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I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Just Finished Reading: Dispirited – How Contemporary Spirituality makes us Stupid, Selfish and Unhappy by David Webster (FP: 2011)

Yet another interesting and thought provoking book from Zero Publishing. The added attraction of this one was that I had no problem at all (this time) understanding exactly what the author was trying to get across! He certainly didn’t pull any punches – literally. He started his argument with a very (and I do mean very) strong initial statement – that when he hears people describe themselves as ‘not religious, but very spiritual’ he wants to punch them in the face – hard! You certainly can’t accuse him of being half-hearted! Now, I’ve heard similar statements myself though without anything like the kind of anger (and despair) felt by the author. Me, I was just confused though maybe not as confused as the person making the (on one level at least) understandable statement.

Rather inevitably the author starts with definitions – of spirit and spirituality – showing that some users of so-called modern spirituality clearly don’t know what they mean when they separate it so emphatically from religion. Of course they probably think they’re doing so for the best of reasons – to show that they’re not kooky or fundamental yet still believe in ‘something’ without being too specific (possibly so not to give ‘offence’). Also inevitably a great deal of the blame for the present state of affairs rests at the door of post-modernism where Truth is always relative and where there are many equally valid spiritual paths to be navigated along. Of course where nothing is right (or wrong) a pick-and-mix mentality is the result where the whole gamut of religious experience is available for plunder. Mixing Angels, Buddhism and Table-tapping? Why not – so long as it ‘works’ for the practitioners. Yet this approach means that any aspect of the belief that is, or becomes, in any way uncomfortable can happily be ditched. But uncomfortable or difficult aspects of beliefs are, the author maintains, integral to being a member of a religious group – most of the belief system can often be accommodated with relative ease but some parts are more difficult to come to terms with, they’re uncomfortable, they force you to do things, or think things or ponder things that you’d just rather not. They stretch you in ways that you’d just not rather be stretched. But that’s all part of the package deal. You can’t ditch original sin without ditching the whole thing.

But with the atomisation of belief you won’t have other members of your congregation criticising you for falling by the wayside (or helping keep you on the straight and narrow) because you’re a congregation of one or maybe of a few like-minded souls. Any disagreement breaks any kind of ad hoc group into smaller and smaller pieces. Nothing is debated for long because debate leads to disagreement and division. You don’t need to understand things you just need to believe in them. After all knowledge can lead to doubt which is pretty uncomfortable. Yet if our knowledge of our own beliefs is superficial at best how can they comfort us in times of need? In a nutshell the author is saying that if allow a pick-and-mix mentality to predominate in spiritual matters then those in actual search of something transcendent will singularly fail to achieve their admittedly muddled objective. Religion, even as an atheist arguing the point, is and should be difficult. Holding difficult beliefs makes us (potentially at least) work at understanding exactly what it is we believe, thus forcing us to exercise the old grey matter, becoming more sociable as we share our beliefs and doubts with like-minded believers and happier (again potentially) as we embed ourselves into a community dedicated to the support of its members. Modern so-called spirituality provides none of this. For those who cannot handle ‘regular’ religion for a plethora of reasons the fall-back of being ‘spiritual’ is no fall-back at all but a cop out, a lazy, unthinking and often pre-packaged response to the perceived need for something ‘more’ than mere materialism. It is, as the author maintains, a dead end. Recommended.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

I'm getting the impression that she's rather annoyed with something. I wonder if it's the ears?

Just Finished Reading: The Terrible Year – The Paris Commune, 1871 by Alistair Horne (FP: 1971)

Taking a step back from hard-core political theory I thought I’d fill in a bit of background with a few political history books (more to follow of course). As I’m concentrating on European history this seemed a good place to kind of start. I’d come across the famous 1871 Paris Commune a few times during my previous reading but, except for the fact that it happened and ended badly I knew little else until I turned the last page of this slim (142 page) volume.

Starting with the French defeat at the Battle of Sedan in 1870 at the hands of the seemingly unstoppable Prussian army the author inexorably draws together the events and the personalities that led to this short lived flower of revolutionary potential. With France in chaos as the Prussian army advanced on Paris and the government seemingly vacillating between doing nothing and capitulating a small number of left-wing men and women took matters into their own hands and declared the incumbent politicians invalid. As forces gathered to support both sides in the seemingly inevitable violent confrontation the majority of the sitting government escaped to near-by Versailles. Left in charge of a city practically surrounded by Prussian troops and with an often shambolic and unrecognised political body in command the city was determined to hold out even if the rest of the country had apparently capitulated. So began the long, and sometimes quite bizarre, Siege of Paris. After many months of trying, and failing, to subdue the last major pocket of resistance the Prussians finally settled with the government they did recognise and happily left France in turmoil whilst taking ownership of two provinces. It was then time for Frenchmen and women to fight their fellow Frenchmen as the right-wing government sought to crush the rebels in its midst.

The details of the retaking of Paris are truly harrowing. Little quarter was asked or given. Whole districts of the city where destroyed by cannon shell and fire. Thousands of men, women and children died in the battle and in the preceding siege due to starvation, disease, suicide and the inevitable in-fighting. Worse was to come with wholesale executions of the ring-leaders and basically anyone who got in the way of the authorities. Even those countries afraid that such political revolt could happen in their country where appalled at the level of violence used to end any chance or any hope that such an affront to bourgeois sensibilities could ever happen again. So ended the short-lived experiment in early Communist society.

This is definitely a subject I need to learn more about. It was a fascinating if rather naïve attempt to produce a new way of living. It failed for many reasons and not only because it was eventually crushed by the forces on the right. I did find it interesting to speculate what might have happened if such an experiment had indeed succeeded. I think we would be living in a very different world today. A recommended introduction to the subject.

....and I'm Back (again).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Just Finished Reading: The Rebirth of History – Times of Riots and Uprisings by Alain Badiou (FP: 2011)

I need to pull back. Racing ahead, basically attempting to run before I can walk unassisted isn’t really doing me any favours. Or is it, so it seems sometimes, that I am trying to scale the peaks of political discourse without the benefit of oxygen. Yet again I feel that I need to both widen and deepen my political knowledge and understanding before I read books such as this. Doing so would mean that I’d get a great deal more out of it and reading such books wouldn’t take so much effort and concentration. Luckily I read this on holiday so I was fairly chilled and had the time, quiet and energy to read, and often re-read, the sometimes convoluted and dense arguments presented within. I don’t think my difficulties originated in the translation from French into English. No, the translation was very good – indeed I think it must have been borderline excellent as it’s difficult enough to understand in English never mind in its native language! I think it was just that I wasn’t really prepared for that amount of often very technical Marxist conceptual language.

But I persevered. One thing in my favour was the books brevity – a mere 120 pages including two appendices. The other thing was that, when I did fully understand what he was saying, I agreed with many of the points he was trying to make. His statement that what we see around us is not ‘late’ Capitalism or ‘post’ Capitalism but simple, naked, raw Capitalism in all its horrific splendour rings true to me. I did enjoy his comparison of Capitalism with Organised Crime and its many commonalities did make me chuckle to myself. It took a little longer to get my head around the idea of inexistent people but it finally sank in and most of the highly technical language – the ‘fictive indentarian object’ being one of my favourite terms in the whole book – I managed to initially grasp because of the context and later because of the authors detailed explanations using both historical and contemporary examples. It did appear that a passing knowledge of French history came in handy – the French Revolution, Student unrest in 1968 and the Paris Commune of 1871 all feature – but again much can be gained through context and a general knowledge – or at least a nodding acquaintance with such events.

Of course as you might expect much of the focus of this slim volume is the still on-going social unrest in much of the Middle East. The author’s ‘take’ on these events is something I certainly haven’t heard from the media outlets in the UK. Rather, as we are led to believe, a demand for more democracy and freedom (AKA Capitalism) the underlying demand is for the Capitalist West, who remember supported the brutal regimes they are in the process of deposing, to leave them alone to make their own way. Of course even with the passing of two years since its publication it is far too early to say what the effect of these uprisings will be and how far they will spread. The author clearly hopes that this could be a turning point in the fight against Global Capitalism in all its exploitative guises. I’m cynical enough, and remember enough historical uprisings which only succeeded in temporarily changing one set of repressive tyrants for another set, not to get my hopes up too soon. Bringing down the Capitalist colossus is going to take a great deal more time and effort than we’ve seen so far – but little acorns and all that.

I cannot say that this book is an easy read because, for many reasons, it certainly is not. However it’s the kind of book you can return to after 6 months or a year of further reading around the subject and each time get something more from it. Once I increase my, presently pitiful, understanding of political theory and delve much deeper into political history and even political biography I intend to pick this book up again and have another go at it. From what little I gleaned the first time I think a return visit will be well worth it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

My Favourite Movies: Predator 2

Inevitably Predator cried out for a sequel. So what did they do with the storyline? Move it into the ‘future’ – 1997 to be precise – and move it into an urban setting, LA in this case suffering under a sustained heat wave possibly caused by Global Warming (though I’m not sure if such a thing was even thought about back in 1990 when this was made). Possibly Arnie wasn’t available – making Total Recall and Kindergarten Cop that year – so Danny Glover was dropped into the middle of the action playing cop Mike Harrigan which turned out to be not unlike cop Roger Murtaugh of Lethal Weapon fame. Though in this instance his back-up crew consisted of Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso and, for his comedy potential, Bill Paxton.
We’re straight into the action as the cops are involved in a shoot-out with a major drug gang and they’re only just holding their ground. Enter Glover/Harrigan who improvises a semi-armoured vehicle to rescue some downed cops only to be told to ‘back off’ and let the Feds deal with it. Not being a big follower of authority his team enter the building against orders and find lots of dead bodies waiting for them – including one hanging from the rafters. As they say – there’s a new player in town and guess who and what he is? Yup – another predator on safari. Enter the mysterious Federal boys led by B-movie actor Gary Busey as Peter Keyes who seems to know a lot more about what’s going on than he’s telling anyone else.

Inevitably there are lots of parallels between both movies – and not just the score/soundtrack. The plots are broadly similar and P2 references the original movie at several points – including a recap (oddly and rather pointlessly I thought near the end) of what happened to Arnie and his team in the first film. Glover is no Arnie (I mean who is) but manages well enough to carry the action forward ably helped by his support team. Busey is simply Busey as always as he is in every movie I’ve seen in him. Thankfully he wasn’t cast in the Glover role! The star of the movie, for me at least, is the Predator itself played by Kevin Peter Hall who played the creature in both movies. Despite the fact that it barely spoke – and only to repeat things it had recorded earlier – Hall managed in both films to portray a depth and an intriguing possible background for his species that glued me to the screen looking for clues and attempting to confirm the flimsiest of hypotheses. Although I certainly wouldn’t want to meet one of them up close and personal – and definitely not with any kind of weapon in my hand – I definitely want to know more about their culture. That either says lots about me or about how a rather raw action flick can still make people (OK, maybe just people like me) think deep thoughts about alien social ‘anthropology’. Two other things, as the movie moved into its final scenes intrigued me greatly at the time – the fact that an Alien head appeared in their trophy cabinet (future AvP I wondered with glee) and the flint lock gun given to Glover at the end. Did this mean that the Predators had been around since the early 18th Century or could they time travel? Wouldn’t it be interesting to see one of them captured and forced to fight in the Roman gladiatorial contests? Now that would be a hell of a cross-over movie! But that’s just the way my mind works…..

Inevitably there are a few things I didn’t like about the movie, in particular the comedy scene in the apartment with the injured Predator in the bathroom and the old lady waiting outside with the broom. OK, the resulting joke was funny but there was no need to lighten the moment. The other thing that really bothered me was the attempted use of the nuke (as in the first film) which would have destroyed a significant part of LA. If the creature was a true hunter he wouldn’t have wanted to destroy a significant part of his hunting territory. But apart from a few minor niggles it pushed most of my buttons at the time and still manages to entertain decades later. It’s not exactly a work of high art (or just art) but it’s entertaining enough if taken for what it is.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Do You Eat Fish?

I was chatting to one of the guys at work a few days ago and we got onto the subject of vegetarians. When I mentioned that I was one he asked me a question that I had been asked several times before when the subject came up – he said: Do you eat fish? No, I said, I’m a vegetarian. He replied, well, my wife is a vegetarian and she eats fish. To which I replied, well, then she’s not a vegetarian. So we argued the point. He, at least initially seemed to maintain that fish wasn’t meat and therefore that eating fish and being a vegetarian where not mutually exclusive. After a few more moments he conceded my point and re-labelled his wife as a piscatarian – a cop out but a good point to end the discussion and get back to work.

I couldn’t help mentioning this conversation when I got back to my ‘office’. One person who is new to the group asked for confirmation that I didn’t eat fish. I confirmed that fact and then she asked: Are you a vegan? No, I said, I’m a vegetarian. I also drink milk and eat cheese and eggs. But I know lots of vegetarians who eat fish, she replied. Then they’re not vegetarians I said. Vegetarians don’t eat meat, period. But, she replied, fish isn’t meat, it’s…… fish. Well, I replied, they’re not exactly vegetables are they? They’re animals and I don’t eat anything with a face. By this time, of course, other members of my team had joined in relating stories of people who call themselves vegetarians who not only eat fish but also eat chicken (that well known other vegetable no doubt). It’s very simple I said, if you eat meat of any kind you can’t be a vegetarian and if you don’t eat meat or meat products then you’re a vegan. But I do consume meat products – dairy and eggs – but don’t eat flesh which makes me a vegetarian. At this point I think they started to get it or maybe a phone rang or the boss looked in our direction and things went a bit quiet.

To me at least the definition of vegetarian is pretty simple. Not so, it would seem, to a surprising number of otherwise switched on people. Of course people calling themselves veggies whilst still eating meat doesn’t exactly help matters. Two memories immediately sprung to mind. One was my ex-girlfriend tucking into fish on our last holiday together despite me thinking her being a veggie for the two years we spent together. Rather incredulous I said to her that I thought she was vegetarian. I am, she said, but I also eat fish. The other memory was of my mother’s reaction when I told her that I was a vegetarian just before coming home for Christmas. Oh, she said, but you’ll still be OK with the chicken? No, I said, I don’t eat meat any more. But chicken isn’t meat, she replied. So what is it, I asked. Chicken, she said. Sometimes you just have to laugh, sadly shake your head and move on with your life. But just for the record, I’m a vegetarian and, no, I don’t eat fish.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Just Finished Reading: Dam Busters – The Race to Smash the Dams 1943 by James Holland (FP 2012)

Europe – 1943. At last the war was beginning to turn in the Allies favour. In North Africa the dreaded Afrika Corps was about to have its final battle whilst in the Mediterranean the Royal Navy was getting the upper hand. Everything was starting to fall into place for an invasion of mainland Europe through the Italian peninsula. Meanwhile the efforts of RAF Bomber Command where finally bearing fruit. Despite the nightly losses over Occupied Europe an ever greater tonnage of bombs was falling on Germany inflicting ever greater damage to her towns, cities and the industry they contained. It was only a matter of time before her entire war economy collapsed. The losses on both sides where terrible but there seemed no alternative. One man, however, had a different idea. Engineering genius Barnes Wallis thought that there must be a better way, a more targeted way, to win or at least shorten the war – by hitting high value targets with undreamt of accuracy. Taking out these targets with comparatively small numbers of aircraft would, he believed, have an effect out of all proportion to the numbers involved. After many meetings and much persuasion an initially reluctant War Department gave him the green light for his most ambitious idea to be made reality – an attack on the German dams which provided much of the power and water for its industry in the heart of the Ruhr Valley. When the realisation had sunk in that Wallis had got his way he couldn’t help but pause. He had just agreed to provide a working and potentially war winning weapon, with its delivery system and a trained cadre of men to deliver it, in just 10 short weeks. If that wasn’t ambitious enough both the weapon and the planes that were needed to carry it only existed in Wallis’s head and most of the designs had not even been put on paper. The race was very much on!

Told in breathless fashion this 530 page book was a breeze to read. Easily turning 100+ pages a day I can pretty much say that I enjoyed every one of them. I’ve worked on projects with pretty tight deadlines but this story was just amazing. To design a prototype, test it on models, then in real life (on small dams in various parts of the country), train aircrews used to bombing from miles up to accurately fly, navigate and attack targets at under 100 feet off the ground at speeds in excess of 250 miles per hour all in complete secrecy and then fly the mission in the dead of night over occupied territory – and succeed – in TEN weeks is staggering. Even knowing it happened, even (now) knowing the details and work involved I can still barely believe that they did it. It is a feat almost beyond comprehension and is rightly celebrated as one of the greatest single attacks every made by a RAF unit. It still raises the hair on my neck to think of it. James Holland has produced a book worthy of the many men (and a few women) involved in the attack and everything that proceeded it. As an added bit of interest I discovered whilst reading the book that someone I used to work with – in a roundabout fashion – is the daughter of one of the surviving aircrew. Whilst not exactly a personal claim to fame it did feel like it made the whole story a little bit more personal especially every time it mentioned his name I couldn’t help thinking ‘I know his daughter’. If you have any interests in the RAF, the bomber campaign in Europe or just a brilliantly told tale of Herculean efforts in wartime this is definitely the book for you! Highly recommended.  

Monday, October 07, 2013

Just Finished Reading: Dracula by Bram Stoker (FP: 1897)

Young solicitor Jonathan Harker has been placed in a position of trust by his employer. Travelling to the little known province of Transylvania deep in the Carpathian Mountains he is to meet the aristocrat Count Dracula to exchange papers relating to a series of purchases the count has made in England. On arrival at the Counts dilapidated castle Jonathan begins to feel that something is not quite right and that the count is hiding something from him. Persuaded to stay much longer than anticipated he begins to fear for his sanity as increasingly strange events happen in and around the castle. Meanwhile in England his finance Mina is delighted that her best friend Lucy is to become betrothed in marriage to Lord Arthur Holmwood. Delight turns to worry however as Lucy becomes ill with a strange wasting disease. At a lost to understand her condition a family friend, and would be suitor Dr Seward asks advice from his ex-tutor and friend Abraham Van Helsing. Disturbed at what he discovers, Van Helsing orders a series of strange remedies that seem at first to stop and then reverse her decline. But finally Lucy’s fight for good health ends in tragedy – and Van Helsing finally admits to his disbelieving group of friends that a single creature is responsible for their pain. A creature apparently out of myth is living amongst them – a vampire! They must now dedicate their very lives to hunting down this creature of the night before he infects the world with his terrible curse.

As a fan of vampire literature I’m probably as surprised as you are (no doubt) that I hadn’t read this classic rendering of the myth that started it all. I’ve had several copies of this book on my shelves for years but just hadn’t picked any of them up – until now. I’m glad that I did finally read this deservedly classic work but couldn’t help but be disappointed in it. Firstly, of course, the story is so well known that there is little surprise or suspense to be found. Then of course there is the fact that the language used hasn’t dated very well and can’t but help sound rather odd and stilted to modern ears. This is part of the charm of classic literature but it’s also somewhat hard work. I also, to be honest found the whole thing rather dull. The book was slow and only had a few dramatic moments interspersed with long conversations as the heroes debated exactly what was happening and what they should do about it. I did like the Mina character. She probably comes out best and is actually quite the heroine despite the fact that the men do all they can to protect her from everything. The format of diary entries, letters and newspaper cuttings gives everything an immediacy and realism that I’m guessing Victorian readers needed to get them to suspend disbelief. It works rather well I thought. I was very disappointed with the ending though which I found to be a serious anti-climax after all the build-up. Overall I found it to be a difficult book and it took me a surprising two weeks to read just over 330 pages. Interesting in its way I have to say that I enjoyed Frankenstein much more. Certainly worth a read if you’re a vampire fan and haven’t managed to read the book that brought vampires to public attention.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Thinking About: The Social Whirl

I will be the first to admit that I am not exactly the most social of people. That’s not to say that, most of the time, I’m not sociable. I am, actually, surprisingly so (or maybe it’s only me that it surprises). You see I’m one of those seemingly rare people that don’t need to be surrounded by others 24/7. Indeed that’s pretty much my definition of Hell – not being allowed to be on my own for any length of time. It’s not just that I like being on my own (generally I do) or that I feel the need to be on my own (ditto) but that, at least periodically, I have to be on my own for my own sanity. Of course I’m in a chicken and egg situation really (not much of a paradox when you think about it properly) in that I can’t figure out if I’m like this because of my life experience – mostly being on my own – or if I’ve mostly been on my own because I don’t feel any particular need to be around people. Maybe it’s more than a dash of both mixed in together. Thinking about it, if I did feel a strong need to be around people more often I’d have made much more effort to have people around me. I’ve known people like this in the past. They seem to either dislike their own company or need others to distract and entertain them constantly. Maybe they don’t like living in their own heads so much? Maybe they have nothing in their own heads to keep them occupied? I’ve known people who have woken up in the early hours of the morning and have left the house to find someone to talk to – anyone. Sometimes that person was me who would’ve liked to be in my own bed on my own far more than staying up until the early morning listening to someone complain about being alone.

Inevitably sometimes I’ve thought that there was something wrong with me, something missing. I know that people sometimes think I’m strange for simple things like going to the cinema on my own or when I turn down invitations to parties or other events (often with no more excuse than I don’t want to go). No doubt some see these invitations as a form of help, to get me ‘out of the house’ to ‘meet new people’ as if I don’t leave the house 300+ days of the year or meet new people on a regular basis – indeed meeting new people and forming relationships with them has been an important part of my job for the last 5-6 years and I’m rather good at it even if I say so myself. It’s not that I can’t do these things – I can – it’s that I don’t see them as vital to my well-being. That’s not to say that I don’t get lonely, I do. I like people (individually anyway) and enjoy being with them. Humans are socially creatures and I’m definitely human so can’t discard that part of my nature. So it’s inevitable that I miss certain individuals who are no longer in my life or can’t be part of my life for other reasons and, from time to time, I do miss the intimacy of generic human contact. Rather perversely I don’t like being touched especially by those I perceive as strangers or at least as less than friends. Even more perversely I’m envious of those who touch and are touched easily. No doubt I give out ‘don’t touch me’ signals that most people can pick up on but it can still hurt when they by-pass me with just a nod of recognition and a smile.

Mostly I like being around people. I’m certainly not one of those individuals who no one else sees or talks to. When I’m on form and in the right mood I could talk for England. Sometimes, however, I’m in a less chatty zone and just get on with things. I’m not exactly unapproachable or anything it’s just that I don’t feel as if I have the energy for sustained conversation. Very occasionally I need to be on my own – very much. If I’m lucky this happens at a weekend or when I’m off work on holiday or ill. A few times I’ve felt like this when I needed to be at work. Spending 8 hours in the company of others when I felt like hiding in a room with the door locked was pretty tough I can tell you. So far I haven’t ended up running for the exit and hopefully these feelings are rare enough that it will never happen. In the mean time I’ll be as social as I need to be and alone when I want to be (largely). I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Any future partner (if I have one) will need to deal with that aspect of my personality – but I guess I’ll cross that bridge if or when it happens.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Just Couldn’t Finished Reading: The Pursuit of Happiness – A History from the Greeks to the Present by Darrin McMahon (FP: 2006)

On the face of things this was right up my street – a book (described as ‘a delight’ by the New York Times) discussing the philosophical idea of happiness as it changed and evolved over the past 2000 or so years of western history. It started off fairly well with the Greeks and Romans (naturally) and followed the examples I would have expected to come up. The criticism when it came was largely reasonable if, I thought, a bit harsh. Then followed what I couldn’t help but think was a rather long and somewhat turgid exposition of the new Christian perspective on things. Of course I knew this was coming historically so trudged my way through it with my eyes on the next developments in human thought. Finally we arrived in the Renaissance and I, briefly, breathed a sigh of relief. Until, that is, the author began saying that the period, famous for its flowering of ancient knowledge welding to an increasingly humanist slant, was far more religious and far more Christian than most people realise. I guess that alarm bells should have rung at that point but I persevered and looked forward to the Enlightenment. Of course the period didn’t really live up to its name – at least according to him. Rather it, wrongly apparently, turned its back on the true source of happiness (you guessed it – God) and went all secular on the subject. Inevitably, so it seems, a simplistic form of hedonism emerged and took hold of the weak minded fools who came across it leading to short lives of pleasure followed by decay, pain, nasty diseases and death. I am, of course, paraphrasing here but you can see why I stopped reading at this point – 260 odd pages in.

Rather than being a ‘delight’ I increasingly found this book to be intensely irritating, patronising and offensive. Neither the blurb on the back of the book or the authors details inside the jacket made me believe, prior to actually dipping in and attempting to read it, that this was in any way a religious book. Now, I am aware that everyone is prejudiced in some way or other – and I certainly don’t exclude myself here – but I like to be made aware of said prejudice so I can take it into account during the reading process. What I don’t like is said prejudice proudly proclaimed without any admission to its operation. The author was stating his opinion as fact – that Christian ideas of happiness are simply true whilst all other views on the subject are at best flawed or at worst positively harmful if not downright evil. I’m sure that if I was already of that opinion I would have enjoyed having it validated here. However, I like to think that my appreciation of the subject is a bit more sophisticated than that so didn’t appreciate being lectured about the self-evident evils of the Enlightenment and everything that followed from it. Needless to say I cannot recommend this book to anyone who sees themselves as an independent thinker.    

Wednesday, October 02, 2013