Take comfort, then, true believers, but take arms (verbal) all ye atheists and agnostics.



Belief in a divine power is only human, writes Oxford Centre for Anthropology and Mind senior researcher Barrett (Why Would Anyone Believe in God, 2004).

In the first part of the book, the author looks at cross-cultural studies of children conducted by experts in the “cognitive science of religion.” The studies indicate that, from an early age, humans know the difference between inanimate objects and “agents”—people or forces that can move or make things move. As they develop, children are prone to see agents as powerful forces unlike humans. By four or five, kids see a purpose, not only in objects, but also in creatures, rocks, rivers and mountains. These experiments are intriguing and offer an occasional corrective to the teachings of Jean Piaget, and Barrett makes it clear that children are not gullible and ready to believe anything put forth by their parents—they subscribe to what he calls a “natural religion.” In the second part of the book, the author indicts atheism by arguing that if one accepts natural selection then one cannot reject the natural religion of childhood—it must have survival value. But xenophobia has survival value, too, and it is an easily induced trait. While Barrett rightly takes Hitchens, Dawkins et al. to task for their more bombastic arguments, he can be faulted for claiming that atheism may be due to “male-brainedness.” The final chapters are primers on how to encourage children in a religious life, with implications that it will make them healthier and happier than their nonbelieving peers.

Take comfort, then, true believers, but take arms (verbal) all ye atheists and agnostics.

Pub Date: March 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9654-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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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

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