Book Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason

by Sam Harris All in all, I enjoyed this book. Some parts got very philosophical, so I really had to slow down, sometimes re-reading a paragraph, or even a page or two! The best chapter in the book is “What’s Wrong With Islam?” The chapter went into great depth trying to explain the history of Islam and what it’s trying to achieve in this 21st century. It helped me better understand the clash between Islam and the modern world. The other chapters are all very good, and I think Harris does a very in-depth analysis of all his chapter-topics (only 7 chapters). His treatment of the topic is a bit…

BOOK REVIEW: Battle for the Mind: A Subtle Warfare

by Tim LaHaye Many NOSHA members will recognize Tim LaHaye as the (in)famous co-author of the Left Behind series, more than a dozen works of speculative fiction about what might happen on earth between the Rapture and the Second Coming. Fewer of us may be aware that LaHaye is also a prolific writer of non-fiction with a Christian bent. Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching a course in the anthropology of Magic, Witchcraft and Religion, and in an effort to include the modern, fundamentalist, Christian perspective, I’ve required my students to read one of LaHaye’s serious works. Battle for the Mind is both Christian apologetics and a call to…

BOOK REVIEW: Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists

by Dan Barker Dan Barker is a wonderful writer, and writes in such a clear and very comprehensible manner … and he is often funny! He was a “You need to come to Jesus!” evangelical preacher for 19 years, so he knows the arguments religionists use to defend everything from “The Bible is the word of God” to “Atheists are immoral and have no meaning in their life.” His story of how he went from blind faith as a preacher to a humanist using his mind and reason is fantastic. Dan says “I finally realized that faith is a cop-out, a defeat — an admission that the truths of religion…

BOOK REVIEW: The Late, Great Planet Earth

By Hal Lindsey I was rummaging through the “everything must go” sale at the closing Borders store on St. Charles Ave., and stopped in my tracks when I spotted a copy of Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth. I remembered reading the book – a detailed interpretation of how Christian End Times prophecy will play out – when I was a teenager. The book was cast in terms so tightly bound to the social and political tensions of 1970 that I would have thought it thoroughly discredited and forgotten by now. Yet there it was, a shiny new copy in a mainstream bookstore. Who would publish such a thing…

BOOK REVIEW: A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown

By Julia Scheeres “Drinking the Kool-Aid”: It’s a phrase probably said every hour of every day in the United States, and the flippancy sometimes makes us forget about the dark origins behind the words, in a mass suicide in the jungles of South America at a place known as Jonestown. In November 1978, Americans could not escape the photos of the dead and the charismatic Indiana preacher who led them. Much has been written over the years about Jim Jones and the People?s Temple, by survivors, academic researchers, and even conspiracy theorists. A recent book by Julia Scheeres, whose own time of terror at the hands of religious extremists in the…

BOOK REVIEW: God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens

by John F. Haught, December 2007, Westminster John Knox Press, ISBN 978-0664233044 This book contains very weak arguments, if you can call what Haught wrote in this book arguments at all. He seems to keep coming back to admitting that “Faith is belief without evidence.” He has no solid reasons for convincing the reader that one should believe without any evidence. I didn’t find any logical reasons for believing without evidence, as he suggests throughout the book. Haught tries to discredit the three authors (Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens) by saying that they don’t “really know anything about theology.” You really need a college course/degree in theology to “really understand what…

BOOK REVIEW: True North: Exploring the Great Wilderness by Bush Plane

by George Erickson, Thomas Allen Publishers, Toronto, CA. Globe Pequot/Lyons Press, New York, NY Remember how creationists hid their intent by running stealth campaigns for school boards? Well, here’s a great response from American Humanist Association board member George Erickson, whose adventure/travel best seller True North… tucks candid criticism of creationists and missionary practices between tales of polar bears and killer whales while promoting the science that makes our standard of living possible. As the author wings past Manitoba’s Lake Winnipeg – a remnant of Glacial Lake Agassiz – he tells of Louis Agassiz, the Swiss naturalist and the lake’s namesake who put the nails in the coffin of the…

BOOK REVIEW: Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon

Daniel Dennett, 2006, Viking (Penguin) There are few times in my life where I’ve experienced “revelation.” Not in the religious sense, but in the sense of scientific enlightenment. Even though my education and career is in engineering, I’ve made it a point to become familiar with the science of evolution. However, I’ve always unknowingly limited my learning to the perspective of biological adaptation. Dennett’s book brought the realization crashing home that our brains and therefore our thought processes are just as much a product of evolution as being bipedal or having opposable thumbs. Furthermore, just as it is inevitable that other species want to use us for food, shelter, and…

BOOK REVIEW: Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion, and the Appetite for Wonder

Richard Dawkins, 1998, Houghton Mifflin Co. The title of this book comes from a line in John Keats’ poem ‘Lamia.’ In one verse of that poem, Keats accused Newton of unweaving the rainbow, having destroyed the beauty of the rainbow by explaining the physical principles that result in the formation of rainbows. Dawkins, in defense of Newton, argues through many enlightening examples that an understanding of our physical reality in terms of its own laws leads to an appreciation of beauty and intricacies of the world in ways that Keats could never have imagined. Starting with light and what can be known about distant stars by the properties of the…