Another deeply felt entry on two divergent, yet ultimately compatible, ways of engaging the world and understanding reality.



The New Atheists have it all wrong, insists McGrath (Science and Religion/Oxford Univ.; C.S. Lewis—A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet, 2013, etc.).

Instead of delving deep into the classic proofs for the existence of a cosmic intelligence—cosmological, ontological, or theological arguments—the author concentrates on the basic errors of atheism. McGrath’s particular nemesis is The God Delusion author, Richard Dawkins. Those who rely solely on science for all the answers forget that scientific “facts” are not fixed but change with new information and new thinking. Though Charles Darwin’s insights remain intact, social Darwinism, after all, has had its day. Not so long ago, the Big Bang supplanted the steady state theory of the history of our universe, and the sun no longer revolves around the Earth. That has been scientifically established. Many of McGrath’s arguments for faith are based simply on “widely agreed” notions and “growing consensus.” He asserts that there are “strong indications that religion is something natural.” To understand the mechanics of the world, writes the author, we should ask the scientists; for ethics and meaning, we must turn to philosophers and theologians. Defender of the faith McGrath seems to consider his own Christian belief the sole representative of all religious faith—though the only Scripture he directly quotes is from the Hebrew book of Psalms. Much more ecumenical and accessible is Jonathan Sacks’ wonderful The Great Partnership (2012), which tackles many of the same existential topics. McGrath’s entry isn’t light reading, however, and close attention may provide new questions and yield nutrients for further thinking for adherents of both camps. Despite the declarations of religious fundamentalists or fundamentalist New Atheists, each path has a place in humanity’s search for knowledge and understanding.

Another deeply felt entry on two divergent, yet ultimately compatible, ways of engaging the world and understanding reality.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-07792-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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