The first beliefs post of 2015 features popular authors such as Joyce Meyer and Karen Armstrong whose books are interspersed with thoughtful treatments on life beyond religion, a rite of passage as a Morman missionary abroad, and a background to holy communion.
Fields of blood : religion and the history of violence, by Karen Armstrong.
The first part of this sweeping history traces the development of relationship between violence and religion in ancient times – Mesopotamia, India, China, and among the Hebrews. The second part examines the challenges of Jesus and Muhammad to the violence of empires of their times and how Christianity and Islam became distorted as they were legitimised. The third part covers modernity – the idea of separation of religion from the state, secularism, and the battles between religion and secularity in our own time.
The divine matrix : bridging time, space, miracles, and belief, by Gregg Braden.
Contents include : Shattering the paradigm: the experiments that change everything — Are we passive observers or powerful creators? — Once connected, always connected: living in a holographic universe — When here is there and then is now: jumping time and space in the matrix — The universe is talking to us: messages from the matrix — Reading the mirrors of relationship: messages from ourselves — Rewriting the reality code: 20 keys to conscious creation. Another recently received by the same author is The spontaneous healing of belief.
Eager to love : the alternative way of Francis of Assisi, by Richard Rohr.
Interest in Francis of Assisi has piqued since the current Pope Francis took office. This is not a biography, but an examination of themes in Francis’s ministry : on loving and identifying with the poor, suffering, and outcast, and simplicity. This thinking stands in contrast to those who think they can love God without loving their brothers and sisters. This Franciscan message is helping to inspire and motivate contemporary people of faith.
The meal Jesus gave us : understanding Holy Communion, by Tom Wright.
Most Christians obey Jesus’ command to “do this in remembrance of me”: breaking bread and drinking wine as he did at the Last Supper. Tom Wright explains the background to the Last Supper, the ways in which Christians have interpreted Jesus’ actions over the centuries and what it means for us today.
Prayer : experiencing awe and intimacy with God / Timothy Keller.
Keller’s own desire for a deeper prayer life prompted him to study what prayer is and how to pray. Drawing on Psalms, as well as theologians Keller shows that prayer is a conversation and an encounter with God. His thoughts are summarised into 12 “touchstones” and include outlines for developing sound daily prayer times.
The approval fix : how to break free from people pleasing, by Joyce Meyer.
We all need affirmation, acceptance, and approval. But when we depend on the approval of others to the extent that careless remarks upset our whole emotional stability then this is unhealthy. Meyer argues that our value is not on how people see us but through God’s unconditional love for us as his children. Joyce Meyer gives practical insights on how to accept who we are – to experience greater confidence, deeper emotional stability, and healthier relationships as God intended.
Way below the angels : the pretty clearly troubled but not even close to tragic confessions of a real live Mormon missionary, by Craig Harline.
“No missionary returns home unchanged. Harline recounts his experience as a young missionary in Belgium. After intensive training at the Mormons’ Missionary Training Center, he and thousands of his fellow are cast out into the world with minimal language skills and training for the real world. This tale is, at heart, a reflection, 40 years later, on how life doesn’t always follow the rules, and how growing up away from home can be profoundly unsettling.” (adapted from Publisher’s Weekly)
Life after faith : the case for secular humanism, by Philip Kitcher.
“Kitcher thoughtfully and sensitively considers how secularism can respond to the worries and challenges that all people confront, including the issue of mortality… Whereas religious belief has been important in past times, Kitcher concludes that evolution away from religion is now essential. He envisions the successors to religious life, when the senses of identity and community traditionally fostered by religion will instead draw on a broader range of cultural items–those provided by poets, filmmakers, musicians, artists, scientists, and others. With clarity and deep insight, Kitcher reveals the power of secular humanism to encourage fulfilling human lives built on ethical truth.” (Syndetics summary)
50 great myths about religions, by John Morreall and Tamara Sonn.
This introduction will get readers thinking about how and why certain myths have arisen, and their continuing influence. It discusses myths about religious belief in general, as well as specific ideas that surround Judaism, Christianity, Islam, atheism, and agnosticism. Each individual myth is accompanied by an explanation of how it arose, and spread, and why the subsequent beliefs can be questioned. All this is underpinned with observations about human nature, and the characteristics that predispose us to create and circulate myths.