A compact, impeccably argued and personally revealing inquiry into religious belief, as much for adults as it is for...


An attorney and law professor from Washington, D.C., suggests ways for parents to introduce a contemporary, science-worthy version of God to children.

Author Correia, a special counsel for civil rights during the Clinton administration, makes it clear from the start that his God is no anthropomorphic, bearded Old Testament patriarch thunderously presiding from heaven over all creation. Rather, his is a god or godlike force of love and compassion, with special emphasis on compassion, and perhaps best conceived of as pure being, as opposed to a being. Teetering often on the brink of agnosticism, the author debunks the old God as unable to withstand the assault of scientific inquiry and discerns instead a small-g god who (or that) is worthy of reverence if only because he, she or it, has held sway over fervent believers since B.C. The traditional concept of a humanlike, sternly moral and punishing deity has its downsides—like its historic use by parents and clergy to scare the hell out of naughty children—but on balance, it prevented moral chaos. But foremost among all religions, the author says, is the fostering of compassion for others. This alone, he writes, is reason enough for parents to answer with a resounding yes when their children ask if there is a God. The seed planted, parents would be wise to stand back and let their maturing offspring make what they will of life’s great mysteries. Correia’s prose is very readable, his subject and intent lofty, and his viewpoint inclusive and open-minded, if heretical to some. Throughout, he makes his own perspective clear without disparaging other faith-based dogmas, though he does vigorously suggest science has left certain ancient but enduring views of godhead in tatters. A synopsis of world religions at the book’s end will allow parents to stay one step ahead of their inquiring children. But if boiling down holy books and endless religious tracts into a few short paragraphs is helpful in grasping broad outlines, such concise treatment of faiths risks oversimplification.

A compact, impeccably argued and personally revealing inquiry into religious belief, as much for adults as it is for teaching to their children.           

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2012

ISBN: 9781478153337

Page Count: 166

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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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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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. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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