A readable and highly detailed inquiry into the roots and values of Christianity.

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A writer searches for the existence and nature of the Christian God.

The “Club” mentioned in the subtitle of Smith’s nonfiction debut is, according to the author, “the (multi-denominational) Christian Church” that was “founded” by Jesus and uses the Bible as its “charter”—meaning, presumably, Christianity. Smith came to his current examination of the Club after a time of being a “lukewarm” Roman Catholic, employing a process called “Experiential Learning” (Using your life experiences “to re-examine and evaluate assertions, ideas, and beliefs”). In his 40s, the author reached a point where he considered it “somewhat likely” that Jesus was not the son of God and that the Gospels may have been altered over the centuries. During the ensuing years, he pursued these questions, reading famous atheist books by Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris and always looking for some kind of intellectual confirmation—through experiential learning—that the basic tenets of the Catholicism of his upbringing were actually true. It’s not many pages later when his doubts have apparently been resolved enough for him to write “we do know we were created by something we call God.” The rest of the book breaks down the exegesis of that belief and provides the author’s intriguing rundown on a wide array of controversial topics on which the Catholic Church has pronounced dogma over the centuries. Masturbation is “a sin,” for instance, and abortion and euthanasia are “against God’s will.” But many of Smith’s readers will be surprised and perhaps pleased at how often he finds the position of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to be a “misinterpretation” of God’s will as expressed in Scripture—the author countenances things like contraception and gay sexuality. Those same readers will find Smith’s lucid analytical approach to all of the teachings of the Club endlessly thought-provoking.

A readable and highly detailed inquiry into the roots and values of Christianity.

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5456-1204-0

Page Count: 414

Publisher: Xulon Press

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2020



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


A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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