William James would say that the reason I like Bishop Spong so much is that because he reconfirms all of my already existing prejudices. But this book...moreWilliam James would say that the reason I like Bishop Spong so much is that because he reconfirms all of my already existing prejudices. But this book rang like a revelation to me. At a time when I continued to be disillusioned with the Christian church, yet was beginning to despair that I would find anything else spiritual that would be truly meaningful to me, Bishop Spong opened a door and told me that it was okay to go back inside. That the fundamentalists don't own Christianity. That I could believe as I did and still call myself Christian. I've said before that without reading this book, I never could have married Andrew, that my whole life would have been different. And I still believe that to be true. I can't really explain how grateful I am that I found it.(less)
This volume is once again treading on familiar ground - how religious practices and precepts are twisted by those interested in amassing power. It sta...moreThis volume is once again treading on familiar ground - how religious practices and precepts are twisted by those interested in amassing power. It started out simple enough. Individual men -- monks, commoners, princes, being moved by Buddha's teachings and devoting themselves to follow him. Then, as more powerful, teaching monks joined him, their followers joined him as well. Until there are thousands. Now that it's no longer a handful of followers, sitting at Buddha's side on a hill somewhere, there is a hunger for rules, for organization, for lines of power, demarcations of rank and status, and for right of succession.
All too familiar.
This volume is filled with tragedies that you can see coming a mile away. And a few, I suspect, that you can't.
Impulse buy at Tuesday Books in Williamston. Clearly the intersection between modern physics and religion is on my mind lately. This book is a collect...moreImpulse buy at Tuesday Books in Williamston. Clearly the intersection between modern physics and religion is on my mind lately. This book is a collection of interviews by Tippett with leading scientists. Not all are physicists, there are also medical doctors, scientists studying revenge, stress, depression. Tippett asks these scientists on the cutting edge of their respective fields how their developing understanding affects their understanding of religion and the universe. So it serves as a sort of sampler of the current world of science.
There's a lot that I really liked about this book. I appreciated the variety even as I tended to be more interested in the physicists and the chapter on Darwin and evolution. I really loved the interview with V.V. Raman, whose Hindi beliefs appreciate multiple ways of knowing, asking, understanding.
At the same time, this book had me frequently grinding my teeth. If someone said something that Tippett found particularly insightful, you were going to know all about it. Certainly it would appear in the transcript of the interview, of course. But additionally, each interview was proceeded by an introduction. Not just an introduction of the person being interviewed, because that appeared in the chapter itself. But an introduction before the chapter, that summarized the work of the interviewee, the interview itself, and touched on individual points and sometimes quotes from the interview. Then also there was an introduction to the entire book that did the same things. By the time you're reading those engaging points within the interviews, you're (or at least I) was like, "Yes, Yes! I remember the time!"
As I complained to everyone within earshot, it was suggested to me multiple times that I just skip the introductions, but that's cheating, and I couldn't force myself to do it. Seriously. Did she write the book over many months and forget that she had already quoted exactly that excerpt before? Could Penguin, in this age of e-books and cost-cutting, just not be bothered to assign this book an editor?
All the repetition made me feel like I'd easily be able to find all the interesting ideas that sparked things in my brain, but now I can't. One of these days, I'll get over my aversion to marking books. (At least some books.)
Despite my frustration, and despite the occasional tripping of my woo-alarm, I highly recommend this book. Just maybe, you know, skip the introductions. (less)
It should go without saying that everything I wrote in my review of the previous volume about Tezuka's writing and artwork should also be true here. T...moreIt should go without saying that everything I wrote in my review of the previous volume about Tezuka's writing and artwork should also be true here. That is, they are fantastic. And indeed, the storytelling is even better in this volume. The plot is gathering steam and reaching the more familiar ground of Buddha's enlightenment. There are fewer asides and introduction of new characters, and the one significant exception to this rule is already tied into the main storyline by this volume's end.
Also, in this book, the mirroring and contrast of the monks' self-imposed torments in the forest versus the horrible injustices committed in the name of the caste system contribute to a sense of moral urgency, a greater need for a relief from all this suffering, or at least some perspective on it. And that relief is provided within this volume as well. Yet so many volumes remain! Clearly, there is no choice but to continue the story...(less)
Some of these illustrations are so wonderful and amazing. And yet, to me at least, the poetry itself is so evocative that some of the pictures, lovely...moreSome of these illustrations are so wonderful and amazing. And yet, to me at least, the poetry itself is so evocative that some of the pictures, lovely as they are, actually limit the images already springing forth from my mind. But some are so wonderful.
I have put off writing this review for quite some time as I've been resisting outing the thoughts I have in my head regarding religion. I know, I was...moreI have put off writing this review for quite some time as I've been resisting outing the thoughts I have in my head regarding religion. I know, I was pretty candid when reviewing The Varieties of Scientific Experience, and very outspoken when reviewing Butler's Parables. But something about how I felt about this book just seemed much more personal.
The premise of this book is simple (if emotionally loaded). Atheists, when rejecting religion, tend to reject all the trappings and buildings and holidays and ceremonies as well. But de Botton urges us to take another look. Very few of these things have a direct relationship to the miraculous supernatural that atheists turn their noses up at. And those ceremonies have evolved over hundreds, maybe thousands of years of human history, to appeal to parts of our psyche, to make us feel less alone, to encourage community, humility, giving us ways to acknowledge our shortcomings... Why should we give all those things up? And how can we recreate them without appealing to gods to do the heavy lifting?
As always, I enjoy de Botton's writing style, thought it seems like there is a section in every book that makes me grind my teeth. In this book it was a section on the useful applications of the doctrine of original sin. But overall, I am very sympathetic to his position. I want shrines to generosity, altars of loneliness. I want the experience of singing hymns together without having to sing theology that I don't believe in. But then, even de Botton admires the function of congregations to create community between people from different walks of life. What if we could somehow transform the nature of those congregations so that they could unite people of different faiths as well? So that Christians, Jews, atheists, Buddhists, etc., could come together, learn more about each other, and be united by their common humanity?
Yes, this is Nikki Giovanni's vision from "Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea," and I am well aware of the theological objections to "cafeteria spirituality." At this moment, though, after reading this book, the idea makes me happy.(less)
Reading the newspapers or watching the daily news on TV, it's easy to come to the conclusion that in regards...more(review originally published on Bookslut)
Reading the newspapers or watching the daily news on TV, it's easy to come to the conclusion that in regards to evolution, the people of America belong to two highly polarized camps. In one corner, you have the Godless scientists, supporters of evolution, genetic engineering, and cloning, determined to stomp out all last vestiges of religion from American culture, and make life over in their own images. In the other, evangelistic fundamentalists, proponents of a 6,000 year-old Earth, a 7 24-hour day creation, and Noah's flood as the cause of the Grand Canyon, determined to institute religious law and bring about the rapture. The only people in the middle seem to be apathetic and don't care one way or another. Each new headline ratchets up the tension and increases the stakes, until it seems that it must have always been this way, science and religion locked in conflict over the future of the human race ever since Darwin stepped off of the Beagle.
Thankfully, we have Peter J. Bowler, professor of the history of science from Queen's University in Belfast, to bring us some much needed perspective. His remarkable little book, Monkey Trials and Gorilla Sermons, goes back to the first pre-Darwinian inklings that life on earth may not always have been as it appears today, and traces the conversation about the origins of man and their implications through the ages to the present day. Even the most familiar events along this journey are illuminated afresh by Bowler's use of current historical research. For example, the famous crushing of Samuel Wilberforce, bishop of Oxford, by scientist Thomas Huxley at the 1860 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, when Huxley declared that he would rather have an ape for an ancestor than a man who misused his intelligence to attack a theory he didn't understand. According to modern understanding, this event was invented by later followers of Darwin. In reality, there was no decisive victory on that day. Darwin's theory of evolution was accepted very gradually by the scientific community. In time, parts of his theory were even accepted by most religious thinkers, until the return to tradionalism in many Christian movements led to fresh attacks, particularly on the teaching of evolution, in the early twentieth century. Though it wasn't until well the 1950s and '60s that even the more unpopular materialist aspects of Darwinism were accepted by the majority of the scientific community, setting a far different stage for the current conflict.
The final section of the book is devoted to the modern debates. Bowler links the rise of intelligent design and young-Earth creationism with the rise of fundamentalism worldwide. A brief discussion on the social forces that are making fundamentalism so appealing to so many these days, and why any fundamentalist movement would necessarily be opposed to the scientific theory of evolution, is enough to make any liberal fall into despair. On the other side, a few modern evolutionary scientists have grown so hostile to any form of religion that one has even gone so far as to declare all of the world's religions a danger to humanity. But thankfully, that is not where the book ends. For much of the history of this debate, there were many movements in Christianity that tried to accept some version of evolution, but the final breaking point was always natural selection as the primary mechanism. There were those who could accept common ancestors, who could accept random variation, but when it came to natural selection, most of these Christians simply replaced this with God. It's not too surprising, for decades natural selection made even the most avowed Darwinists nervous. This partial acceptance made these theologies easy to criticize for both scientists and more conservative Christians. However, today there are a number of religious thinkers who are able to reconcile their visions of God and Christ with all of evolutionary theory. Indeed, a few have even suggested that a universe ruled by natural selection is the only possible universe in which intelligent creatures with free will could emerge. They have thus made the modern theory of evolution essential to their theology.
What is made most clear from this book is that our ideas about the nature of the human race and the universe in which we live are always changing. We will probably never come to some static interpretation of how the world is and why, but this book gives me faith that we have some good directions to move in.(less)
This is the story of unlikely conversion: A radical lesbian activist, who spend much of her youth involved in people's uprisings in Mexico & Centr...moreThis is the story of unlikely conversion: A radical lesbian activist, who spend much of her youth involved in people's uprisings in Mexico & Central America, one day walks into a church, receives communion, and is transformed. She becomes filled with the idea of "sharing the body," which for her becomes a command to feed the people. Which leads her to setting up a weekly food bank in the church, and then to helping others in the city start new food banks as well, challenging her congregation, those in her neighborhood, and even those who visit the food bank to expand their ideas of community, service, and comfort.
What I appreciated most about this book was the author's meditations on what it means to "be the body of Christ," and sharing in that call with those whose religious beliefs differed significantly from hers. (And vice versa!) It's a thought that I've been mulling over all summer, and it's helping me be less reticent expressing my beliefs around those with more conservative views (Pretty much everyone.)(less)
This book had been on my wishlist for a while, as I've always been interested in the "disappeared" books of the Bible. (Well, always... at least as lo...moreThis book had been on my wishlist for a while, as I've always been interested in the "disappeared" books of the Bible. (Well, always... at least as long as I knew such things existed, anyway!) So, when perusing the religion section of the Mecosta library, this title jumped out at me. (Additionally, the rest of their religion section is rather un-challenging, conventional mainstream to right wing Christianity.)
So, I broke my long standing rule to not check out library books (due to my extended history of large library fines) and picked it up. It was immediately fascinating and I found myself reading it at every spare moment. I do have to say, however, that the subtitle is a bit misleading. This book is more about how the Gospels came to be the Gospels and how the others, the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Mary, etc., came to be forgotten. There is some particular focus on Thomas, but really only a small portion of that gospel makes it into the book.
But that's okay, because what was most interesting to me was the church history and how the issues the church is dealing with today are the same issues it's been dealing with since the dawn of Christianity -- who belongs and who doesn't, what beliefs are approved of and which aren't, and what's to be done about those we disagree with. Linked to that is how certain interpretations of texts came to be thought of as essential to Christian faith -- even those that were at one time highly controversial and aren't necessarily explicitly stated in the texts themselves -- most notably the idea that Jesus = God.
Highly recommended to all those who question.(less)
Really, it is embarrassing to admit how much time went by between reading Volume 2 and 3. Even given that my old library didn't appear to have any gra...moreReally, it is embarrassing to admit how much time went by between reading Volume 2 and 3. Even given that my old library didn't appear to have any graphic novels (at least not for grown-ups), and instead I had to buy all mind on the rare trips to Grand Rapids that I could convince Andrew to take me to the comic book store. I should have bought one of these volumes every time.
Okay, so now you know how strongly I feel about Tezuka's writing. But why? It's his sense of balance. He writes about such a reverent subject -- the life of Buddha -- with such bold streaks of absolute irreverence. The artwork, too, is simple and beautiful in one frame, hideous/profane a few pages later, then total kawaii a few pages after that. He constantly has you spinning from hope to despair, admiration to disguts. It is both a departure from our everyday world and a descent into the worst of the human condition.
In this volume, Siddharta continues to seek enlightenment, gaining admirers as he goes, denying Tatta's requests of him to return to his throne, and finally giving in and accepting responsibility for Assaji, the boy who has been following them. Some of the plot in this volume seems incremental, and the asides to catch us up on other characters feel not yet justified, but I'm sure we will all end up somewhere worthwhile in the end.(less)
This volume is almost entirely comprised of pain and misery. The two main story arcs are Tatta becoming a warrior to fight the giant, Yatala, to settl...moreThis volume is almost entirely comprised of pain and misery. The two main story arcs are Tatta becoming a warrior to fight the giant, Yatala, to settle the dispute between Magadha & Kosala (which just can't end well), and the story of Buddha's time in Deer Park, where he runs into Dhepa with a group of monks also undergoing ordeals (this can't end well, either.)
Story is still amazing, art is still fantastic, this segment of the plot is a little painful, can't wait for the next one!(less)
Those who dislike the more supernatural elements of the Buddha series should perhaps consider skipping this volume entirely, as it is largely the stor...moreThose who dislike the more supernatural elements of the Buddha series should perhaps consider skipping this volume entirely, as it is largely the story of Ananda, a man chosen by a devil to find and kill Buddha, and so is given invincibility at a very young age. Magic abounds in this volume, making it feel more like a traditional graphic novel and less like a biography, religious in nature or not. On the bright side, this volume is less violent than recent volumes, and causes less despair at the eternal grinding misery of the human condition.
This really is one of my favorite books of all time. I have opened it up again and again and again. It was especially important to me my senior year i...moreThis really is one of my favorite books of all time. I have opened it up again and again and again. It was especially important to me my senior year in college. I will always love Rumi, and Coleman Barks.(less)
There is a quote on the front of this book: "These translations should do for that great glorious mystic Hafiz what Coleman Barks' translations have d...moreThere is a quote on the front of this book: "These translations should do for that great glorious mystic Hafiz what Coleman Barks' translations have done for Rumi. Seekers on all paths will benefit from the radiance they emit."
What more to say than that? These poems come from the same spiritual tradition as Rumi, the same sort of ecstatic state of delirious love. And the translations are in the same spirit as Barks'. Not just a literal translation from Farsi to English, but also a poetic translation into a more modern form. These are wonderful.(less)
As you can see, I didn't find this book to be quite as earth-shattering as Why Christianity Must Change or Die. Perhaps it's because I read it with my...moreAs you can see, I didn't find this book to be quite as earth-shattering as Why Christianity Must Change or Die. Perhaps it's because I read it with my husband, who was more critical of the way Spong built his arguments. Perhaps it was also because I was often frustrated that I wanted more detail. Spong is taking, and asking his readers to take, a leap of faith. I want a few more straws to grasp at as I do. ;) I want a list of the hymns that he thinks still make sense with a non-theistic understanding of God. I want more solid ideas of how to have a conversation as a non-theist with a traditional believer. For me, this is a matter of spiritual survival, right now. And I was hoping for at least a few easy answers. Though still, I appreciated this book. Perhaps the ground is a little sturdier under my feet for having read it after all.(less)