively explains how religious influence on a variety of issues harms everyone, including religious conservatives, and rigorously attempts to jostle us all into action.
Faircloth aims at the outset to reach across the divide and enlighten both secular and religious readers, but the overall message will only fully pass the filters of a person with secular ideals. If you’re skeptical of the harm religious bias plays in each of our lives, read this book. It is unfortunate that an entire chapter of this small book was devoted to promoting the Secular Coalition for America, as though required by the publisher, but the message does act like a buttress for the chapter that follows.
Overall, Faircloth was able to promote a sense of urgency in a fast-paced read, while being inspirational and encouraging. Attack of the Theocrats! closes with a stimulating vision for a restored secular America, that will inspire you to action — if you’re already a secular American. I could give you all of the details, but you really need to turn through this one yourself.
The news has been at capacity lately with attacks on issues of sexual freedom, and this book by psychologist Dr. Darrel Ray could not be more importanThe news has been at capacity lately with attacks on issues of sexual freedom, and this book by psychologist Dr. Darrel Ray could not be more important to us all.
Sex & God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality. The bold title and cover image of this book will supply you with endless entertainment from the odd glances you will receive; I made several people uncomfortable at Hobby Airport last month.
Straight from the first page, this book flows naturally and Dr. Ray’s words come through as the voice of a good friend, explaining what your parents should have when they sat you down for the “big talk.” This book systematically reveals the dangers of religious sexual programming, and guides you towards releasing these sexual shackles and live an ethical sex life, free from religious sanctions.
The chapters meander through the ills of religious influence on human sex and sexuality: from limiting our pleasure and shaming and controlling us, to creating unhealthy relationships with ourselves and others. One point this book reinforces is that even if you are a secular person, religion is influential in your sex life.
At first, I was concerned that Sex & God would only be approached by secular people interested in the subject matter, but it seems palatable by a much wider audience and suitable for the secular and religious at a variety of life stages. One feature of Darrel’s writing that I found quite useful was the inclusion of easy to process analogies, such as the following:
Darrel’s extensive research on Sex and Secularism, referenced in this book, clearly shows that religion’s stranglehold on sex diminishes the quality of our lives. If there was one message I took from Sex & God, it’s this: It’s due time to break free from religion’s grasp and embrace a healthy attitude towards sex and sexuality. The control that religions have had our collective sex lives has lasted far too long and life is short.
Sex & God will help you begin a journey towards a satisfying secular sex life and help those around you develop one, too.