A lucid if ultimately limited account of a historically vexing problem.

A GOD BEYOND BELIEF

RECLAIMING FAITH IN A QUANTUM AGE

A pastor attempts to broker a détente between religion and science by urging believers to embrace the paradoxes of Christian theology.

According to  Moore (End of the World Propheteers, 2015, etc.), we live in a “jaded era,” or “a period of disillusionment.” While the extraordinary progress of science has given humanity unprecedented knowledge and power, it has also ushered in debilitating skepticism and a cynicism regarding religious truth. Surprisingly—for an ordained Methodist minister who believes the Bible was divinely inspired—the author largely places the blame for this diminishment of faith on the staid inelasticity of a biblical orthodoxy that stubbornly resists adapting to our ever evolving times. In place of that orthodoxy, Moore recommends that we “Embrace Paradox,” or the ways in which a rigorous reflection on an apparent contradiction can yield a deeper appreciation of the truth and lead to a more complex understanding of it. In fact, religion should emulate quantum physics, which has demonstrated that “paradox is woven into the very fabric of the universe.” That practice could bring about a more profound understanding of “the mysteries of a quantum-acting, infinite, complex God.” Moore considers a number of paradoxes in Christian theology: for example, that Scripture is “authoritative” but also “imperfect”—given that different versions of the Bible can suggest different meanings—to show that Jesus used paradox to convey the wisdom in recognizing the irreducible mystery of human life. Moore makes a philosophically accessible case for a more rationally nimble understanding of religion, though he presents his argument as specific to Christianity. He largely rejects the historical tension between hyperbolic expressions of science and religion—he sees only “occasional conflicts” rather than a war. However, his account of that tension, in comparison to the rich tradition of literature available, is less than philosophically searching. And while he concedes his study isn’t really about quantum physics, he refers to it as frequently as he does ambiguously. The author shows a commendable intellectual ambition and recognition that religious faith and science needn’t be adversaries, but many others have developed a similar idea and have done more with it. 

A lucid if ultimately limited account of a historically vexing problem.

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78904-254-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Circle Books, UK

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2020

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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.

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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