A heartfelt but unconvincing look at organized religion.

HOLY HODGEPODGE!

A debut book seeks to examine faith through reason.

Former pastor and educator Sago notes that a student once requested, “Tell me how to be a godly person—and please leave out all the religious hodgepodge.” This entreaty acts as an inspiration throughout the author’s work, as he attempts to describe what is worth believing while discarding what he sees as the accumulated errors of organized Christianity. Raised in an evangelical, perhaps fundamentalist, church, Sago went on to lead congregations and Christian universities using what he had learned as the backbone of his belief system. But his views have dramatically changed. “I have a great respect for Christ,” he notes. “However, logic and reason, based on cause and consequence, does not support the redemption theory.” Indeed, he sees Jesus as a historical figure, but in no way divine. Similarly, he disputes nearly every other aspect of what might be considered orthodox Christian doctrine, from biblical Creation to original sin. Eventually, Sago labels himself a deist: “I am a Deist because I believe solely in God. That belief requires no doctrinal governance or precise definitions.” Sago does not, in this work, attempt to convert others to the same type of deism, nor even to disprove the Christianity he has abandoned. Instead, he urges his reader to think critically about organized religion. The problem that seems immediately evident in the book is an absence of doctrine. Sago has gone from one extreme to another in shedding a strict, rule-bound spirituality for a faith in only the most nebulous concept of a supreme being. The reader is forced to ask, did he consult theology before forsaking Christianity? For instance, he sees the concept of original sin as a childish and vengeful human construct. But many theologians across the spectrum have offered more nuanced views of sin, salvation, redemption, etc., than Sago was raised with, but which he simply discounts. In leaving his belief system behind, the vast body of Christian thought cries out for his engagement. Instead, he ignores it wholesale.

A heartfelt but unconvincing look at organized religion.

Pub Date: March 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4502-9753-0

Page Count: 116

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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