Beliefs Recent arrivals
This month’s selections evidence that we live in a world of diverse paths, from science to postmodernism, psychology to politics to the parables of Jesus.
The great partnership : God, science and the search for meaning, by Jonathan Sacks.
Explores how religion has always played a valuable part in human culture and far from being dismissed as redundant, must be allowed to temper and develop scientific understanding in order for us to be fully human. … the author shows how the predominance of science-oriented thinking is embedded deeply even in our religious understanding, and calls on us to recognise the centrality of relationship to true religion, and thus to see how this core value of relationship is essential if we are to avoid the natural tendency for science to rule our lives rather than fulfilling its promise to set us free. (drawn from publisher’s description).
Roll around heaven : an all-true accidental spiritual adventure, by Jessica Maxwell.
“An all-true accidental spiritual adventure that led one nonbeliever to lunch with Deepak Chopra, dance with Stephen Hawking, heal with Yogananda, banish evil spirits with Buddhist lamas, find true love in a Presbyterian church chair, share Celtic revelations on the isle of Iona, talk all night with the Daughters of Islam, and learn an abiding respect for all paths to God. Book jacket.” (Syndetics summary)
The misleading mind : how we create our own problems and how Buddhist psychology can help us solve them, by Karuna Cayton.
“Buddhism asserts that we each have the potential to free ourselves from the prison of our problems. As practiced for more than twenty-six hundred years, the process involves working with, rather than against, our depression, anxiety, and compulsions. We do this by recognizing the habitual ways our minds perceive and react – the way they mislead. The lively exercises and inspiring real-world examples Cayton provides can help you transform intractable problems and neutralize suffering by cultivating a radically liberating self-understanding. Book jacket.” (Syndetics summary)
Selfless insight : Zen and the meditative transformations of consciousness, by James H. Austin.
When neurology researcher James Austin began Zen training, he found that his medical education was inadequate. During the past three decades, he has been at the cutting edge of both Zen and neuroscience, constantly discovering new examples of how these two large fields each illuminate the other. Now, in Selfless Insight, Austin arrives at a fresh synthesis, one that invokes the latest brain research to explain the basis for meditative states and clarifies what Zen awakening implies for our understanding of consciousness. … His quest has spanned an era of unprecedented progress in brain research and has helped define the exciting new field of contemplative neuroscience.
Connecting Christ : how to discuss Jesus in a world of diverse paths, by Paul Louis Metzger.
“Metzger explores how the faithful and conservative Christian can engage in open and respectful dialog with those of other faiths without losing sight of the obligation to witness. His work includes brief comments from leaders in other faith traditions. VERDICT Anything that can promote courtesy, across faiths or other lines, is welcome; Metzger’s book should be required reading for evangelical pastors and preachers. (drawn from Library Journal, courtesy of Syndetics)
Made for goodness and why this makes all the difference, by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu ; edited by Douglas C. Abrams.
“Desmond Tutu, Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, as well as chairman of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, hardly needs an introduction. …The book is founded on the broad notion that we are created with the freedom to choose good or evil but also incline fundamentally to the good. Abstract theology or spirituality has never been Archbishop Tutu’s way; accordingly, this book flows effortlessly through narratives that illustrate Tutu’s unquenchable hope.” (Drawn from Library Journal, courtesy of Syndetics) Another new book by the same author is God is not a Christian.
Solomon among the postmoderns, by Peter J. Leithart.
Solomon’s words from a famous passage of Ecclesiastes have been translated, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Leithart says those words are better translated ‘Vapor of vapors, all is vapor,” emphasizing that human life is fleeting. He uses this theme, as well as the entire book of Ecclesiastes, to indicate how Solomon resonated with the themes of today’s postmodernism. (drawn from the book jacket)
The righteous mind : why good people are divided by politics and religion, by Jonathan Haidt.
Dismissing the notion that the human mind is fundamentally rational, Haidt briskly guides the reader through decades of psychology research in order to demonstrate that emotion and intuition determine our judgments, while reasoning is created only later to justify these judgments (a la Hume). …. Blending lucid explanations of landmark studies in psychology and sociology with light personal anecdotes, Haidt has produced an imminently readable book about the complexities of moral psychology and the human fixation with righteousness. (drawn from Publishers’ Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)
Religion in human evolution : from the Paleolithic to the Axial Age, by Robert N. Bellah.
“Bellah’s book is an interesting departure from the traditional separation of science and religion. He maintains that the evolving worldviews sought to unify rather than to divide people. Poignantly, it is upon these principles that both Western and Eastern modern societies are now based. What strikes the reader most powerfully is how the author connects cultural development and religion in an evolutionary context. He suggests that cultural evolution can be seen in mimetic, mythical, and theoretical contexts. Ultimately, Bellah contends that our society is especially informed by our lengthy biological past. VERDICT This is an academic work … Most lay readers, even if compelled by the subject, will find it heavy going… (drawn from Library Journal, courtesy of Syndetics)
The power of parable : how fiction by Jesus became fiction about Jesus, by John Dominic Crossan.
“Through an exploration of the literary genre popular in the ancient world, distinguished Jesus scholar John Dominic Crossan dissects the versions we read in the Gospels to get back to what Jesus really intended to teach. …By unlocking the meaning and purposes of the Gospel’s parables, we can arrive at a better portrait of this enigmatic and charismatic Jewish figure who transformed his world and the next two thousand years of history”– (drawn from the publisher’s description)
God and the folly of faith : the incompatibility of science and religion, by Victor J. Stenger ; foreword by Dan Barker.
“Stenger argues that religion is a remnant of “caveman logic,” full of “cowardly denial and self-defeating ignorance” used “by those in power to retain that power and keep the masses in line.” Stenger, who has written multiple books on rejecting religion, provides many reasons for abandoning ideas of God, from the classic “religion has brought us inquisitions, holy wars, and intolerance” to more unusual theories comparing religion to infectious parasites and destructive viruses. … While dyed-in-the-wool New Atheists may enjoy this book, it will not go far with the average reader. (drawn from Library Journal, courtesy of Syndetics)
Seeing, knowing, being : a guide to sacred awakenings, by John Greer.
“Modeled on the hero’s journey as presented by Joseph Campbell, the book itself is divided into two parts: “The Exile,” which explains how cultural conditioning leads to a distinction between self and other, and “The Return,” which traces how nonduality can be regained and ego vanquished. From Rumi and Alan Watts to The Bhagavad Gita and the Tao Te Ching, Greer carefully collects inspiring quotations from the world’s wisdom traditions to evoke a sense of oneness and interconnectivity. … This wise and serene book is clearly the product of many years of study and practice with nondual beliefs. (Drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)