In an age of Osteen and Hitchens, it’s refreshing to see the subject of religion addressed in this nonpartisan, insightful...

GOD'S CENTURY

RESURGENT RELIGION AND GLOBAL POLITICS

Nietzsche famously declared that “God is dead.” Toft (Public Policy/Harvard Univ.), Philpott (Political Science and Peace Studies/Univ. of Notre Dame) and Shah (Boston Univ. Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs) suggest that the rumors of His death have been greatly exaggerated.

The authors claim that the influence of religion on the thinking and behavior of human beings may be stronger than ever, and they explore the implications of that influence over each of us as individuals and the world as a whole. Is religion a force for good or evil in politics? How much influence does and should it have? These are just two of the larger questions that the authors ask and then attempt to answer. Their sharp analysis, meticulous research and original thinking make for an enjoyable reading experience, and their willingness to unpack subtleties and address complexity keep their work from becoming biased or one-sided. In addition to critiquing religion, the authors celebrate it. Religion isn’t a good or bad thing so much as it can be a good or bad thing. Any major religion claims adherents both irrational and violent as well as just and kind. The authors then consider how religion might be a force for good and not for ill, and these specifics are the most engaging parts of the book. The authors offer concrete suggestions for confronting the challenges that religion’s influence can bring, as well as making the most of the unique perspective offered by religious thinkers and doers. In a world where religion isn’t going away and may, in fact, be on the rise, Toft, Philpott and Shah urge us to take the influence of God seriously and to not simply accept or dismiss it as “good” or “bad.”

In an age of Osteen and Hitchens, it’s refreshing to see the subject of religion addressed in this nonpartisan, insightful way.

Pub Date: March 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-393-06926-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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