I feel their pain but I cannot commit to joining them where they are. This very special and challenging book was a gift from my dear friend David, who...moreI feel their pain but I cannot commit to joining them where they are. This very special and challenging book was a gift from my dear friend David, whose life much more closely adheres to the philosophy championed in this earnest volume. "Days of War, Nights of Love: Crimethink For Beginners" by CrimethInc is like reading about a different species; an uncannily familiar species we might admire despite its awkward alien-ness. Its angry anarchic, rejectionist, contrarian prose exhorts us to an garbage-grubbing interstitial life at the margins subsisting on the leftovers and leavings of modern, capitalist, industrial society. Were we all able to return to the egalitarian, communitarian, small group societies the authors aspire to we would find ourselves in a hunter-gatherer "economy" with no technology more sophisticated than "stone tools and bear skins." Call me bourgeois, but I kinda like the internet, iron, penicillin, and beverages extracted from coffee beans grown on other continents. Still, we should endeavor to understand and learn from the authors' pain, ennui, and weirdly compelling aspirations. They're not wrong exactly, they're just 10,000 years too late to put up or shut up. Damn you, agriculture, Bronze Age, and civilization!(less)
Bob Bogle's "Frank Herbert: The Works" is a heartfelt and voluminous biography, appreciation, critical analysis of Frank Herbert's books and his life...moreBob Bogle's "Frank Herbert: The Works" is a heartfelt and voluminous biography, appreciation, critical analysis of Frank Herbert's books and his life as a writer. I read it mostly to better understand the Dune Saga and I'm glad I did. I'd forgotten how complicated the later books in the series had been and Bogle's analysis and synthesis helped tease some of the tangled story lines apart. I've only read two other books by Herbert, "Hellstrom's Hive" and "White Plague." I imagine I'd have enjoyed "The Works" even more if I'd read all the stories and novels that fell under Bogle's watchful eye for fine detail.(less)
So this is where the plot for "Fern Gully," "Dances With Wolves," and "Avatar" came from. "The Word for World is Forest" is well-written, if none too...moreSo this is where the plot for "Fern Gully," "Dances With Wolves," and "Avatar" came from. "The Word for World is Forest" is well-written, if none too subtle, indictment of European colonialism, Manifest Destiny, American slavery, and the Vietnam war (not that subtlety is called for when addressing these unfortunate topics). Other Le Guin novels deal with concepts so foreign they can be tough (though enjoyable) reading. This book's 189 pages flew by in a single afternoon. (less)
Homo Sapiens was not always the most successful hominin on the planet. Homo Sapiens did not always have speech, art, or religion. Rebuffed by Homo Nea...moreHomo Sapiens was not always the most successful hominin on the planet. Homo Sapiens did not always have speech, art, or religion. Rebuffed by Homo Neanderthalensis in the Levant 100,000 years ago, Homo Sapiens returned to Africa where the entire species was nearly exterminated by the Mount Toba super-eruption. Homo Sapiens left Africa for the second time ~70,000 years ago and promptly colonized the entire planet. What changed? Why do all human societies have speech, dance, art, and religion? A compelling thesis is laid out in careful detail in "Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved," by Matt Rossano.
Rossano expands on ideas expressed by James McClenon and others that receptivity to rhythmic vocalizations and simple dances rewarded participants with pleasantly altered states of consciousness and small group cohesion. In time the ability to sing and dance and a predisposition to hypnotic revery and the healing power of placebo was transmitted to future generations. Simple ritual grew into what we now think of as shamanism.
Rossano details the impact this sort of proto-religion had on egalitarian hunter gatherers. He explains why complex hunter gatherers began to exhibit social stratification and ancestor worship. In a world occupied and influenced by the all-seeing spirits of our ancestors - entities who took an interest in our daily activities and our thoughts - social order and group cohesion was enhanced by religion's tendency to reinforce and reward a moral faculty.
The rest is pre-history.
This is a book I wish both William Lane Craig and Richard Dawkins would read. Religion need not be God-breathed or factual in order to have played an important role in human flourishing, evolution, and progress.(less)
A common argument offered by Christian apologists is, "Why would the apostles and other early Christians have died for something they didn't believe i...more A common argument offered by Christian apologists is, "Why would the apostles and other early Christians have died for something they didn't believe in?" In "The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom," author Candida Moss, a skilled story teller and a thorough academic, has answered that question with great thoughtfulness and in deep detail. While intended for a popular audience, "The Myth of Persecution" is rigorously methodical and carefully referenced. Unlike like many other overly earnest volumes on such topics, it is also emotionally engaging in its presentation. After carefully laying a historical foundation in the first five chapters, Moss builds an imposing edifice in the last three, explaining how the largely inaccurate myth of persecution has been put to poor use by the Church, Christians, and Western political leaders since the 4th century. "The Myth of Persecution" is as entertaining as it is erudite, as important as it is troubling. The "Myth of Persecution" is an important book for anyone interested in history of Christianity. If attempting to understand religion is your thing this book is worth your time. (less)
"Original Sin: Origins, Developments, Contemporary Meanings" by Tatha Wiley is very readable book about a pretty inscrutable topic. Author Wiley is er...more"Original Sin: Origins, Developments, Contemporary Meanings" by Tatha Wiley is very readable book about a pretty inscrutable topic. Author Wiley is erudite and even-handed in her examination of topics Christians have killed each other over. She takes a pretty serious detour in Chapter 8, to make a rather densely detailed analysis of the work of modern theologian Bernard Lonergan. It doesn't derail the accessibility of the book as a whole, but not for lack of trying... Overall, an excellent and informative read.(less)
Have you ever noticed how much theology is mostly about harmonizing irreconcilable ideas you already believe? Neither especially systematic nor partic...moreHave you ever noticed how much theology is mostly about harmonizing irreconcilable ideas you already believe? Neither especially systematic nor particularly brief.(less)
Could key elements of traditional Christian dogma - from Augustine to...moreA sophisticated argument, skillfully rendered...
πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ Romans 3:22
Could key elements of traditional Christian dogma - from Augustine to Luther - hinge on a choice between nominative and genitive case when translating a key phrase in Paul's letters from their original Greek? Does the bulk of the history of Christianity arise from distinction between the Christian notion of faith in Christ and Paul's expression the faithfulness of Christ? Wow! The concept rocks my world and I'm not even a Christian.
Professor Pamela Eisenbaum is a practicing Jew who teaches in a Christian seminary. Tough duty; I imagine watching her work would be a treat. "Paul Was Not a Christian: The Original Message of a Misunderstood Apostle" is as thought-provoking as it is accessible. A skilled writer, Eisenbaum is methodical but never plodding. As she guides us through her challenging thesis there are moments when tells us she needs to slow down to carefully spell out a complex concept in detail. Heed her warning and you will be rewarded.
I don't read Greek (of course neither do most Christians...okay, other than those in Greece I suppose) so I'll be sending this book along to some fine friends who do. I look forward to hearing what they - a retired Roman Catholic priest and a 20-something evangelical minister - think of Professor Eisenbaum's approach to the pivotal role Paul played - whether intentionally or accidentally - in the early church.
Fun stuff. "Paul Was Not a Christian" should be on every Christian theology nerd's reading list.
PS I recommended the book and its author to Justin Brierley at the Unbelievable radio program and podcast. (less)
"The Last Temptation of Christ" is now my favorite gospel story! I've long been a fan of the controversial 1988 film adaptation by Martin Scorsese, bu...more"The Last Temptation of Christ" is now my favorite gospel story! I've long been a fan of the controversial 1988 film adaptation by Martin Scorsese, but I have only just now read Nikos Kazantzakis' 1953 novel. I still prefer Scorcese's deft departure from the text, casting a 12 year old Juliette Caton as Satan; otherwise the novel offered no disappointments. The Last Temptation of Christ is at once fine literature, subversive theology, pious heresy, beautiful art, and a page turner. What a rush. Amazing stuff. (less)