A debut book examines the urges behind spiritual yearning—and their modern interpretations.
In his ambitious work, Hoolhorst believes he has identified many of the deepest existential questions that have preoccupied humanity forever—and that he’s discovered rational answers to many of them. These answers are based in principles of truth and love rather than rooted in dogma and mysticism. He acknowledges at the outset that humans have an almost instinctive yearning for answers to these great imponderables, and his book seems designed to circumvent the normal response: “Those who fail to deal rationally with these yearnings become confused,” he writes, “and most of them are subsequently drawn towards religion and other social, political and economic structures characterized by the gang mentality of those involved in them.” The account that follows is sometimes-disjointed and distracting, although Hoolhorst is an unfailingly energetic and readable author. Philosophical ruminations brush up against textual analysis and bits of Hoolhorst’s intriguing autobiography, but sure-footed readers should find enormous amounts of captivating material here. “It is one thing for a person to have been indoctrinated into a religion,” the author writes, for instance, during an intensely effective examination of some of the inconsistencies to be found in the New Testament. “It is another thing altogether if that person never checks the claims that they were indoctrinated with.” Ultimately, Hoolhorst develops a moral and even spiritual epistemology, a theory of enlightenment that calls for readers to reject all ideas of deities—the props of authoritarian thinking—and instead gain a deeply personal and individual fulfillment along the moral lines he lays out. His goal is to help readers find their way to the truth, and even if his pronouncements will likely strike some as borrowing far too many ideological assumptions from the very schemas he’s rejecting, the end result is an extended and extremely thought-provoking, multipart challenge to all entrenched moral traditions.
A detailed secular morality that should have even the most traditionally religious readers thinking deeply about their assumptions.