THE END OF CHRISTIANITY

In this unabashedly polemical collection of 14 essays, atheist commentator Loftus continues the diatribe he began against the Christian faith in Why I Became an Atheist (2008) and The Christian Delusion (2010).

The basic argument he and his contributors—including Robert Price, Hector Avalos and Richard Carrier—use to debunk Christianity is what he calls the “Outsider Test for Faith,” which asks people to evaluate their own religious faith “with the same level of skepticism they use to evaluate other faiths.” By applying the strictest logic to the literal word of the Bible, the essays demonstrate why 2,000 years of Christianity is more than enough. Christian beliefs in such things as miracles, Immaculate Conception and the Resurrection are “absurd and bizarre.” The Bible is an outdated text that represents “norms, practices and a conception of the world very different from ours” and “endorses everything from genocide to slavery.” As a work set down by humans, Christian Scripture is “fantasy literature” and the biblical God “nothing more than a memorable old monster.” The central doctrines pertaining to hell and repentance are dangerous for the way they “intimidate people into belief” and offer justification to the unscrupulous to perform unspeakable acts of cruelty. Taken together, the essays show how Christianity should not be used as the basis for notions of right and wrong; science, offers a much better foundation for a system of morality. The arguments advanced against Christianity are not new, but Loftus’s book is admirable for its bluntness and single-minded drive toward the belief that science—itself a human construct and thus as subject to flaws as religion—is mankind’s saving grace. Provocative but not earth-shaking.

 

Pub Date: July 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-61614-413-5

Page Count: 435

Publisher: Prometheus Books

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

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

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

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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