I've gotten started on this book two times before, and quit before or at Chapter 2. I guess it was a bit hard reading; I had to remember (or reread) w...moreI've gotten started on this book two times before, and quit before or at Chapter 2. I guess it was a bit hard reading; I had to remember (or reread) what the author talked about before, to understand what point he's trying to make. It seemed circuitous...
I'm liking it better now. I'm glad for the Philosophy course I took, because I could tell in one place where Chesterton kind of referred to Descartes without naming names - the extreme sceptic that disbelieves even his own senses, who believes in demons and spirits, but not in material things. Of course Descartes argued back to believing his senses, but that was the start: that he couldn't tell whether everything was a dream or reality...
I came across this sentence on page 103 about the saints: "They, being humble could parade themselves, but we are too proud to be prominent." It might seem like a paradox unless you have some context, but I liked this powerful statement. It tells me that it's okay to have high goals, if they are the right kind of goals.
The last few pages of the last chapter were confusing. I still don't know what he was trying to say there. Oh, well. I'll try rereading in a couple of years, to see if I understand better.
In the last chapter Chesterton answers a question that a hypothetical agnostic may ask a person who has found truths in certain doctrines, "But even supposing that those doctrines do include those truths, why cannot you take the truths and leave the doctrines? [...:] If you see clearly the kernel of common sense in the nut of Christian orthodoxy, why cannot you simply take the kernel and leave the nut? Why cannot you simply take what is good in Christianity, what you can define as valuable, and leave all the rest, all the absolute dogmas that are in their nature incomprehensible?"
The answer he gives essentially is that he has looked into the many and various objections to Christianity and found them false, based on incorrect assumptions. The truths of the Christianity however just add up, so to speak. The bottom line is this: "... my reason for accepting the religion and not merely the scattered and secular truths out of the religion. I do it because the thing has not merely told this truth or that truth, but has revealed itself as a truth-telling thing. All other philosophies say the things that plainly seem to be true; only this philosophy has again and again said the thing that does not seem to be true, but is true. Alone of all creeds it is convincing where it is not attractive; it turns out to be right..." (less)
Thursday I found a free copy of this book that I wanted to read.
In between the table of contents and the actual start of the book, Matthew Kelly tells...moreThursday I found a free copy of this book that I wanted to read.
In between the table of contents and the actual start of the book, Matthew Kelly tells a striking story. Imagine that the world is suddenly struck with a mysterious flu, highly contagious and incurable. Within a couple of week of getting it, people die. It keeps spreading despite all efforts to contain it or find a cure. The countries close their borders, but find the disease is already in. Long story short, finally the cure is found; the scientists can make the vaccine to save everyone. However, they need blood of an uninfected person to make the vaccine. Everyone is called out for blood-testing. All are infected except your child. The doctors are triumphant of course, smiles on their faces ... but they didn't expect it would be a child, and they tell you that they need all of his blood and ask you to sign a release form. "We are talking about the whole world here. Please sign. We ... we ... need to hurry." And there's no other clean blood to give a transfusion to your child.
What would you do? I'd say a definite "no". I'd say they can take only as much blood as possible while keeping my child alive, and I'd demand other solutions, another way. The ends can't justify the means.
But that's not how this story goes. This story is an allegory illustrating the Father giving His Son for the salvation of the world. And it left me asking, "Why wasn't there any other way?"
I heard of Kelly's buzz phrase "the-best-version-of-oneself"... Kinda cheesy. Well as I'm reading this on page 5 (not sure, since it's actually unnumbered): "There is something ultimately attractive about men and women striving to become the-best-version-of-themselves. It is this striving that we need to rediscover as a Church." and in my mind "the-best-version-of-themselves" gets converted to "saints". I suppose the reason he doesn't say that word is because that would sound impossible to achieve!
Chapter 2 is called "The Prevailing Philosophy" and I already disagree with the author, teehe. The author distinguishes three major practical philosophies of the modern culture: Individualism ("What's in it for me?"), Hedonism ("If it feels good, do it!"), and Minimalism ("What's the least I can do...?") and that these three are ultimately self-destructive philosophies ("will destroy every individual and community that practices them").
Okay, individualism taken to the extreme may be destructive, but it is not in itself bad. It upholds the value of human life, encourages enterprise (industriousness / personal achievement). We also know how the opposite of individualism taken to its extreme can be demeaning (socialism/communism). Just the way Matthew Kelly wrote about Individualism rubbed me in the wrong way. Too harsh, too short - didn't give justice.
I could totally see the Minimalism though... I man when I was in university, I heard many students just saying "I'll be happy with a C / just need a passing grade". (less)
I'm enjoying this book greatly, and I think it complements the Bible study of the book of Matthew that I'm currently in very nicely. It brings out som...moreI'm enjoying this book greatly, and I think it complements the Bible study of the book of Matthew that I'm currently in very nicely. It brings out some of the same points, but mostly is different, and I like that. I think I'll have to recommend this book to my Bible study group.
I've decided to clean up my exceedingly long "currently reading " list, and started with this one. This was really good. Worth rereading because of how much is covered. Pope Benedict XVI draws a lot of connections. There was a section on prayer that I liked especially since I got into the liturgy of the hours a bit. (less)
I wonder sometimes of these "highly acclaimed" books: What people find in them. The descriptions in the book were a bit flowery for me. There was not...moreI wonder sometimes of these "highly acclaimed" books: What people find in them. The descriptions in the book were a bit flowery for me. There was not a whole lot going on - I suppose I should have guessed based on the cover that it's not very exciting, if they chose to just picture two men standing together by a fence... It got somewhat better in the second half. The Catholic family was rather dysfunctional; it was sad to see how they'd ended up. Well, the very end with a sort of reconciliation was good.(less)
Got a free copy of this book, and I think it may be useful.
Well, now that I've started the book, I can tell that it's something I can't read straight...moreGot a free copy of this book, and I think it may be useful.
Well, now that I've started the book, I can tell that it's something I can't read straight through once. It bears reading and reading again. I like the sentiment "Evangelize always. Use words when necessary." But that's hard! Both parts! Patrick Madrid says that the fact my close relatives are not Catholic is apparently a God's plan - to use me as a way to bring them home... He also says that nothing is impossible for God. Which is true of course, but when he describes the features that an evangelist should have: humility, love for God and love for "the neighbor", prayerful life -- I realize how far I am from that ideal. Really. Especially, since I've just recently prayed about humility and resolved to practice it with God's help, and then on vacation it all went haywire. I didn't pray as much; I was thinking more about myself than about others; I was grumpy with little provocation... He had some useful tips, though; that's why I think I'll need to read and reread.
I've gotten an opportunity to witness in my life, and decided to go one with the reading of this book looking for the tips. Once I decided I'm going to do it, the reading went smoother. I think the author should have moved the section on the excuses we make earlier! It does make some sense having it after the preparation, but still...
The book is choke-full of tips. I particularly like the advice on pages 192-194 about being patient.
At the end it also provides a list of suggested books to read afterward, with descriptions of what they are about and subdivided into Preliminary, Intermediate and Advanced. I think Preliminary is the longest category, and Advanced the shortest.(less)
I'm on page 32, and I'm not sure about this book. It purports itself as a practical guide, but I haven't come across a single practical advice yet. It...moreI'm on page 32, and I'm not sure about this book. It purports itself as a practical guide, but I haven't come across a single practical advice yet. It's all words, words, words... Describing what kindness is, how it helps -- just I guess trying to motivate you to be kind. But I can't read more than a few pages at a time, and after reading them I recall nothing of essence. It's a bit frustrating that I can't focus on it: I was hoping it will get better...
The most significant part so far that kind of starts getting at what to actually do was on page 12:
1. Don't speak unkindly of anyone. 2. Don't speak unkindly to anyone. 3. Don't act unkindly to anyone.
1. Do speak kindly of someone at least once a day. 2. Do think kindly about someone at least once a day. 3. Do act kindly toward someone at least once a day.
For any unkindness committed:
1. Make a brief act of contrition, such as "My Jesus, mercy!" 2. Offer an apology, if possible. 3. Say a little prayer - such as "Bless N., O Lord" - for the one to whom you have been unkind.
The author is definitely well-intentioned, and has made me think about what I'm doing. One day I noticed how unkind I was towards someone, whereas before reading this book I wouldn't have given it a second thought. In fact, when I related the story to a couple of friends, they saw nothing wrong in my actions (the other person was in the wrong more, but I think that it started with my unkindness).
I haven't finished - had to return the book to the library. may be I'll try it some other time, and may be I'll be more receptive then.(less)
I was surprised by how small this book is when I checked it out of the library. But it's a real gem. It's going on my Amazon wishlist, because I'm sur...moreI was surprised by how small this book is when I checked it out of the library. But it's a real gem. It's going on my Amazon wishlist, because I'm sure I'll want to refer back to it again and again. It's quite inspirational. The ten prayers are very simple, but the insight in the chapters is amazing. I skipped over chapter 9 (Will I Ever Be Happy Again? God, Bring Good Out of This Bad Situation), because I don't think it's relevant to me right now.
The ten prayers are: 1. God, show me that you exist (and this chapter made me want to pray this even though I'm a believer!) 2. God, make me an instrument 3. God, outdo me in generosity 4. God, get me through this suffering 5. God, forgive me 6. God, give me peace 7. God, give me courage 8. God, give me wisdom 9. God, bring the good out of this bad situation 10. God, lead me to my destiny
And at the end of the book, the author presents these prayers in a poem format. Read the entire book before reading the poem - it makes it better, more poignant.(less)
The jacket is stunning. I've just started reading, and the first chapter is more like an overview, more of a preface or an introduction. I do hope the...moreThe jacket is stunning. I've just started reading, and the first chapter is more like an overview, more of a preface or an introduction. I do hope the author will go into more detail in further chapters.
-- There's a lot of good information I didn't know. I liked the way the author sort of pointed out the importance of the Catholic ideas to the development of science, in particular (e.g. the universe - because it was created by God - is orderly and intelligible, so we can study it. By contrast, the ancients thought all nature was sort of personified, had its own will, and thus cannot be predicted, etc.).
There was a little bit hostility to other belief systems. For instance, I noticed in one place a debate between a catholic cardinal and a prominent protestant which wasn't relevant to the topic at hand, and so I thought it was unnecessary to describe it. I think he was just trying to sort of introduce that catholic cardinal this way by relating an anecdote about him. But it struck me as unfair to the other side, because there is probably a lot more to that debate than this. In a different chapter, the author contrasted a couple of economic ideas and tried to show that the protestant thinking led to the incorrect model... I thought he was pushing it a bit much.(less)
**spoiler alert** This was an ok book, not great, but ok. What I liked about it was the way the communion of saints is represented, how the prayers af...more**spoiler alert** This was an ok book, not great, but ok. What I liked about it was the way the communion of saints is represented, how the prayers affect stuff in ways most people are not aware of. It made me pray more, so the fruits of the book were good in that way. I liked the way Catholic families were presented thinking to myself, "so is this what it's like? awesome".
One section made me laugh. It was one sentence, three simple words: "Sacraments were consummated." after the marriage of two couples. It was just different...
The story is kind of hard to get into, but picks up around chapter 5. There are way too many characters, and a lot of time not much is going on (at one time it seemed like every character went on a tour of Notre Dame right one after another! what was up with that?) I didn't like the supernatural stuff in this book - made it very hard for me to suspend disbelief; it's just that no one really knows what heaven and hell would be like, and this particular vision of the author didn't ring true.
For instance, Lanning's experience of hell really strikes me as far-fetched -- his sin for which he is condemned is "contraception", which he didn't know was wrong. (For a sin to be mortal, you must have knowledge that it's wrong and serious matter and full consent of the will.) Based on previous story of Lanning's life, I would think it would be "lies", intentionally misrepresenting the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in order to attract more people to it, leading people astray. By the way, I had an issue with the Mormon religion or its leaders presented as evil. Hmm...
I'm also not satisfied by the supernatural conversions, by the Warning in which people are shown their sins and the goodness of the Lord. It kind of takes away the virtue of believing in something you don't have direct experience of. I thought at least Nathan should have gained faith the hard way *shrug* Lee Washington's conversion was ok, though.(less)
This is good. Ahlquist is more readable than Chesterton. I can see that what he is saying is leading up to something, whereas when I read Chesteron di...moreThis is good. Ahlquist is more readable than Chesterton. I can see that what he is saying is leading up to something, whereas when I read Chesteron directly, I sometimes have to re-read paragraphs because I don't get his train of thought; he always is running away from me, or meandering here and there. Good stuff:
"The key to happiness and the key to wonder is humility. [...:] Humility means being small enough to see the greatness of something and to feel unworthy of it, and privileged to be able to enjoy it. [...:] Ironically, both the skeptic and the believer think the Gospel is too good to be true. But the skeptic scorns it, and the believer falls on his knees." (p. 33.)
Chapter 9 (Science and Secondary Things) is rather controversial, and I wanted to argue with page 124! I understand that he meant to fight against scientism - science out of its proper place, attempting to answer questions it is not meant to answer, to force philosophy that claims to be impartial, but is in fact biased, biased against religion... Okay, I may have overreacted; when viewed in that context page 124 is okay. But at the first reading it seemed as though he'd throw the baby out with the bath water, and start attack on the theory of evolution, Big Bang, which in my view are not incompatible with religion...
There were a lot of good insights in Chapter 12 (The "D" Word - meaning Democracy and Distributivism), although I wished some indication of how one can put it in practice. And I guess it was rather brief discussion of a complicated topic.
Funny Chesterton's quote from page 182:
"I remember once arguing with an honest young atheist, who was very much shocked at my disputing some of the assumptions which were absolute sanctities to him ... and he at length fell back upon this question, which he delivered with an honourable heat of defiance and indignation: "Well, can you tell me any man of intellect, great in science of philosophy, who accepted the miraculous?" I said, "With pleasure. Descartes, Dr. Johnston, Newton, Faraday, Newman, Gladstone, Pasteur, Browning, Brunetiere -- as many more as you please." To which that admirable young man made this astonishing reply -- "Oh, but of course they had to say that; they were Christians." First he challenged me to find a black swan, and then he ruled out all my swans because they were black. The fact that all these great intellects had come to the Christian view was somehow or other a proof either that they were not great intellects or that they had not really come to that view."
Excellent book overall, and makes me want to read more of Chesterton.(less)
My parish organized this Bible Study, and I enjoyed it a lot until I moved to another state. I haven't opened it since, because it is so much more fun...moreMy parish organized this Bible Study, and I enjoyed it a lot until I moved to another state. I haven't opened it since, because it is so much more fun to have someone to discuss it with and then watch the video, where Jeff goes into a whole lot more detail. (I don't have the video or audio...)(less)
Browsing through this book in the library, I saw this funny quote as an epigraph to the last chapter: "In this world we have seen the Roman Catholic p...moreBrowsing through this book in the library, I saw this funny quote as an epigraph to the last chapter: "In this world we have seen the Roman Catholic power dying ... for many centuries. Many a time we have gotten all ready for the funeral and found it postponed again, on account of the weather or something. ... Apparently one of the most uncertain things in the world is the funeral of a religion." (Mark Twain)
When I started reading the book, I thought it was going to make me angry... The author describes a few incidents of desecration of Catholic churches and the way media ignored them. But it's not the main focus after all. The first chapter is about how to determine what is prejudice and what isn't. Criticism of certain people within Catholic church isn't, but generalizing from those persons, that the behavior they are criticized for is a direct result of their religion, and that "this is what Catholics (or Jews, or persons of other other religion) are like, this is what they do" would indeed be prejudice. It also analyzes whether ex-Catholics and even those who still call themselves Catholic can be anti-Catholic or anti-clerical. Then the book traces the anti-Catholic prejudice through a bit of history.
I think I gained some insight into the gay anti-Catholicism,
"Centrally, the gay rights movement stresses the extreme and direct danger posed to its community, showing that the movement is an urgent necessity, a basic form of self-defense. The message is that gay rights is not an optional or whimsical cause; it is an essential means of saving lives. That idea means emphasizing threatening issues such as hate crimes and AIDS, in which lives are at risk. Once the seriousness of these issues achieves widespread public recognition, they can be used rhetorically to stigmatize other political enemies through a kind of guilt by association. If AIDS and hate crime are such a pressing danger, then any cause that can plausibly be seen as contributing to these dangers must be seen as lethally threatening." (p. 100)
So to them it doesn't matter that Catholic Church condemns any discrimination and violence against homosexuals, if it says that homosexual activity is evil and intrinsically disordered - because that can still lead someone to hate crimes. And the degree of involvement doesn't matter. Is that rational?
The author of the book doesn't necessarily argue that anti-Catholic prejudice is particularly bad, but rather he highlights the apparent double standards, in that anti-Catholicism is "the last acceptable prejudice" - the people are quite sensitive to other types of prejudice (e.g. against blacks or Jews), but are prone to dismiss anti-Catholicism. "When Catholics protest that images are anti-Catholic, their objections prove that Catholics are 'sheep', their leaders heresy hunters, and their clergy lying hypocrites; moreover, anti-Catholicism does not exist." (p. 129)
He argues that maybe the Americans are too sensitive to those other issues. "The question is not why American studios bankroll films that will annoy and offend Catholics, but why they do not more regularly present subject matter that would be equally uncomfortable or objectionable to other traditions or interest groups. If they did, American films would be more interesting as well as more consistent. If works of art are to offend, they should do it on an equal-opportunity basis." (p. 167)
I'm not sure if I agree with that. I suppose it would make things interesting, shake things up, open up discussions. But on the other hand, we shouldn't rush into it. Since the anti-Catholic bias is so embedded and we are too desensitized, Jenkins occasionally puts it in perspective in terms we can see, and gives illustrations of what might be seen as comparable prejudice about blacks, Jews, gays, Muslims that would match some of the attacks on Catholicism. And well, I wouldn't like to see those realized.
This is an important book to read. I agree with this review by Michael Novak (from the back cover):
"This is an astonishing book. Most of us get used to the contempt heaped upon the Catholic Church by nice, liberal people (as if such contempt were only to be expected), so we stop thinking of it as the gross deformity of soul it is. Jenkins, once a Catholic but no longer, quietly amasses evidence about more types of prejudice and bigotry against Catholics than most of us are conscious of. He is particularly good at diagnosing 'the black legends' about Catholicism which everybody 'knows' are true--the Crusades, the Inquisition, 'silence' regarding the Holocaust--and the inner agitation of 'anti-Catholic Catholics', who have internalized the world's contempt. A serious, original, provocative study."