A bracing, comprehensive deconstruction.

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How and Why God Evolved

AN ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVE

A clinical assessment of the human origins of organized religion.

Khan’s nonfiction debut tackles the fundamentally mundane origins of the broad concept of invisible deities. He looks at sacred texts of the major modern monotheisms—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—and sets them in the broader historical context of the polytheism from which they sprang, leading to various structural and thematic similarities. The goal is to bring these and all faiths in the supernatural down to Earth, linking them with the power-related needs of human rulers and societies. “Mighty empires,” he writes, “propagated the myth of religion and mediator god-kings to keep a heavy-handed grip on innocent people.” In interpretive and rhetorical moves that will be familiar to readers of so-called New Atheist texts—e.g., Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and Sam Harris’ The End of Faith—Khan systematically picks apart the absurdities of major religions. “If God insists on proving His existence through angels,” he asks, “why not send angels that can be seen and heard on the witness stand?” Or: “What if an atheist hits the jackpot without any supplication to God?...Do we call it God’s mercy? No, we call it luck.” He looks at a wide spectrum of later, interpretive stories from the likes of Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, and various commentaries on the Quran. Khan’s tone throughout is calm and approachable, but his larger purpose is serious: while illuminating the arbitrary and man-made nature of organized religion, he simultaneously underscores the tremendous and often harmful power those organized religions still wield in the world, altering national policy and sometimes severely affecting daily lives (he points out, for example, that the constitutions of seven U.S. states forbid government office to atheists). Atheists will appreciate this unified, readable treatise on the choice to renounce religion, while religious readers with questions about the validity of their faiths will also find a great deal of thought-provoking material.

A bracing, comprehensive deconstruction.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4917-6883-9

Page Count: 212

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

OPEN BOOK

The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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