Category: Recent picks

Women and faith – Recent Beliefs arrivals

A strong feminine focus is featured in this month’s selections, but from widely different viewpoints. Read about Dominican sisters in NZ, the life of Buddhist nun Freda Bedi, or the latest title by best-selling author Ann Voskamp.

Syndetics book coverFighting hislam : women, faith and sexism, by Susan Carland.
Between the extremes often portrayed in western media, there is a group of Muslim women who have chosen to fight sexism from within, committed to this fight and their faith. “Here, Carland talks with Muslim women about how they are making a stand for their sex, while holding fast to their faith. At a time when the media trumpets scandalous revelations about life for women from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia, Muslim women are always spoken about and over, never with. In Fighting Hislam, that ends.” (publisher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverThe revolutionary life of Freda Bedi : British feminist, Indian nationalist, Buddhist nun, by Vicki MacKenzie, foreword by Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo.
Freda Bedi (1911-1977) was an English woman who become both a revolutionary in the fight for Indian independence and then a Buddhist icon. She was the first Western woman to become a Tibetan Buddhist nun and broke the rules of gender, race, and religion–in many cases before it was thought that the rules were ready to be challenged, and counted among her friends, and teachers Mohandas Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and many others. (Drawn from publisher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverWindows on a women’s world : the Dominican Sisters of Aotearoa New Zealand, by Susannah Grant.
10 Dominican sisters arrived in Dunedin in 1871, and for the first 100 years here the sisters were teaching nuns, living in large enclosed convents cut off from the outside world. But when the Second Vatican Council ushered in a period of radical change, they moved into small homes in local neighbourhoods, with new roles in education, social justice, pastoral care and spirituality. Grant completed a large number of oral histories with the sisters, and describes this transformation. (based on publisher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverThe religion of tomorrow : a vision for the future of the great traditions : more inclusive, more comprehensive, more complete, by Ken Wilber.
To be relevant to contemporary society, spiritual traditions need to take account of recent scientific discoveries about the mind, brain and emotions. Using Buddhism as an example, Wilber discusses his comprehensive Integral Approach — and shows how we can apply this to our own spiritual practice. “This is a call for wholeness, inclusiveness, and unity in the religions of tomorrow.” (Drawn from publisher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverGrace without God : the search for meaning, purpose, and belonging in a secular age, by Katherine Ozment.
Journalist Katherine Ozment guides us to understand the trends and impacts of the western flight from organized religion. Yet studies show that religion makes us happier, healthier and more giving, connecting us to our past and creating tight communal bonds. Spirituality & Health Magazine Best Book of 2016.

Syndetics book coverThe broken way : a daring path into the abundant life, by Ann Voskamp.
Best-selling author Ann Voskamp contemplates her own brokenness and asks: Is it really possible to live abundantly? Can we be whole? “This one’s for the busted ones who are ready to bust free, the ones ready to break molds, break chains, break measuring sticks, and break all this bad brokenness with an unlikely good brokenness. You could be one of the Beloved who is broken — and still lets yourself be loved.” (publisher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverGod’s generals : the military lives of Moses, Buddha, and Muhammad, by Richard A. Gabriel.
One of the more startling facts of religious history is that the founders of three of the four “greats” were also accomplished military generals with considerable battle experience. Muhammad, fought eight battles and was wounded twice, while Siddhartha Gautama (later, the Buddha), suffered from post-battle collapse, and Moses led his people to new lands, defeating the occupants. Where did the influence of militarism and religion end and begin in their lives?

Syndetics book coverLove hurts : Buddhist advice for the heartbroken, by Lodro Rinzler.
Lodro Rinzler has good news for those suffering heartbreak: the 2,500-year-old teachings of the Buddha have much to say about emotional pain. “In this short and compact first-aid kit for a broken heart, he walks you through the cause and cure of suffering, with much practical advice for self-care as you work to survive a breakup.” (publisher)

Syndetics book coverGrace, not perfection : embracing simplicity, celebrating joy, by Emily Ley.
“When Ley realized she could not do it all, at least not well – she began to simplify her life and prioritize her goals. Instead of holding herself to a picture-perfect standard, the author extended grace to herself and was able to give mental and physical space to those ambitions which mattered most. In a friend-to-friend tone, she advises investing in oneself, surrendering control, and cultivating contentment and gratitude. Simple exercises and response blanks follow each chapter. VERDICT A powerful antidote to society’s pressure to have all and be all to everyone.” (Library Journal, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverWomen who knew Jesus, by Bonnie Ring.
Women were seen as low status citizens whose testimony couldn’t be trusted in court. The author paints a picture of Jesus interacting with women – becoming friends, and healing or teaching them. This mixes anecdotes, biblical commentary and short meditations to help readers engage with the stories.

Recent Religion picks for March

Fresh off the printing press is a guide-book to Martin Luther’s Reformation locations, an introduction to a Buddhist approach to economics, and two books of special interest to Jewish readers.

Syndetics book coverMuslim integration : pluralism and multiculturalism in New Zealand and Australia, edited by Erich Kolig and Malcolm Voyce.
This collection discusses the future of religio-cultural pluralism, multicultural policies, and the growing demands for greater emphasis on assimilation. Contributors examine issues such as parallel societies, Islamophobia, radicalization, tolerance, adaptation and mutual adjustment, legal pluralism, the role of mosque architecture, and media depictions of Muslims are examined. (Drawn from publisher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Islamic Jesus : how the King of the Jews became a prophet of the Muslims, by Mustafa Akyol.
“Akyol exposes an extraordinary historical connection between Judaism, Jewish Christianity and Islam–a major mystery unexplored by academia. From Jesus’ Jewish followers to the Nazarenes and Ebionites to the Qu’ran’s stories of Mary and Jesus, The Islamic Jesus will reveal links between religions that seem so contrary today.” (drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBuddhist economics : an enlightened approach to the dismal science, by Clair Brown.
Traditional economics measures the ways in which we spend our income, but doesn’t attribute worth to the crucial human interactions that give our lives meaning. Clair Brown, an economics professor at U.C. Berkeley and a practicing Buddhist, has developed a holistic model, which emphasises interdependence, shared prosperity, and happiness into her vision for a sustainable and compassionate world. This leads us to think mindfully as we go about our daily activities, and offers a way to appreciate how our actions affect the well-being of those around us.

Syndetics book coverAn atheist and a Christian walk into a bar… : talking about God, the universe, and everything, by Randal Rauser and Justin Schieber.
“Theology professor Rouser and YouTube personality Schieber offer complex, rigorous arguments that will challenge the thinking of believers and atheists alike…. They argue about whether testimony is valid evidence, what the major theological disagreements between religions suggest, what the creator’s seeming hostility to the universe means, whether the neat mathematical pattern of the universe proves intentional design, and how to best explain the problem of human suffering…” (From Publisher Weekly courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverThe story of Hebrew, by Lewis Glinert.
Although found in the language section, this book will be of interest to religious scholars. It shares the history of the development of the Hebrew language until modern times, as well as how religions have imbued it with rich symbolic power.

Syndetics book coverThe genius of Judaism, by Bernard-Henri Lévy ; translated by Steven B. Kennedy.
Chapter headings include : The strength of the Jews ; Jewish France ; How modern Judaism abolished the idea of revolution ; The temptation of Nineveh. What does it mean to be a Chosen People? ; Thus spake Jonah ; The Ninevites of Ukraine and Libya ; Does God arrive as an idea or through faith?

Syndetics book coverMaking sense of God : an invitation to the skeptical, by Timothy Keller.
Timothy Keller invites skeptics to consider that as human beings, we cannot live without meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity, justice, and hope. Christianity provides us with unsurpassed resources to meet these needs. Written for both the ardent believer and the skeptic, Making Sense of God shines a light on the profound value and importance of Christianity in our lives. (Drawn from the publisher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverMartin Luther’s travel guide : 500 years of the ninety-five theses : on the trail of the Reformation in Germany, by Cornelia Dömer.
It’s often quite fun to set yourself a mission when travelling. If you’re planning a European trip, here’s an opportunity to make that mission places connected to Martin Luther – each town, castle, and church where the famed German preached, spoke ….. or fought. Travelers will find information on the historic towns of Dresden, Eisleben, Erfurt, Gotha, Leipzig, Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Weimar, and Worms. Also includes stories about Luther’s life and work as well as maps, and timelines.

Syndetics book coverLive better : a book of spiritual guidance, by Sophie Golding.
“Your spiritual journey can take many forms, and it’s important to choose the path that’s right for you. This handbook will introduce you to traditions and practices with the power to open your heart and broaden your mind. Along with practical tips and enlightening quotes, the insights here are stepping stones towards a better life.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAtlas of Christian history, by Tim Dowley ; cartographer, Nick Rowland.
“Concise, helpful text, written by acknowledged authorities, guide the experience and interpret the visuals. … The atlas is broken into five primary parts that correspond well to most major introductions to the topic. The final section on the modern era pays significant attention to the growth of Christianity as a global religion. Extensive maps are provided that illuminate Christianity in Asian, African, and Latin American contexts.” (drawn from the Publisher’s description).

Beliefs books : January edition

If you’re looking for inspiration, challenge, or reflection, there’s some great holiday reading to begin the year. Two important recommended titles to note are The Little History Of Religion, and the latest biography of Samuel Marsden.

Syndetics book coverThe world, the flesh & the Devil : the life and opinions of Samuel Marsden in England and the Antipodes, 1765-1838, by Andrew Sharp.
“By diving deeply into key moments – the voyage out, the disputes with Macquarie, the founding of missions – Sharp gets us to reimagine the world as Marsden saw it: always under threat from the Prince of Darkness, in need of ‘a bold reprover of vice’, a world written in the words of the King James Bible. Andrew Sharp takes us back into the nineteenth-century world, and an evangelical mind, to reveal the past as truly a foreign country”–Publisher information.

Syndetics book coverTalking God : philosophers on belief, edited by Gary Gutting.
Where does belief come from? This book features conversations with twelve skeptics, atheists, agnostics, and believers including challenges from evolution, cutting-edge physics and cosmology, and meditations on the value of secular humanism. Insights on Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, as well as Judaism and Christianity are offered.

Syndetics book coverA little history of religion, by Richard Holloway.
Richard Holloway begins at the dawn of religious belief and retells, quite succinctly, the history of religion to the twenty-first century. Suitable for those with faith and those without, he accentuates tolerance, mystery, and calmly restores a sense of the value of faith. The discussion covers all of the major religions, and is simple without being simplistic. Evil done in the name of religion is not overlooked. This is an important snapshot to aid understanding different beliefs.

Syndetics book coverAwakening from the daydream : reimagining the Buddha’s wheel of life, by David Nichtern.
“Although traditionally thought of as modes of reincarnation, Nichtern describes the realms as mental states that we move between, sometimes quite rapidly. He clearly and briefly describes how each blocks our path towards enlightenment but also contain unique possibilities. He also provides concise and easily implemented meditation practices for coping with the negative effects of each and includes a basic guide to karma and advice for finding a spiritual guide. …this is a clear, and current introduction to Buddhist thought and practice.” (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics).

Syndetics book coverThe great good thing : a secular Jew comes to faith in Christ, by Andrew Klavan.
Klavan shares his own story – growing up Jewish in New York, and his eventual conversion to Christianity, at the end of a long search, through university and professional help. But he was gifted to receive an encounter with the living Christ, the Jewish Messiah, which brought him to a sure knowledge of his place in the cosmos and God’s kingdom. God’s answer to his prayer was “wildly generous, an act of extravagant grace.”

Syndetics book coverAngels on Earth : inspiring stories of fate, friendship, and the power of connections, by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski.
An inspiring book about the incredible impact that acts of kindness from strangers can have – impacting not only the receiver but also the giver. Schroff’s own journey has deepened her belief that angels (those sent by God) are all around us.

Syndetics book coverA Jewish guide in the Holy Land : how Christian pilgrims made me Israeli, by Jackie Feldman.
Jackie Feldman (born into an Orthodox Jewish family in New York) reflects on his work guiding many groups of Christian pilgrims – “counterintuitive work” for more than 30 years. The writing style is a mix of memoir and sociological study, which also documents his personal journey across this time.

Syndetics book coverThe universe has your back : transform fear to faith, by Gabrielle Bernstein.
“New York Times best-selling author Gabrielle Bernstein teaches readers how to transform their fear into faith in order to live a divinely guided life. Each story and lesson in the book guides readers to release the blocks to what they most long for: happiness, security and clear direction. The lessons help readers relinquish the need to control so they can relax into a sense of certainty and freedom.” (drawn from the publisher’s description).

Syndetics book coverMaking life easy : a simple guide to a divinely inspired life, by Christiane Northrup, M.D.
“Dr. Northrup explores the essential truth that has guided her ever since medical school: Our bodies, minds, and souls are profoundly intertwined. Feeling your best is about far more than physical health; it’s also about having a healthy emotional life and a robust spiritual life… You will learn to: – Untie the knots of blame and guilt that harm your health – Use sexual energy consciously to increase vitality – Balance your microbiome through healthy eating – Cultivate a healthy ego that serves you (not vice versa) – Communicate directly with the Divine.” (drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPreaching : communicating faith in an age of skepticism, by Timothy Keller.
“We can discern at least three levels of “Word ministry” in the Bible. … Every Christian should be able to give both teaching (didaskalia, the ordinary word for instruction) and admonition (noutheo — a common word for strong, life-changing counsel) that convey to others the teachings of the Bible. This must be done carefully, though informally, in conversations that are usually one on one.”(drawn from chapter 1)

Big questions – Recent Beliefs books

Two very different approaches to the questions of faith versus science are featured this month, together with a unique view of London, the Pyramid texts, and an award-winning book on religious violence.

Syndetics book coverFestivals in the Southern Hemisphere : insights into cosmic and seasonal aspects of the whole earth, by Martin Samson.
Many festivals draw on northern hemisphere seasons. This has led some to suggest that some festivals in the southern hemisphere should be celebrated at opposite times of the year: for example, celebrating Christmas in June. Rudolf Steiner shared cosmic, spiritual imaginations for the northern hemisphere, and in this book Martin Samson develops a useful equivalent guide for the southern hemisphere.

Syndetics book coverLondon : a spiritual history, by Edouardo Albert.
Viewing the expanse of religious history through the lens of one city provides a great snapshot of beliefs over the centuries. Albert discusses what its inhabitants believed and what they worshipped, delving into where, when, and how, and covering the landmarks, the names, the issues, and the arguments. It begins in early pagan times, and comes forward in time and is peppered with the author’s own spiritual journey.

Syndetics book coverThe big question : why we can’t stop talking about science, faith, and God, by Alister McGrath.
“McGrath develops a perspective in which science and religion enrich rather than threaten one another. That perspective highlights the formative influence of Christian faith during the scientific revolution and exposes the urgent need to move beyond the limits of contemporary science to find transcendent sources of morality and meaning. … McGrath calls for a full-bodied humanism invigorated by both scientific reasoning and religious devotion.” (Drawn from Booklist, courtesy of Syndetics) Also by the same author: Inventing the universe : why we can’t stop talking about science, faith and God.

Syndetics book coverFaith versus fact : why science and religion are incompatible, by Jerry A. Coyne.
“Religion and science compete in many ways to describe reality – they both make “existence claims” about what is real – but they use different tools to meet this goal. In his elegant, provocative, and direct argument, leading evolutionary biologist and bestselling author Jerry Coyne lays out in clear, patient, dispassionate details why the toolkit of science, based on reason and empirical study, is reliable, while that of religion – including faith, dogma and revelation – is unreliable and leads to incorrect, untestable, or conflicting conclusions.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPushing boundaries : New Zealand protestants and overseas missions, 1827-1939, by Hugh Morrison.
Quite a lot has been written on the very first wave of missionaries to come to New Zealand. But our understanding of why, within a generation or two, the settler church was sending missionaries from NZ, is weak. Hugh Morrison outlines why missions were important to the colonial churches. What motivated these New Zealanders to leave their new home to live elsewhere? Was it similar colonial trends of culture, empire, childhood and education, or something else?

Syndetics book coverNot in God’s name : confronting religious violence, by Jonathan Sacks.
“2015 National Jewish Book Award Winner. Through an exploration of the roots of violence and its relationship to religion, and employing groundbreaking biblical analysis and interpretation, Rabbi Sacks shows that religiously inspired violence has as its source misreadings of biblical texts at the heart of all three Abrahamic faiths. “Abraham himself,” writes Rabbi Sacks, “sought to be a blessing to others regardless of their faith. That idea, ignored for many of the intervening centuries, remains the simplest definition of Abrahamic faith.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWithout rival : embrace your identity and purpose in an age of confusion and comparison, by Lisa Bevere.
Bevere, popular conference speaker, offers insights on women’s identity within her place in God’s kingdom, and draws on Christ’s own teachings. She recognises the gender prejudice still to be found in many churches but reaches beyond that to remind readers of God’s message of love to women, despite the challenges they face in every age.

Syndetics book coverThe quest for Mary Magdalene, by Michael Haag.
Recent novels and films have painted Mary Magdalene as a significant figure in early Christian tradition. This book follows her through the centuries from the gospels, and shows how each age has redefined her image, role, and identity – whether as a key disciple, Jesus of Nazareth’s wife, fallen woman, or a symbol of humility. This book shines a light on this mysterious figure.

Syndetics book coverThe silver eye : unlocking the pyramid texts, by Susan Brind Morrow.
“The Pyramid Texts were carved onto the walls of burial chambers in royal pyramids 4,000 years ago. They have intrigued scholars, mystics and historians ever since they were discovered in 1881… These writings are in fact among the world’s oldest poetry, cosmological speculations and reflections on nature. Susan Brind Morrow has recast The Pyramid Texts as a coherent work of art, arguing that they should be recognized as a formative event in the evolution of human thought.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBattling the gods : atheism in the ancient world, by Tim Whitmarsh.
Atheism is not a modern invention but was a capital offence in ancient Greece and Rome due to state beliefs that the gods stabilized society – despite being depicted in popular culture as cruel, or distant. Whitmarsh puts forward the view that this civic strategy spawned a large underground atheist community, hinted at in classical texts, papyri and inscriptions. When Christianity surfaced, this approach to civic order was replaced by one god and one moral code was useful uniting the large empire, and atheism was still a counter-culture.

Religious reading : latest arrivals

August’s listed books are quite a mixed bunch, across a range of religions. However, they invite the reader to challenge their misconceptions, and look below the surface to think more deeply about our beliefs and moral decisions.

Syndetics book coverThe faith of Christopher Hitchens : the restless soul of the world’s most notorious atheist, by Larry Alex Taunton.
“Hitchens was a man of many contradictions: a Marxist in youth who longed for acceptance among the social elites; a peacenik who revered the military; a champion of the Left who was nonetheless pro-life, pro-war-on-terror, and after 9/11 something of a neocon; and while he railed against God on stage, he maintained meaningful – though largely hidden from public view – friendships with evangelical Christians like Francis Collins, Douglas Wilson, and the author Larry Alex Taunton…. Taunton traces Hitchens’s spiritual and intellectual development from his decision as a teenager to reject belief in God to his rise to prominence as one of the so-called “Four Horsemen” of the New Atheism.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIslam evolving : radicalism, reformation, and the uneasy relationship with the secular West, by Taner Edis.
“How is Islam adapting to the rapid changes of the 21st century? Despite political unrest and terrorism, the author argues that many Muslim societies are successfully developing their own versions of modern life. In contrast to the secular liberal model that prevails in the West, Islam is demonstrating alternative ways to be modern while maintaining a distinctly Muslim worldview. Professor Edis, an American physicist with a secular viewpoint who was raised in Turkey, is uniquely qualified to evaluate the interplay of modern trends and Islamic values. He devotes separate chapters to prominent examples of what he calls Islam’s “pious modernity.” … This balanced overview of Islam’s relationship with the modern world will be of interest to open-minded readers in both the West and the East.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBreak the norms : questioning everything you think you know about God and truth, life and death, love and sex, by Chandresh Bhardwaj.
“Have you ever felt like you’re living out a script written for you by others–in your work, your relationships, or spirituality? “To break through the norms we’ve been conditioned to believe is an act of rebellion,” writes Chandresh Bhardwaj. “We must be prepared to be brutally honest. We must overturn our assumptions and unlearn our suffering. We must be willing to discover our real reasons for being alive….Authenticity is inherent each of our souls. When we start to be authentic, we start to get back in touch with our divine source.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhy be Jewish? : a testament, by Edgar M. Bronfman.
Completed just weeks before the author’s death, this charts his respect and love for his Jewish faith. This is a personal journey and walk through the main ideas and beliefs, explaining meanings and traditions gathered over a lifetime of study. He explains that even secular Judaism is still immersed in moral values derived from the ancient texts.

Syndetics book coverQueer virtue : what LGBTQ people know about life and love and how it can revitalize Christianity, by Reverend Elizabeth M. Edman.
“Christianity, at its scriptural core, incessantly challenges its adherents to rupture false binaries, to “queer” lines that pit people against one another. Thus, Edman asserts that Christianity, far from being hostile to queer people, is itself inherently queer. Arguing from the heart of scripture, she reveals how queering Christianity – that is, disrupting simplistic ways of thinking about self and other – can illuminate contemporary Christian faith. Pushing well past the notion that “Christian love = tolerance,” Edman offers a bold alternative: the recognition that queer people can help Christians better understand their fundamental calling and the creation of sacred space where LGBTQ Christians are seen as gifts to the church.” (Drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAgnostic : a spirited manifesto, by Lesley Hazleton.
“Hazleton gives voice to the case for agnosticism, breaks it free of its stereotypes as watered-down atheism or amorphous “seeking,” and celebrates it as a reasoned, revealing, and sustaining stance toward life. Stepping over the lines imposed by rigid conviction, she draws on philosophy, theology, psychology, science, and more to explore, with curiosity and passion, the vital role of mystery in a deceptively information-rich world; to ask what we mean by the search for meaning; to invoke the humbling yet elating perspective of infinity; to challenge received ideas about death; and to reconsider what “the soul” might be.” (drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhen awareness becomes natural : a guide to cultivating mindfulness in daily life, by Sayadaw U Tejaniya ; edited by Robert French ; foreword by Steven Armstrong.
“Meditation is great – but it’s not what Buddhist practice is all about. That’s the message of this engaging and funny Burmese Buddhist monk, and it’s a message that is finding a significant following among Westerners in the Insight Meditation tradition. Sayadaw U Tejaniya teaches how to bring awareness to any sort of activity in order to discover deep insight and liberation from suffering. It works in sitting meditation, but it works just as well when sorting the laundry or doing data entry. “My teachings are nothing new,” he says. “They are, as always, based on the four foundations of mindfulness: awareness of the body, awareness of feelings and sensations, awareness of mind, and understanding of dhamma or nature, i.e., mind and matter.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTears to triumph : the spiritual journey from suffering to enlightenment, by Marianne Williamson.
“The internationally recognized teacher, speaker, and New York Times bestselling author of A Return to Love argues that our desire to avoid pain is actually detrimental to our lives, disconnecting us from our deepest emotions and preventing true healing and spiritual transcendence. Marianne Williamson is a bestselling author, world-renowned teacher, and one of the most important spiritual voices of our time. In Tears to Triumph, she argues that we – as a culture and as individuals – have learned to avoid facing pain. By doing so, we are neglecting the spiritual work of healing” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverRuthless : Scientology, my son David Miscavige, and me, by Ron Miscavige, with Dan Koon.
“The only book to examine the origins of Scientology’s current leader, RUTHLESS tells the revealing story of David Miscavige’s childhood and his path to the head seat of the Church of Scientology told through the eyes of his father. Ron Miscavige’s personal, heartfelt story is a riveting insider’s look at life within the world of Scientology.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover30-second religion : the 50 most thought-provoking religious beliefs, each explained in half a minute, editor, Russell Re Manning ; contributors, Richard Bartholomew…[et al.]
As the title explains, this is not an in-depth study. It is designed to be a quick intro to the main beliefs and history of the major religions from around the world, allowing easy comparison across their main tenets, beliefs and practices, which can be an aid to further research.

The grammar of God – Latest Beliefs books

A strong biblical theme runs through this latest bookshelf, from popular author Bishop Spong’s latest reflections to stories from the Bible for minecrafters, or missionary journeys to North Korea.

Syndetics book coverThe tweetable pope : a spiritual revolution in 140 characters, by Michael J. O’Loughlin.
How do you transform a church that treasures two thousand years of tradition? Jorge Mario Bergoglio made it his mission to “rebrand” the Catholic Church when he was elected pope to better reflect Jesus Christ. With more than 21 million followers reading Tweets in 9 languages, Francis regularly posts his 140-character (or less) sermons a few times each week – communicating directly with his flock. Common themes include the poor, forgiveness, mercy, joy. These little sermons help us understand his vision for the church to be inspired to be better Christians. Also received is The name of God is mercy : a conversation with Andrea Tornielli.

Syndetics book coverBiblical literalism : a gentile heresy : a journey into a new Christianity through the doorway of Matthew’s gospel, by John Shelby Spong.
“Using the Gospel of Matthew as a guide, Spong explores the Bible’s literary and liturgical roots – its grounding in Jewish culture, symbols, icons, and storytelling tradition – to explain how the events of Jesus’ life, including the virgin birth, the miracles, the details of the passion story, and the resurrection and ascension, would have been understood by both the Jewish authors of the various gospels and by the Jewish audiences for which they were originally written. Bishop Spong makes clear that it was only after the church became fully Gentile that readers of the Gospels took these stories to be factual, distorting their original meaning….” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe grammar of God : a journey into the words and worlds of the Bible, by Aviya Kushner.
Aviya Kushner grew up in a Hebrew-speaking family, reading the Bible in the original Hebrew and debating its meaning over the dinner table. She knew much of it by heart – and was therefore surprised when, while getting her MFA at the University of Iowa, she took the novelist Marilynne Robinson’s class on the Old Testament and discovered she barely recognized the text she thought she knew so well. … the English translation often felt like another book entirely from the one she had grown up with. … In this eye-opening chronicle, Kushner tells the story of her vibrant relationship to the Bible, and along the way illustrates how the differences in translation affect our understanding of our culture’s most important written work. A fascinating look at language and the beliefs…”(Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverThe cities that built the Bible, by Robert R. Cargill.
“For many, the names Bethlehem, Babylon, and Jerusalem evoke epic stories from the Bible – fortresses, moonlit mangers or magnificent temples. This is a magnificent tour through fourteen cities: the Phoenicia cities of Tyre, Sidon, Ugarit, Nineveh, Babylon, Megiddo, Athens, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Qumran, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Rome, with dig sites, ruins, and relics. An interesting and informative adventure through time.

Syndetics book coverThe Bible from scratch, written & illustrated by Simon Jenkins.
“For first-time readers, the Bible can be an intimidating and hefty read. This lively and witty resource offers a lightning sketch of the Bible that clearly explains the essential meaning of every book from both the Old and New Testaments. It provides helpful hints for understanding the motives and messages behind each of the Biblical writers and introduces all the famous people and events from key stories. Filled with humorous illustrations and plenty of wit, this is an ideal guide for getting to know the Bible.” (Syndetics summary) We’ve also received The unofficial Bible for Minecrafters : stories from the Bible told block by block.

Syndetics book coverApostle : or bones that shine like fire : travels among the tombs of the twelve, by Tom Bissell.
Combining travel writing, and biblical history, and a deep lifelong relationship with Christianity, Bissell explores who the apostles were as men but also how their identities have been shaped ever since. This takes him around the world, from Rome to India and Kyrgyzstan, as the apostles travelled from ‘Jerusalem to Samaria and the ends of the earth’.

Syndetics book coverThe last supper : the plight of Christians in Arab lands, by Klaus Wivel ; translated by Mark Kline.
“In 2013, alarmed by scant attention paid to the hardships endured by the 7.5 million Christians in the Middle East, journalist Klaus Wivel traveled to Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, and the Palestinian territories on a quest to learn more about their fate. [He] spoke with priests whose churches have been burned, citizens who feel like strangers in their own countries, and entire communities whose only hope for survival may be fleeing into exile. Wivel asks, why have we not done more to protect these people?” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNot forgotten : the true story of my imprisonment in North Korea, by Kenneth Bae ; with Mark Tabb.
“Bae moves to China and leads guided tours into North Korea. Six years later, after eighteen successful excursions in and out of the country, Ken is suddenly stopped at the border, arrested, brought to Pyongyang for further questioning, and sentenced to fifteen years of hard labour. His crime? Attempting to overthrow the North Korean government. Media attention culminates in President Obama’s call for prayer on behalf of Ken at the 2014 National Prayer Breakfast. Meanwhile, Ken grapples with his new, solitary reality as a captive of one of the world’s most brutal governments….” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGood faith : being a Christian when society thinks you’re irrelevant and extreme, by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.
“Many Christians today feel overwhelmed as they try to live faithfully in a culture that seems increasingly hostile to their beliefs. … This isn’t just a problem that affects individual Christians; if left unaddressed, the growing gap between the faithful and society’s tolerance for public faith will have lasting consequences for the church in America. … Readers will discover the most significant trends that offer both obstacles and opportunities to God’s people, and how not only to challenge culture but to create and renew it for the common good. David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons invite fellow Christians to understand the heart behind opposing views and show them how to be loving, life-giving friends despite profound differences.” (Syndetics summary)

Passwords to Paradise : Beliefs books

A fascinating and detailed work on the influence of language and linguistics on the development of religions across the ages is featured in this month’s latest arrivals together with a thoughtful treatment on globalisation by Miroslav Volf.

Syndetics book coverLife’s too short to pretend you’re not religious, by David Dark.
Religion is often a forbidden topic in conversation. Some prefer the word “spirituality” which doesn’t have quite the same association with ritual, self-righteousness, or hypocrisy. But religion includes the stories that make up a person’s values and beliefs. Dark illuminates how thoughts are handed down to us, what we judge to be essential, and argues a convincing case for religion’s place in modern society.

Syndetics book coverFlourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World, by Miroslav Volf.
In this perceptive and thoughtful book, a leading theologian discusses how world religions and globalization have interacted across the centuries, but what ought their relationship to be? How do we judge globalization – how well it enables us to live out our authentic humanity? Despite their flaws, religions remain one of our most powerful sources of moral motivation and renewal. The ongoing process of reform in religions needs to shape globalization to encourage people to flourish at every level.

Syndetics book coverPasswords to paradise : how languages have re-invented world religions, by Nicholas Oster.
“Ostler (The Last Lingua Franca) roams across several millennia of world history and delves into precise linguistic shifts looking for clues to how the “missionary religions” of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam have been affected by the new language communities they entered. [He demonstrates how] they may have been altered not only by the imperfect art of translation but by their social, political, and military contexts. … For those fascinated by linguistic transitions, this impressive study is a feast. (drawn from Publisher’s Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverPutting God second : how to save religion from itself, by Rabbi Donniel Hartman.
“Rabbi Donniel Hartman tackles one of modern life’s vexing questions: Why are the great monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – chronically unable to fulfill their own self-professed goal of creating individuals infused with moral sensitivity and societies governed by the highest ethical standards?” He observes that the primary focus of a relationship with God can distract religious believers from their own traditions’ ethics. So he argues that decency toward one’s neighbour must always take priority over acts of religious devotion.

Syndetics book coverThe surrender experiment : my journey into life’s perfection, Michael A. Singer.
Shares stories from the author’s pursuit of enlightenment, from his years as a hippie introvert and successes as a computer engineer through his work in humanitarian efforts, counseling readers on how to navigate confusing aspects in the spiritual journey, with lessons on how to put aside conflicting beliefs, let go of worries, and transform misdirected desires. Singer provides a road map to a new way of living not in the moment, but to exist in a state of perpetual happiness.

Syndetics book coverPagan planet : being, believing & belonging in the 21st century, edited by Nimue Brown.
“What does it mean to live as a Pagan in this uncertain world of climate change, economic hardship and worldwide social injustice? What does it mean to hold nature as sacred when ravaging the land is commonplace? How do we live our Paganism in our families and homes, our communities and countries? Pagans are stepping up in all kinds of ways. … This is a book of grass-roots energy, of walking your talk and the tales of people who are, by a vast array of means, engaged with being the change they wish to see in the world.” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverThe heaven promise : engaging the Bible’s truth about life to come, by Scot McKnight.
“Heaven. Eternity. The Afterlife. Mention any of these concepts, and people of all ages and from all walks of life are certain to have opinions. Maybe that’s why there are so many books and movies that feature heaven-and-back experiences. …. Separating fact from fiction, McKnight helps the reader examine the over-arching story of scripture in order to discover what awaits us. Heaven isn’t the construction of a fairy-tale or some mythical narrative. It’s …the fulfilment of God’s promise to us.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBrand Luther : 1517, printing, and the making of the Reformation, by Andrew Pettegree.
“Pettegree illustrates Luther’s great gifts not simply as a theologian, but … as the world’s first mass-media figure, its first brand. He recognized the power of pamphlets, written in the colloquial German of everyday people, to win the battle of ideas. … Luther had a partner in the form of artist and businessman Lucas Cranach, who together with Wittenberg’s printers created the distinctive look of Luther’s pamphlets. Together, Luther and Cranach created a product that spread like wildfire.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Emmaus code : finding Jesus in the Old Testament, by David Limbaugh.
This made The New York Times Best Seller List in 2015. Limbaugh takes as his starting point a meeting between Jesus and two travellers where the former began discussing “Moses and all the prophets” to explain to them what was already in the (OT) Scriptures about himself. The reader is taken on a journey through all 39 OT books to reveal Jesus Christ and God’s meta-narrative.

Syndetics book coverShi’i Islam : a beginner’s guide, by Moojan Momen.
“Provides readers with an accessible and insightful introduction to the Shi’i branch of Islam, from its beginnings after the death of the Prophet Muhammad through to the present day. As well as providing a historical overview, the book also introduces readers to Shi’i doctrines and practices, explains the key differences between the Shi’i and Sunni branches of Islam, and addresses the role and position of women within Shi’i communities.” (drawn from publisher’s description)

Living with awareness and intention – New Beliefs books

This edition covers quite a mix of approaches and worldviews. Two books chart the growth of individuals across a year of challenges, while others urge a return to the beliefs at the heart of their faiths.

Syndetics book coverThe Bloomsbury reader on Islam in the West, edited by Edward E. Curtis IV.
Some assume that Islam is foreign to the West, but it has been part of western civilisation for more than a millennium. The Reader discusses the impact of Islamic ideas and Muslims on Western politics, societies, and cultures. Part 1 takes a more historical approach e.g. significance of Islam in medieval and early modern times e.g. Islamic Spain, while Part 2 addresses more contemporary issues. A timeline of key events in the history of Islam in the West is particularly helpful.

Syndetics book coverSecular meditation : 32 practices for cultivating inner peace, compassion, and joy, by Rick Heller.
Written by meditation teacher Rick Heller includes step-by-step instructions, personal stories, and question prompts to encourage the reader develop more empathy, reduce stress and build resilience. “Heller simplifies what is often found mysterious, describing and providing detailed instructions for thirty-two different practices, ensuring that anyone can find the right one.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKarma : what it is, what it isn’t, why it matters, by Traleg Kyabgon.
“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? In this short and eminently readable book, 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 … Throughout he shows how to work with karma intelligently to bring about beneficial changes in the way we relate to our thoughts, feelings, and circumstances.” (drawn from the publisher’s description.)

Syndetics book coverA year of living prayerfully : how a curious traveler met the Pope, walked on coals, danced with rabbis, and revived his prayer life, by Jared Brock.
Brock takes readers on a world tour, but learns something of “the practice of the presence of God” (prayer according to 17th-century monk Brother Lawrence), trust, reverence, evangelism, and the need for silence. This book is a story of a young man finding his way as a pilgrim, although at times his honesty leads the reader through insensitive comments (humour?). However, after this year, Brock realises that he is just at the beginning of his journey.

Syndetics book coverAfter Buddhism : rethinking the Dharma for a secular age, by Stephen Batchelor.
As the subtitle suggests this focuses on the need for considering a Buddhist world view alongside within the context of today’s global and secularized world. What was the core of the Buddha’s vision ? Chapter titles include Letting Go of Truth, Experience, The Everday Sublime, and A Culture of Awakening, together with selected discourses from the Pali Canon.

Syndetics book coverInterrupted : when Jesus wrecks your comfortable Christianity, by Jen Hatmaker.
Hatmaker was a pastor’s wife and far too busy doing church than being church. She describes God asking her questions like, “What is really the point of Church? What have I really asked of you?” She realised she had missed the point. She invites readers to take a similar journey through Scripture towards a more frontline mission.

Syndetics book coverCathedrals and churches of Europe, edited by Rolf Toman ; photography by Achim Bednorz ; text by Barbara Borngässer.
Whether your interest is in travelling, or in church architecture across the ages, this explores the cathedrals and churches along the Rhine, to the brick Gothic and Romanesques in the Baltic Sea to the Baroque and Rococo in the foothills of the Alps as well as the iconic buildings in the heart of Italy and France before crossing the channel to the medieval cathedrals in England.

Syndetics book coverHow would Buddha act? : 801 right-action teachings for living with awareness and intention, by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD.
“Based on the Buddhist teachings of Right Action, this inspirational guide will help you gain insight into the importance of your actions, improve your relationships, and live a more meaningful life. Author Barbara Ann Kipfer offers a unique, modern take on the ancient teachings of Right Action–the Buddhist concept of acting in loving, compassionate ways and responding to others with the intention of doing no harm. In the book, you’ll learn that every thought, word, and deed has a consequence, and that by trying to be a better person in day-to-day life, you will be taking meaningful steps toward true enlightenment.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe year without a purchase : one family’s quest to stop shopping and start connecting, by Scott Dannemiller.
“In 2005, a life-changing mission year in Guatemala inspired Dannemiller and his wife, Gabby, to develop a family mission statement: live with integrity, be grateful what they have, grow in faith together, and serve God’s people. Ten years later, living in the suburbs with two children and feeling spiritually off-track, they embark on another yearlong experiment to reinvigorate their mission … Dannemiller explores a handful of recurring themes, such as wanting “to do the right thing, but not wanting to force our values on other people,” the difficulties around deciding what’s a necessity, and managing social pressures, particularly rituals and expectations around gift-giving.” (drawn from Publisher Weekly)

Religious relevance – New Beliefs books

The first crop of beliefs books for 2016 reveals musings on atheism, mysticism, hospitality and islam, the holy grail, and writings inspired by the good book.

Syndetics book coverKings of the Grail : tracing the historic journey of the cup of Christ from Jerusalem to modern-day Spain, by Margarita Torres Sevilla and José Miguel Ortega del Río ; translated from the Spanish by Rosie Marteau.
The authors, a medieval history lecturer and an art historian, came across the clues leading to the Grail’s discovery in parchments in the Egyptian University of Al-Azhar. This led them on a three-year investigation as they traced the Grail’s journey across the globe and discovered its final resting place in the Basilica of San Isidoro in Leon, Spain. This is the definitive guide to one of history’s most sought-after treasures, the origin and object of both Arthurian myth and Christian legend, offering objective information to support an extraordinary discovery. (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBattling the gods : atheism in the ancient world, by Tim Whitmarsh.
How old is atheism? It did not start in the Enlightenment, but in a far more remote past. Priests were functionaries rather than sources of moral or spiritual wisdom. There was an extraordinary variety of perspectives on sacred matters. Whitmarsh explores individuals who challenged their existence of gods such as ancient poets and philosophers and writers, such as Socrates, who was executed for rejecting the Athenian gods. “By shining a light on atheism’s first thousand years, Battling the Gods offers a timely reminder that nonbelief has a wealth of tradition of its own, and, indeed, its own heroes. (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFighting God : an atheist manifesto for a religious world, by David Silverman.
Silverman is the president of American Atheists and one of the best-known atheists in America. Known as “America’s loudest heathen,” a term he embraces proudly, Silverman is passionate about atheism and atheist equality. He presents his arguments and personal reasons for being an atheist and wants to call atheists to emerge from the shadows. Fighting God is a provocative, unapologetic book that takes religion to task.

Syndetics book coverWhat the mystics know : seven pathways to your deeper self, by Richard Rohr.
Each chapter examines one of the seven core mystical truths. Organized according to the mystical paths that every worshiper must follow, Rohr identifies the despair of everyday life, promotes opportunities for change even in the face of pain, thereby transforming one’s deeper self into a beacon of light that aids in the perpetual metamorphosis of others. Rohr offers a window into the wisdom of the mystics. (drawn from publisher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverThe good book : writers reflect on favorite Bible passages, edited by Andrew Blauner.
A collection of previously unpublished pieces by 32 of today’s most prominent writers shares their thoughts about biblical passages they find personally meaningful.” (NoveList)

Syndetics book coverWings of forgiveness : working with the angels to release, heal, and transform , by Kyle Gray ; foreword by Gabrielle Bernstein.
Wings of Forgiveness is a book written for anyone who is ready to release their past and find freedom from fear. Forgiveness is not an easy subject, but it is a necessary focus in spirituality and personal growth. In Wings of Forgiveness, the reader is taken on a journey – not outside of themselves, but within. They are encouraged to see and accept that they are held and cherished by the divine, that there are loving angels by their side, and master souls in heaven that have walked the path before them. Another book by the same author is Angels whisper in my ear : incredible stories of hope and love from the angels.

Syndetics book coverLosing our religion : how unaffiliated parents are raising their children, by Christel Manning.
Manning says the fact that someone checks “none” in response to a survey question that asks about his or her religious affiliation doesn’t mean that he or she isn’t religious or “unchurched,” as is often assumed. ‘Nones’ may include everyone from the disinterested to devout Christians who don’t identify with a particular denomination. Based on qualitative interviews of parents across the United States, Manning provides some insights into about today’s American ‘Nones’ and their approaches to teaching the next generation. (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHospitality and Islam : welcoming in God’s name, by Mona Siqqidui.
Considering its prominent role in many faith traditions, surprisingly little has been written about hospitality within the context of religion, particularly Islam. In her new book, Mona Siddiqui, explores and compares teachings within the various Muslim traditions over the centuries, while also drawing on other materials such as diverse as Christian reflections on charity, and Islamic and Western feminist writings on gender issues. Applying a more theological approach to the idea of mercy as a fundamental basis for human relationships, this book will appeal to a wide audience. (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe relevance of religion : how faithful people can change politics, by John Danforth.
Former United States senator, ambassador to the United Nations and Episcopalian priest John Danforth offers a thoughtful, and deeply personal look at the state of American politics today. Danforth calls his own Republican party to task for its part in creating a political system in which the loudest opinions and the most polarizing personalities hold sway. And he suggests that such a system is not only unsustainable but unfaithful to our essential nature to care about other people. Our willingness to serve more than our self-interest is religion’s gift to politics. He asserts that traditional religious values of sacrifice, selflessness and a commitment to the greater good can and should have prominent roles in America’s politics.

Faith seekers – New Beliefs books

There are more than two sides to every story, and this month we present several contrasting views : of science, faith, sin and the church.

Syndetics book coverPost-traumatic church syndrome : a memoir of humor and healing, by Reba Riley.
Reba Riley’s twenty-ninth year was a terrible time. An untreatable chronic illness forced her to take stock of things and she decided if she couldn’t fix her body, she might heal her injured spirit. This began a circuit of visiting thirty religions before her thirtieth birthday. She visited an Amish community, a Buddhist temple, a virtual reality church, movie theater, a drive-in bar, sweat lodge, and fasted for thirty days without food. She realised she didn’t have to choose a religion to choose God. This is a book for questioners, doubters, misfits, and seekers of all faiths. (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverArt + religion in the 21st century, by Aaron Rosen.
“The relationship between art and religion has been long, complex, and often conflicted, and it has given rise to many of the greatest works in the history of art. Artists today continue to reflect seriously upon religious traditions, themes, and institutions, suggesting a new approach to spirituality that is more considered than confrontational. Art & Religion in the 21st Century is the first in-depth study to survey an international roster of artists who use their work to explore religion’s cultural, social, political, and psychological impact on today’s world. … Each of the book’s ten chapters introduces a theme e.g. ideas of the Creation, the figure of Jesus, the sublime, wonder, diaspora and exile, conflict, etc followed by a selection of works of art that illustrates that theme.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBreaking the Mother Goose code : how a fairy-tale character fooled the world for 300 years, by Jeri Studebaker.
“Who was Mother Goose? Where did she come from, and when? … Several have tried to pin her down, claiming she was the mother of Charlemagne, the wife of Clovis (King of the Franks), the Queen of Sheba, or even Elizabeth Goose of Boston, Massachusetts. Others think she’s related to mysterious goose-footed statues in old French churches called “Queen Pedauque.” This book delves deeply into the surviving evidence for Mother Goose’s origins – from her nursery rhymes and fairy tales as well as from relevant historical, mythological, and anthropological data.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow’s your faith? : an unlikely spiritual journey, by David Gregory.
While NBC journalist David was covering the White House, he was taken aback by President George W. Bush asking him “How’s your faith?” In his early years he had no real beliefs although he identified culturally with the Jewish faith then his marriage to a Protestant woman of strong faith inspired him to explore his own spirituality. This question prompted him to explore more – he visited Christian mega-churches as well as deep into Orthodox Judaism. He interviewed leaders such as Joel Osteen and Cardinal Timothy Dolan. “David approaches his faith with the curiosity and dedication you would expect from a journalist accustomed to holding politicians and Presidents accountable. But he also comes as a seeker, one just discovering why spiritual journeys are always worthwhile.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSearching for Sunday : loving, leaving, and finding the Church, by Rachel Held Evans.
What does it mean to be part of the Church? Like millions of millennials, Rachel Held Evans didn’t want to go to church. The hypocrisy, the politics, the budgets, the scandals – church culture seemed too removed from Jesus. Yet, something kept drawing her back. Her journey took her through seven sacraments often associated with church – baptism, communion, confirmation, confession, marriage, vocation, and death. This is not theology, but a memoir about taking risks, community, grace, and finding hope, somewhere in the messiness of church.

Syndetics book coverNot in God’s name : confronting religious violence, by Jonathan Sacks.
This author tackles the phenomenon of religious extremism and violence committed in the name of God. If religion is perceived as being part of the problem, Rabbi Sacks argues, then it must also form part of the solution. Rabbi Sacks shows that religiously inspired violence has as its source misreadings of biblical texts, and offers a new interpretation of early myths. “Abraham himself,” writes Rabbi Sacks, “sought to be a blessing to others regardless of their faith.” Our task is to be a blessing to the world, not destroy it in God’s name.

Syndetics book coverMemories of heaven : children’s astounding recollections of the time before they came to Earth, by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer and Dee Garnes.
“British poet William Wordsworth expressed the idea that we gradually lose our intimate knowledge of heaven as we grow up, observing that “our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting” of our previous heavenly existence…. Curious about this, Wayne and Dee decided to issue an invitation to parents all over the world to share their interactions with children. The overwhelming response they received prompted them to put together this book, which includes the most interesting and illuminating of these stories in which very young children speak about their remembrances before they were born. … This fascinating book encourages parents and grandparents to realize that there is far more to this earthly experience than what we perceive with our five senses.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFaith versus fact : why science and religion are incompatible, by Jerry A. Coyne.
Evolutionary biologist Jerry A. Coyne argues that science, based on reason and empirical study, will be in conflict with religious faith, and revelation. Building on the books by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens, he demolishes the claims of religion to provide verifiable “truth” by subjecting those claims to the same tests we use to establish truth in science. Coyne urges us not to mistake faith for fact.

Syndetics book coverInventing the universe : why we can’t stop talking about science, faith and God, by Alister McGrath.
We just can’t stop talking about the big questions around science and faith. Some have expected them to go away – in fact, we seem to talk about them more than ever. … Richard Dawkins and the New Atheists argue that religion is at war with science – and that we have to choose between them. But it’s time to consider a different way of looking at these two great cultural forces. What if science and faith might enrich each other? What if they can together give us a deep and satisfying understanding of life? Alister McGrath, argues that the relationship between science and faith is complex.

Syndetics book coverSaving the original sinner : how Christians have used the Bible’s first man to oppress, inspire, and make sense of the world, by Karl Giberson.
“When global exploration, anthropology, geology, paleontology, biblical studies, and even linguistics cast doubt on the historicity of Adam and his literal fall into sin, Christians responded by creatively reimagining the creation story, letting Adam “evolve” to accommodate his changing context. Even conservative evangelical institutions until recently encouraged serious engagement with evolutionary science, unhindered by the straitjacket of young-earth creationism, intelligent design, or other views demanding that Adam be a historical figure. Giberson calls for a renewed conversation between science and Christianity, and for more open engagement with new scientific discoveries, even when they threaten central doctrines. ” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBorn bad : original sin and the making of the Western world, by James Boyce.
“”Original sin is the Western world’s creation story.” According to the Christian doctrine of original sin, humans are born inherently bad, and only through God’s grace can they achieve salvation. In this captivating and controversial book, acclaimed historian James Boyce explores how this centuries-old concept has shaped the Western view of human nature right up to the present. … religious ideas of morality still very much underpin our modern secular society, regardless of our often being unaware of their origins. If today the specific doctrine has all but disappeared (even from churches), what remains is the distinctive discontent of Western people–the feelings of guilt and inadequacy associated not with doing wrong, but with being wrong.” (Syndetics summary)


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