More provocative than exacting, this re-evaluation of religious dogma will appeal to anyone who wants an intellectually...

THE UNHOLY TRINITY

GOD, THE CHURCH & THE HOLY BIBLE

Allsop’s theological treatise radically re-examines the Bible as a source of revelation and moral instruction, while reassessing the relationship it prescribes between God and man.

Writing in response to his crisis of faith, Allsop scours the Bible for a universally applicable doctrine and comes up empty. Instead, he finds a pastiche of apocryphal stories, irresolvable contradictions and some genuinely edifying moral lessons that only make sense when considered in their context. He adumbrates an interpretive approach that views biblical writing as the work of fallible human beings rather than the divinely inspired word of God. This leads to fundamental reconsiderations of basic church teachings like the divinity and resurrection of Christ, the intelligibility of the Apostles’ Creed, the nature of petitionary prayer and the promise of personal immortality. The author’s view that God refrains from directly intervening in human affairs functions as the crux of his attempt to wrestle biblical principles from their institutional misinterpretations. Allsop’s writing is admirably lucid, even breezy, for such a weighty topic. However, his tone sometimes becomes overly strident, frequently proclaiming too confidently what is “obvious to any reasonably careful reader.” Also, he has a tendency to present arguments as “personal reflections” rather than occasions for scholarly exegesis. Given that the nature of his topic depends on close textual analysis, the author should more frequently and rigorously engage the massive body of scholarship that presents alternatives to his often idiosyncratic readings. Finally, episodic excursions into political commentary about topics such as terrorism and environmental disaster are more distracting than edifying, not to mention dyspeptic—he refers to the “unfolding story of the human race” as a “black comedy.” Still, the author makes a moving argument for taking the Bible seriously, since it expresses “moral principles that resonate with our deepest sense of what is right and promises that meet our deepest longings.”

More provocative than exacting, this re-evaluation of religious dogma will appeal to anyone who wants an intellectually light, accessible introduction to scripture-based skepticism.

Pub Date: June 30, 2006

ISBN: 978-1412029247

Page Count: 214

Publisher: Trafford

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2012

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

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

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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An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

THE BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED

The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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