Category: Religion

Wrong and Dangerous by Garrett Epps

book jacket with scrap of Constitution showingWrong and Dangerous: Ten Right-Wing Myths about Our Constitution by Garrett Epps (2012)

This slim volume is a fun read (the touches of sarcasm are a delight) about what the Constitution actually says and directly refutes right-wing claims to the contrary. Excellent notes and list of books for further reading by categories like “the Bill of Rights” and an appendix that provides the actual text of the Constitution plus the first version that failed to meet the needs of the nation due to lack of sufficient federal authority over states’ rights. Personally, I long for the day that the entire concept of “states’ rights” is abolished. My rights as a citizen should not depend on geography. States’ rights is a vestigial concept leftover from the fear of a central “kingdom” type of government.

I may write the author and suggest he dedicate another volume to the Fourteenth Amendment, and social justice issues related to it that have had Supreme Court (bad or good) rulings, especially in the area of racism and sexism.

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The War on Science by Shawn Otto

book jacket
The War on Science:
Who’s waging it, Why it matters, What we can do about it by Shawn Otto (2016). Some of the people who wrote blurbs for the book are listed below and links to books where appropriate are included. Fabulous book, and if I hadn’t got Tuesday and wednesday mixed up on my phone calendar, I could have heard in speak. I was so very disappointed in myself for that. Buy the book; 500 pages is a long library read.

the-physics-of-star-trekforeword by Lawrence M. Krauss (he’s the guy that wrote the great The Physics of Star Trek)

book jacket photo of Bill NyeWriters of blurbs for the book include:Bill Nye (The Science Guy)

 

deep-economyBill McKibben, Michael E. Mann, Walter Mondale

mastermind

 

Maria Konnikova (author of Mastermind: How to think like Sherlock Holmes)

Ben Bova — award-winning author of the Grand Tour sethe-transparent-societyries and former editorial director of Omni

David Byrne, scientist and award-winning author of The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose between Privacy and Freedom?
[I don’t think we’ll be getting a vote.]

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From Eve to Dawn: A History of Women in the World by Marilyn French

 

book jacket abstract image of womanFrom Eve to Dawn: A History of Women in the World by Marilyn French (2008) Volume 1: Origins. Foreword by Margaret Atwood.

Marilyn French has a smooth writing style that is easy to read but still packs a punch by her coherence and context for absorbing new information.

The bbook jacket illustration of wall and women in red with white hatsook is divided into 3 basic parts: 1. Parents, 2. The Rise of the State, 3. Gods, Glory, and Delusions of Grandeur. Under the States part it is a treat to go back all the way to Peru, Egypt, and Sumner. Other nations include a chapter on China, India, Mexico and a concluding analysis on the State in the abstract. She adds descriptors to identify the nature of the respective states: Secular=China, Religious = India, Militaristic = Mexico.

Under the Gods portion she covers Judaism, Greece, Rome, Christianity, Islam. There are number of supplemental notes, a glossary, a bibliography, and and index as well as some maps.

Here’s a bit from Margaret Atwood’s foreword:

Women who read this book will do so with horror and growing anger: From Eve to Dawn is to Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex as won is to poodle. Men who read it might be put off by the depiction of the collective male as brutal book jacket photo of author Simone de Beauvoirpsychopath, or puzzled by French’s idea that men should “take responsibility for what their sex has done.” . . . However, no one will be able to avoid the relentless piling up of detail and event — the bizarre customs, the woman-hating legal structure, the gynecological absurdities, the child abuse, the sanctioned violence, the sexual outrageous — millennium after millennium. How to explain them? Are all men twisted? Are all women doomed? Is there hope? French is ambivalent about the twisted part, but, being a peculiarly American kind of activist, she insists on hope. (p.x)

Her intention was to put together a narrative answer to a question that had bothered her for a long time: how had men under up with ALL THE POWER — specifically, with all the power over women? Had it always been like that? If not, how was such power grasped and then enforced? Nothing she had read had addressed this issue directly. In most conventional histories, women simply aren’t there. Or they’re there as footnotes. (p.xi)

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Stealing America by Dinesh D’Souza

book jacket with weird photo of Obama and HillaryStealing America: What my experience with criminal gangs taught me about Obama, Hillary, and the Democratic Party by Dinesh D’Souza (2015)

Creative nonfiction with an emphasis on the creative part is how I would categorize this book.

Arrogance oozes from so many of the commentaries he makes that it is almost embarrassing. Although I do agree that his conviction and length of incarceration in a day half-way house was ridiculous and does smack of a targeted prosecution, the fact that he sees himself as so manly that nobody tried to steal his freaking Rolex even though he was surrounded by “murderers” and “gangbangers” is just one instance of his pridefulness. He seems to take pride in the apparent acceptance and even admiration of himself by this normally threatening group of people.

I learned of a new thing to me: Christian apologetics.  Still not entirely clear on this, but it doesn’t seem to bode well for an atheist to be safe in a country of them. He also takes great pride in his many debates against prominent atheists based on his Wikipedia page (one presumes he edits it).

The book is not worth the time to read.

Overdue and Out of Renewals for Darn Good Books

I have completely gotten bogged down due to issues with my eyes. There may be a need for me to get a reading machine at this rate. I am going to have to give a bunch up and then come back to this page to re-reserve when I get down to a handful, 90 is simply too many to juggle! I need to stop hitting the reserve every time I see something on BookTV and just do a future to read page so I don’t forget them. A few have already slipped by but a few more I did remember to make a note of them to read later.

book jacket with graphic of ear of cornBetting on Famine: why the World STILL Goes Hungry by Jean Ziegler (2013) is a compelling read, and I want to do it justice. The pages I did read are terrifying and mortifying. There is considerable discussion about the fact that the Nazi’s deliberately starved people in the concentration camps before they killed them. Since I have seen horrible images of the survivors, I know this to be true. Unbelievably wicked but everywhere everyday children and adults are dying from hunger. Fewer people would be a good start to avoiding the problem in the first place, but that is never going to happen since the various religions believe having children is the whole point of women’s lives.

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C Street by Jeff Sharlet

illustration of congress with a cross atop dome portrayed in stained glass windowsC Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy by Jeff Sharlet, (author of the National Bestseller, The Family). (c 2010 hardback, I listened to it on cd).

I am finding it hard to write about books I have “read” by listening to them. I think, “oh yeah, I’ll have to mention that anecdote” but there is no way to bookmark it; best I could do would be to hop out of bed (defeating the purpose of “reading” until I fall asleep) or pull over the car to make a note of the disk and track number for replay later. Mainly I have gotten the hard copy when really motivated, but I will not be doing that for this book.

Not because the book is “bad” in any way per se, but as it happens, I got to about disc 4 or 5 (out of 8) and my heart was too crushed by the revelations about “The Family” and their infiltration and indoctrination of susceptible sheep politicians and other people. Though, that said, assuming it was not on the remaining disks, much more time could have been spent on naming names and elucidating the often hidden ties between the power brokers and manipulators in the background and less long descriptive text about that pathetic excuse for a human being, Mark Sanford, and his “heroic farmer” spiel to seduce first his wife, then his mistress. I mean, it beyond laughable and way too long. Cartoons have more depth of character than he does. And yet, two seemingly bright women were seduced by his role playing. In a theoretically enlightened women’s worldview, that is troubling. But I guess not for anyone who would let Mark Sanford touch them. Or Newt Gingrich (cheated on wife #2 with an intern and I think wife #1 with wife #2 — hard to keep it all straight), or Mitch McConnell (I’m sure the wealth of his wife’s family and interaction with the United States shipping ports had nothing to do with it, but in this case God is not in the equation).

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Kingdom Coming by Michelle Goldberg

book jact with upraised hand and a crossKingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg, (2006)

To start, I begin with the quote from the conclusion titled Exiles in Jesusland:

History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a FREE CIVIL GOVERNMENT. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes. –Thomas Jefferson

This is a really excellent book. Well worth buying and reading and rereading because the depth of her discussion and naming names is so complete. Well written so it is easy to follow the arguments she makes and an appreciation for the connections between people and events.

Page 180 at the end of the book,  sets out the reason for anxiety:

It’s one thing to have a government that shows contempt for civil liberties; America has survived such men before. It’s quite another to HAVE A MASS MOVEMENT — the largest and most powerful mass movement in the nation — rise up in OPPOSITION to the RIGHTS of its fellow citizens. The Constitution protects minorities, but that protection is not absolute, with a sufficiently sympathetic or apathetic majority, a tightly organized faction can get around it.

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Attack of the Theocrats by Sean Faircloth

attack of the theocratsAttack of the Theocrats: How the religious right harms us all and what we can do about it; a toolkit for building a secular America by Sean Faircloth. “We’re one nation under the CONSTITUTION” (2012)

Foreword by Richard Dawkins. This is a slim volume and a pretty fast read. He makes many astute comments on the sad situation we have in America with the bat-shit crazy theocrats, dominism, evangelicals, and other commercial ventures (aka scams, frauds, hucksters) like “seed” churches (give us your money and you will get money [not] and prosperity gospel megachurches that delude credulous and desperate people that if only they believe (and pay) the minister, they will be (a) saved and have a nice life in Heaven [rather than none at all or burning hellfire], (b) they are doing “good” somehow for others [the church owners], (c) their suffering will be mitigated by a “higher force” [never going to happen, better to live the life you have free of the fear of hell or hope that heaven will be better, and actively work to HELP YOURSELF to changed the existing world to be more like imaginary heaven than the living hell it is now].

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The New Religious Intolerance by Martha C. Nussbaum

book jacket Muslim girlThe New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the politics of fear in an anxious age (2012) by Martha C. Nussbaum

This is an interesting, almost philosophical, discussion of various aspects of religious activities, from burqas to yarmulkes, discriminatory laws directed at a particular practice (forbidding Latin in church but allowing it in schools back in the day in England with hostility to Catholic services), and similar almost random ways that religious dogma infiltrates all aspects of human lives (including treatment of animals, such as kosher killing of animals).

The nub is drawing the line. What is an acceptable level of tolerance and at what point should religious practices be deemed unjustified or in contradiction to legal protections and the interests of the State.

One real crux of the issue of religious variations and other cultural differences is a central problem to religious and other forms of intolerance, and this is stated on page 2: ‘NON-ASSIMILATION TO THE CULTURE OF THE MAJORITY.” From an American perspective living in the “melting pot” historically, immigrants have wanted to assimilate. Yet we have a core belief in the rights of an individual, for example, to religious expression of ANY sort (well, almost, cults are frowned upon, and atheists are assumed to be satanists which is not an acceptable expression of religious activity, however the Courts have permitted leniency for the satirical Satanist groups organized to mock religious displays in order to illustrate the absurdity of and illegitimacy of the domination of Christian beliefs as integral to our “Christian” nation when the United States is VERY SPECIFICALLY NOT Christian but SECULAR. No matter how many times the evangelicals repeat the lie and make false statements as to the Founding Fathers being “Christian” when the facts prove otherwise.

This has become a singular and damaging quality of daily life for America. When you have a fringe religious extremist [Ted Cruz] whose father thinks he’s chosen by [their] god to become president, and that candidate says that his god’s “laws” are superior to man made laws including the U.S. Constitution, the very basic foundation of the country is under threat. Probably one of the most remarkable characteristics of the Republican men originally running for President is the fact that many of them made the same claim: God’s will is that I should run. And yet, a totally secular, sinful, and, if not criminal, certainly skating the limits of legal much less ethical practices, man has become the apparent Republican nominee for President. Pandering and having no moral center, or worse, a deliberate provocateur, is now in a position to end American democracy and freedoms, especially for women, but even worse for minorities who have experienced a massive increase in hate crimes. Like the woman wearing a headscarf and who was driving down a road, minding her own business, when a good old boy pulled up beside her and shot her dead. And she wasn’t even Muslim as I recall. Given the misogyny as well as hatred of minorities, the killer may well have shot the woman just because she was a woman who dared to drive a car alone. The sad thing is I cannot find a citation of this news story because there are so many results when I entered multiple search terms about shootings (19,300,000).

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Sex, Mom, and God by Frank Schaeffer

book jacket with family photo and Bible verseSex, Mom, and God: How the Bible’s Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway by Frank Schaefer(2011)

I listened to most of this on CD so don’t have hard copy to illustrate how truly bizarre the author’s mother was in particular. It was interesting, even amusing in parts, but kind of tiresome after a certain point, so when it came due at the library I did not renew or seek out the hard copy.

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