Reform and reflections – New Beliefs books

The month features several contrasting books on Islam, together with a thoughtful biography of Judas Iscariot, a discussion on karma, and metaphors for God.

Syndetics book coverIslam and Nazi Germany’s war, by David Motadel.
German troops on the ground in North Africa, the Balkans, and the Eastern front engaged with diverse Muslim populations. This is the first comprehensive account of Berlin’s attempts to build an alliance with the Islamic world. David Motadel explains how German officials tried to promote the Third Reich as a patron of Islam, and explores Germany’s policies and propaganda in the Muslim war zones. This details the profound impact of the Second World War on Muslims around the world. (drawn from Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverThe dark night of the shed : men, the mid-life crisis, spirituality & sheds, by Nick Page.
Whether it’s splashing out on a sports car, having an affair, moving to the country, getting divorced, or joining a church, there is a time where a man looks up and asks whether this is really where he wants to be. Whatever choices he’s made, maybe that’s not enough any more. Nick Page has been there, and he decided to build a shed. Not to answer any big questions but to create space to think, properly think. “Join him on a journey of discovery, into what the midlife crisis really is, and whether there’s a better way to go at it than frittering away time and money trying to pretend you’re really younger than you are.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJudas : the troubling history of the renegade apostle, by Peter Stanford.
Beginning with the Biblical gospels, Peter explores two thousand years of cultural and theological history to unravel how the very name Judas came to be synonymous with betrayal. But is this most vilified of Bible characters a traitor, a victim, or a scapegoat? Was his role essential in the divine drama of salvation? Whatever you decide, this is a balanced and compelling read about one of Christianity’s most troubled characters.

Syndetics book coverOne Islam, many Muslim worlds : spirituality, identity, and resistance across Islamic lands, by Raymond William Baker.
Islam has emerging as a strong transnational force. What implications does this have for the West? Baker argues that this renewed vigour does not stem from official religious institutions, nor violent, marginal groups. His analysis of the Islamic world leads him to look to centrists to bring new life to Islam, and build a cohesive Islamic identity that belongs in the modern world.

Syndetics book coverHeretic : why Islam needs a reformation now, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
The author argues that a religious Reformation within Islam is needed to end the terrorism, in-fighting, and mistreatment of women and minorities throughout the Muslim world. Are these extreme acts just that, or driven by thinking integral to Islam? The majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are very peaceable but there is only one Islam. Ayaan Hirsi Ali proposes five key amendments to Islamic doctrine for all Muslims.

Syndetics book coverDisquiet time : rants and reflections on the Good Book by the skeptical, the faithful, and a few scoundrels, edited by Jennifer Grant and Cathleen Falsani.
“An engaging and hilarious collection that encourages readers to tackle those strange, awkward, worrying, yet endlessly compelling passages of the Bible. The Bible is full of not-so-precious moments, from murder and mayhem, to sex and slavery. … Why did the artist of the oldest known picture of Jesus intentionally paint him with a wonky eye? … written by and for Bible-loving Christians, agnostics, skeptics, none-of-the-aboves, and people who aren’t afraid to dig deep spiritually, ask hard questions, and have some fun along the way.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKarma : what it is, what it isn’t, why it matters, by Traleg Kyabgon.
“By now, we’ve all heard someone say, “It must have been his karma” or “She had bad karma.” But what is karma, really? Does karmic theory say that we are helpless victims of our past? Is all karma bad, or can there be good karma too? Is reincarnation the same as the Buddhist theory of rebirth? Traleg Kyabgon answers these questions and more by elucidating the Buddha’s teachings on karma and rebirth. He distinguishes the Buddhist view of karma and rebirth from related notions of karma and reincarnation found in the Hindu tradition, explains why the notion of karma is indispensable to the theory and practice of Buddhism, and demonstrates how karmic theory provides a foundation for morality that doesn’t require belief in God.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFinding the forgotten God : credible faith for a secular age, by Ron Hay.
“A brilliant explanation of the Christian faith which deals in a fresh way with the questions people often ask. This work among other things provides in depth information regarding the recent advances made by science, advances that lead toward where the mystics have sat for thousands of years. It is in short, an original and valuable resource book and one that will stand the test of time.” (Syndetics summary) Winner of 2015 Mind Body Spirit Literary Award.

Syndetics book coverThe Vatican prophecies : investigating supernatural signs, apparitions, and miracles in the modern age, by John Thavis.
This is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how the Vatican investigates claims of miraculous events, balancing tensions between traditional beliefs and contemporary thought. Some prophecies or miracles lead to headlines that often test the Catholic Church’s concepts of faith and reason. Are these absurd or evidence of a private relationship with God? Within the Vatican there is a complex evaluation system to judge the authenticity of supernatural claims. Suitable for both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Syndetics book coverWearing God : clothing, laughter, fire, and other overlooked ways of meeting God, by Lauren F. Winner.
Are your pictures of God as an old man? How is God described in the Scriptures? These questions led the author on a search through the images and metaphors used there. Yes, there are the familiar images: creator, judge, father, but also lesser-known pictures of clothing, laughter, or food. Reflecting on these can deepen our spiritual lives was each reveals God to be much closer and more personal than we previously imagine.