Posts tagged ‘book review’

God, Zombies, and the Meaning of Life

I recently finished two books that I have been unable to stop thinking about. One was World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks; the second was The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Both of these books involve, in different ways, a global catastrophe and the varying responses to it of the characters in each story. Now, you may be asking yourself what, in Darwin’s name, this might have to do with de-conversion, but hear me out! The issues they raise address (though perhaps in an unexpected way) some profound questions we have to struggle with as part of leaving our faith.

An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max BrooksThe first, World War Z, chronicles an outbreak of zombies (yes, zombies), as it spreads from the first few, sporadic cases into a rapidly engulfing worldwide plague, nearly pushing the human race to extinction as social order and entire societies collapse. Though I had never before heard the term “zombie apocalypse”, as this sub-genre’ of fiction is apparently called, I was nonetheless hooked. I couldn’t get this book out of my head. I found it to be surprisingly, even strikingly, evocative – of a strange admixture of despair and poignancy. Which seemed a odd response to have to a book about zombies. I found myself wondering: why?…

Continue Reading March 17, 2008 at 2:20 am 8 comments

Bart Ehrman, Questioning Religion on Why We Suffer (NPR)

God’s Problem - Bart Ehrman It’s one of the oldest faith questions: If there’s an all-powerful and loving God, why do human beings suffer?

In his latest book, religious studies professor Bart D. Ehrman wrestles with that question — and with the implications of the often-contradictory answers he finds. In God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer, Ehrman meditates upon how the Bible explains human suffering, why he finds the explanations unconvincing, and why he gave up on being a Christian.

Ehrman, author of Misquoting Jesus and more than a dozen other books, chairs the religious studies department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill…

[Listen to Erhman's interview on 'Fresh Air' with Terry Gross and read Book Excerpt]

February 20, 2008 at 8:55 am 121 comments

Book Review: Parenting Beyond Belief

Parenting Beyond BeliefThis book, written from an explicitly atheistic perspective, is unlike many other books about parenting that are available throughout the USA. The editor states that “There are scores of books on religious parenting. Now there’s one for the rest of us” (p. x). In spite of its clearly non-religious posture, this book is not intended to denigrate religion and its practitioners. In fact, McGowan observes at the outset that “religion has much to offer parents: an established community, a predefined set of values. . .comforting answers to big questions, and consoling explanations to ease experiences of hardship and loss” (p. x). Nevertheless, McGowan and many others believe that there are compelling benefits to raising children outside of religious traditions. This book is intended to assist such parents.

The book is divided into nine chapters, each of which is comprised of an introduction by the editor and writings from various authors, many of whom identify themselves as freethinkers. These authors include philosophers, scientists, two Unitarian Universalist ministers, a former Pentecostal minister, a comedian and several others. The chapters address such issues as religious literacy, parenting in a mixed secular/religious marriage, good and bad reasons for belief, celebrating religion-free holidays, developing moral values, coping with death and consolation, developing critical thinking skills and habits, and building secular communities…

Continue Reading October 31, 2007 at 10:54 am 8 comments

Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman

Misquoting JesusI’ve been making my way slowly through the book Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman and am more and more convinced that there is no such thing as a “true” text of scripture, let alone an inerrant scripture or a “verbally inspired” scripture. There ain’t no such animal. It’s all verbal and doctrinal gymnastics to keep the faithful ignorant. I think that’s precisely the dirty, little secret of textual critics or anyone else who’s been to a university not tainted by religious bias and committed to honest inquiry. There is no “text” of scripture at all, but several letters, treatises, gospels, and other bits and pieces that were chosen randomly by a bishop here or another teacher there according to their whims at the time. No women were allowed to choose the texts, even though women were apostles and prophets as well. God no more orchestrated the gathering of these bits and pieces together than Zeus orchestrated the gathering of all of his children from several different mothers for a family reunion of the gods in ancient Greece. Of course, I always knew this from my own studies. Ehrman just solidified it for me.

Ehrman began his career as a conservative Moody Bible College graduate who, after working his way to a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, realized that what he was taught as an ultra-conservative fundamentalist Christian just didn’t jibe with the facts. In fact, the tossing about of texts, the castigating of those of differing opinions, and the fighting over words went on from the very beginning of Christianity…

Continue Reading October 24, 2007 at 12:36 am 71 comments

Christianity and the use of Anecdotal Evidence

The Ghost Map I just finished reading a terrific book called “The Ghost Map,” a nonfiction account of the 1854 cholera epidemic in London. The story follows a scientist and a clergyman whose investigations pinpointed the source of the outbreak that killed hundreds of people within a week. Their work saved untold thousands of lives: Due to them, London never again suffered a cholera epidemic.

Before Dr. John Snow and Rev. Henry Whitehead proved that cholera is a water-borne illness, there were myriad theories about how it was transmitted and cured. The patent-medicine industry spent huge amounts on advertising all sorts of quack “remedies,” writes author Steven Johnson:

“Ordinary people had long cultivated their folk remedies and home-spun diagnoses, but until newspapers came along, they didn’t have a forum beyond word of mouth to share their discoveries. At the same time, the medical division of labor that we now largely take for granted – researchers analyze diseases and potential cures, doctors prescribe those cures based on their best assessment of the research – had only reached an embryonic state in the Victorian age. … For the most part, this meant that the newspapers of the day were filled with sometimes comic, and almost always useless, promises of easy cures for diseases that proved to be far more intractable than the quacks suggested.” pg. 46

Continue Reading June 30, 2007 at 6:10 pm 39 comments

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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