The man who read the entire Encyclopedia Britinica in one year takes on another amusing task (thereby making me wonder, yet again, how his wife puts up with him). A. J. Jacobs uses a year of living as close to Biblically as possible as a way to examine his own agnosticism, the faith of the masses, and his everyday life. This book is funny, the writing is sharp and the plot leads to alot of introspection on the reader's part as well. It is interesting to consider some of the rules in the Bible, and to consider why we follow some and preach on them so heavily and yet ignore others. I do think Jacobs needs a little more information about the New Testament, but it's still a good overview.
Since the author does the naration, you can be sure that everything is emphisized correctly. He is a great storyteller-both in print and out loud.
When I hear women my age proudly claim they are defiantly NOT feminists, I am taken aback. Ms. Sommers does an excellent job of showing just why so many young women are running away from the feminist label. They don't want to be associated with man-haters: women who view every man as a potential rapist and every woman a potential survivor. She highlights many of the events from the late eighties and early nineties that ended up giving feminism a very bad name. Rather than trying to promote equal rights for all humanity (the so-called equity feminists), some feminists (gender feminists) are trying to supplant the patriarchy with a matriarchy. To do so, they overblow poorly done studies and try to silence maleness wherever it rears its ugly head (pun, unfortunately, intended). She does such a good job of pointing out the hysteria and rancor of this sect of feminists, I had to remind myself constantly that I agree with her thesis-those kinds of feminists are bad for feminism. They take away from the social justice that generations of women have fought for; they stray from the goals of the Seneca Falls Convention and forget that many sisters around the world really are being suppressed; they devalue the terms sexual harassment and rape by having them apply to everything. I'm grateful she kept repeating the goals of equality through her book or I would have completely forgotten I wasn't reading the transcripts of a Rush Limbaugh show (a mistake none of us ever wants to make!).
This book was written in 1995, so I was still in junior high and high school when most of these events were unfolding. I wonder how much of her arguments are simply overblown to give evidence to her thesis, how much was relegated only to certain university campuses, and how much has mercifully blown over in the past decade. I would love to see an updated version of this book. In the meantime, I'll read books like The Mommy Myth and Selling Anxiety.
Ehrman's latest book puts forth the Scriptural answers for why there is suffering, in addition to historical and modern interpretations of these answers, and explains how these answers fall short. Each section examines a different suggestion for the problem of suffering and looks at New and Old Testement answers to them. Included are the ideas of suffering because of God-given Free Will, suffering as a test of faith, suffering as punishment, suffering to teach lessons, and suffering as an Apocolyptic sign-and of course that we cannot know God's reason for "allowing" suffering. He even includes the parent analogy-that God is like a parent who must punish His children. Though it is not as Scriptually founded as many of the other arguments, it is a common modern argument (right up there with Free Will).
A good protion of this book is set aside as Ehrman's own memoir of how he became (as he calls it) Dead Again-deciding that he no longer believes the tennets of his Born-Again faith and becoming an agnostic. This book is an excellent analysis of what many believers and non-believers grapple with, and many eventually come to the same conclusions he does-that the Bible does not explain in any real and satisfying way how an all-loving and all-powerful God can allow so many people to die of starvation, malaria, cruelty, etc-and he provides devistating statistics. It may also be useful for people trying to understand the position many take in not being able to believe in God-despite this, Ehrman is NOT an atheist, nor is he trying to convert anything. He presents the literary/Biblical criticism of Scripture,tries to understand it, and applies classic philosophy to the arguements he's heard. This book never came close to making me question my own faith, but it has lead me to think more closely about some of the more painful aspects of divinity.
Good narration that matches the tone of the author's meaning.
This is a book written by a former Evangelical Christian who has studied Biblical history in depth. It is an amazing book that looks at the history of the Bible, how it came to be written, translated, and interpreted. For those who believe that the Bible is the inerrant work of God, it is important to remember that, while God may ahve had all the ideas, man was still responsible for the editorial process. This is a well-written and accessible introduction to Biblical studies and textual analysis.
Despite being one of the most religious countries in the world, Americans know pitifully nothing about their religions. Not only do they not understand the tennents that they base their faith on, Americans don't know enough about other religions to understand world politics, enough about Christianity to understand political statements, our own history, or literary allusions (the entire time, I kept thinking about my college roommate who had to ask me (a Pagan) who Job is). He emphisizes, rightly, that the Supreme Court has, time and time again, reminded teachers that, while they cannot promote or preach religion, they are allowed to teach it.
While I agree completely with Prothero's dismaying statements about the woeful lack of understanding of the various religions out there, I don't view his solution as practical. Having a full year of religion education (one semester of the Bible, one semester of world religions) would be great, except for the fact that he glosses over the lack of time, funding, or ability to teach it properly. If religion is taught in classrooms, I am not afraid that all teachers will suddenly start prosletysing to students. I am afraid that all the interest and intrigue will be yanked out of religious study the same way it has been squeezed from the study of history in high schools (see Lies My Teacher Told Me)-or literature, or math, or evolution, or any other topic that is so facinating and important that gets the guts ripped out or gets taught to the lowest intellegence level in the classroom.
What can I say-I love the Sweet Potato Queen books. I don't get the wigs or the boots or the parade, but I definatly get the mindset. I started reading the books when I heard my mom hooting and hollering in laughter reading them. She said it wouldn't be as funny to me because I'm not old enough or fat enough-and that may be the case. But I'm still in stitches everytime I read or hear these books. Trust me, the way the author speaks is enough to make listening to the books worthwhile, rather than reading them.
This is an excellent book that goes into what men are like, what women are like around men, and the crazy stuff we do to get around men more. Think of it as the southern "He's really not that into you," only funny.
Though this anti-religious polemic makes some interesting points about the issues surrounding blind faith, fanaticism, and many aspects of religiosity, I doubt he'll get a whole lot of converts from it. There were a number of times in this book I wanted to go and take philosophy classes because I just knew he was making erroneous claims and assumptions; I just didn't know what they were called.
On the plus side, while this book did absolutely nothing to shake my faith, it did an excellent job of making sure I'm not taking it for granted. I do agree with his assessment that religion is not off limits for serious consideration and philosophical or scholarly investigations. I do have a slight quibble with his assertion that it should be scientific, because faith and God and religion are often as difficult to study scientifically as imagination or love or hate. Just because they can't be quantified and dissected doesn't mean they cannot exist.
My other complaint is that he too often jumps to conclusions because they are "obvious" or something that any "school child should be able to see by now." Not only is this a weak argument that is also incredibly insulting and patronizing, it is the same argument that religious thinkers have been using (I think Thomas of Aquinas used it quite frequently, in fact-and I know Absalom did).
All that being said, it makes a good addition to any readings of an examined faith, which is something to not be taken advantage of. He also brings up some very interesting issues about many religions, including strange admonitions regarding sex, the birth canal, and diet. He did a good job of putting words to why I converted from Catholocism, in fact.
While I think these are excellent at explaining what errors religion has made, it does not make a good argument to dispose of religion and faith all together for materialistic atheism.
I am in love with The Daily Show, so when I saw that one of their "reporters" wrote a book, I had to read it. I like Hodgman's presentation on the show, so I decided to listen to the audio version of the book. This was a mistake. Hodgman works well as the straight man, but he needs someone to play against, to mirror his over-the-top button-down appearance. This is lacking in his book. The idea is very clever-present all the information one could ever need, regardless of whether or not it's true. It's Wikipedia with a better editor, I thought. However, it wasn't funny at all. The oral presentation of the tables, guest readers, and other gimmicks throughout were simply annoying. I'm not sure if the print version is any better and I am loathe to check it out to find out.
This book alternates between facinating and infuriating. The author's thesis that America is hardly a melting pot, but a pointalism painting that must be examined on the small-scale to be appreciated as a whole is rivetting and enlightening. However, the slightest knowledge of statistics, research methods, or polling methods makes his use of numbers and polls down-right frustrating. He never really properly addresses the problems of bias, skewed results, or problems with the ways questions are formed. And while many of his assertions are interesting, some of them are too hastily made (and many are down-right silly), which distracts from the overall message. However, by ignoring his playing fast and loose with numbers and rush to hypothesis, it's a great book. In other words, if your looking for an interesting introduction to polling, go for this book. Most people can find themselves in at least one of the categories-I'm a bit of an oddball so I was suprised that I was only in the "Upscaled Tattoo" group (in which he makes NUMEROUS errors in assumptions-the Macdonaldization of tattooing is a terrible idea). This helps support his overall thesis-we can't insist everyone be "American," when there are so many ways to be American. Plus, he points out many things that are easy to overlook. For instance, railing against illegal immigrants may not be a great idea for politicians because, even though the aliens can't vote, chances are they have family and friends in country who CAN.
But if you want serious numbers and accounting of actual trends in America, this book will leave you wanting.
I listened to this while (you've gotta love this) deep-cleaning and organizing my house. The author uses many of the same techniques to exlpain why a little mess is good for you that Malcolm Gladwell uses to explain why snap thinking is a good thing (See: Blink). State a thesis, throw in some facts, throw in some anecdotes, and throw in some interesting conjecture and you've got a book! Abrahamson doesn't have quite the finesse of Gladwell, but that still makes this an interesting read (or listen). It's really funny in some parts and makes me glad I have a little bit of a mess on my desk and in my home (I have a four year old, and to me, if you can't tell a child lives in a home where the child lives, you're doing something very wrong). However, while making statements about how the mind is evolutionarily set up to handle mess, he ignores the great stress that many people feel when confronted with the messiness of others. Maybe we can handle clutter well, but there is something to be said for laying out the outfit you're going to wear the next day or letting your employees know what is expected of them in the long term.
On the whole, this book was entertaining and informative and certainly gives the reader a number of great excuses to NOT file, sort, arange, or organize. I think his editor may have taken this lesson too much to heart, though-it tends to hop around a lot and many of the stories are very non sequiter.
Not only has zero not always existed, numbers aren't quite as concrete as our math teachers would have us believe. Seife presents the entire history of counting and numbers before getting into the history, philosophy and theology surrounding the number zero (and frequently, infinity).
It helps to be somewhat comfortable with mathematical concepts, but it is not mandatory at all. Nor is it mandatory to know much about Greek philosophy-and the two get about as much attention.
This is an excellent and sweeping history of how religion has had to change itself because of the immutable idea of nothingness. This also goes into the history of physics, particularly quantum physics and string theory, and astronomy. This is because, in almost all situations, mathematical theorums work beautifully and explain nature and the cosmos-until you have to account for zero.
Well writen and researched. Highly recommended for any level reader-layman or expert. Well-narrated.
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