A philosophically ambitious but unfocused and shopworn discussion of religious faith.

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GOD VERSUS THE IDEA OF GOD

DIVINITY IS WHAT WE THINK. FAITH IS WHAT WE EXPERIENCE.

A personal reflection about the relevance of the concept of God.

Harry (The Delicate Illusion, 1999, etc.) was raised as a Christian Scientist and now attends a Presbyterian church with his wife, but he has long wrestled with a nagging skepticism that precluded either simple belief or a leap of faith. However, he distinguishes between the literal belief in the God of the Christian Church and the profound utility of that idea for mankind. From a strictly rational perspective, he asserts, the conception of God is simply beyond demonstration, and it’s not based on philosophical deliberation, as the church’s authority simply rests on the revealed word of Scripture. However, whether the idea of God is objectively tenable or not, he asserts, it still collectively promises things of considerable value: it provides people with a sense of security amid chaos, perfection in a world that screams for correction, and the hope of immortality as a consolation for our eventual death. That idea, though, must be presented in a way that’s personal enough that mankind can forge a connection with it. The author explores the ways in which the figure of Jesus Christ fulfills this function, as a bridge between the human and the divine. He also explores the difficulty that the church has in remaining relevant in a world that, through breakneck progress and evolution, struggles to believe in supernatural myth. Harry intrepidly confronts the deepest and most historically recalcitrant questions and impressively attempts to balance a skeptical epistemology with a profound respect for the significance of religion. In focusing on the subjective prominence of the idea of God, as opposed to metaphysical confirmation of God’s existence, the author even manages to make this study germane to atheists: “The idea of God does not mean one necessarily automatically believes in the god of the idea, only that one is aware of it. Even atheists are, by necessity, aware of the god of the idea.” The downside of this maneuver is that he simply dismisses attempts to make such an idea more rationally acceptable, and he largely abandons any serious discussion of the relation between faith and reason. Furthermore, the work as a whole is frustratingly incondite, and much of is so meandering that it reads like a succession of footnotes without a primary text. There is a great display of broad erudition—the author mentions Plato, Voltaire, and St. Augustine, to name a very small sample—but he eschews a serious, sustained discussion of any of them, using them as little more than name-dropping fodder. Harry raises all the right questions, but the answers he provides are neither unfamiliar nor particularly provocative. Finally, he never adequately addresses a fundamental problem with his overall approach: how does the idea of God, if accepted only as myth, provide any of the comforts that he claims? In other words, what reassurances can be delivered by a fictional contrivance that’s acknowledged as such?

A philosophically ambitious but unfocused and shopworn discussion of religious faith.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2017

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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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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