Archives For Atheism

 

Facing Death Without God.

A Christian’s Response to

Mortality

Christopher Hitchens

Hardback: Twelve, 2012.
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An Essay by Alex Dye

 

“Once more into the fray, into the last good fight I’ll ever know, live and die on this day, live and die on this day.”
-John Ottway from The Grey

 

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,”  -Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 (NIV)

 

Editor’s Note: Page references are to Mortality unless otherwise noted.

 

Christopher Hitchens never met a cow so sacred that he would not gleefully serve it medium-rare with a glass of red wine (or more-likely scotch), if the mood struck just right.  As a journalist, he endeavored to explore, unravel, and critique the largely unchallenged parts of society.  In doing so, has taken on Christianity and religion as a whole, the Pope, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, and even dear Mother Theresa in his short work Missionary Position:  Mother Theresa in Theory and in Practice.  For some, he has been on the radar for quite some time as an author, speaker, and avid spokesman for atheists.  For others, his name has only recently cropped up with the much hailed release of his series of essays entitled Arguably and his posthumously released memoir on the process of dying from cancer, Mortality.  It is the latter that I would like analyze and respond to in this article.

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145182: Absence of Mind

A Review of

Absence of Mind

By Marilynne Robinson.
Hardback: Yale University Press, 2010.

Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Reviewed by David Anderson.

The four essays in this collection first saw life as the Terry Foundation lectures at Yale University, whose purpose is “to engage both scholars and the public in a consideration of religion from a humanitarian point of view, in the light of modern science and philosophy.” Previous lecturers (all published by Yale UP) include Alvin Plantinga, Stephen Jay Gould, Paul Ricoeur, Margaret Mead, Jacques Maritain and other luminaries.

Marilynne Robinson, who teaches at the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, is best known for her fiction. Her novel Gilead, a small-town preacher’s survey of his long life in 1950s Iowa, won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

In this collection Robinson goes after some big guns, peddlers of what she calls “parascientific literature”:

By this phrase I mean a robust, and surprisingly conventional, genre of social or political theory or anthropology that makes its case by proceeding, using the science of its moment, from a genesis of human nature in primordial life to a set of general conclusions about what our nature is and must be, together with the ethical, political, economic and/or philosophic implications to be drawn from these conclusions. Its author may or may not be a scientist himself. One of the characterizing traits of this large and burgeoning literature is its confidence that science has given us knowledge sufficient to allow us to answer certain essential questions about the nature of reality, if only by dismissing them. (32–33)

Among purveyors of parascientific ideas Robinson includes Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Edward O. Wilson, and Sigmund Freud, the subject of her third essay (“The Freudian Self”). She asserts that these men (no women make her list) dismiss anything that can’t be explained by appeal to genetic or economic self-interest. Thus, what we call the mind is merely electrical signals sparking in the darkness, religion is a prion-like infectious meme (Dawkin’s well-known carrier particle of culture) that made the jump from an ancient shaman, and metaphysics counts for nothing.

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A Review of Ernst Bloch’s
ATHEISM IN CHRISTIANITY

http://churchandpomo.typepad.com/conversation/2009/08/ernst-blochs-atheism-in-christianity-a-review.html

Since its original publication in 1968, Ernst Bloch’s Atheism in Christianity: The Religion of the Exodus and the Kingdom has been the book to deal with by any serious quester after knowledge of the deep symbiotic relationship between those über-‘Others’, Christianity and Atheism. As an unabashed utopian Marxist thinker philosopher, Bloch (1885 – 1977) eschews that ‘excess of hyper-rationalism or dogmatic materialism’ his more prosaic musular atheist stable mates generally bring to discussions of religion. In the words of Peter Thompson, Director of the Centre for Ernst Bloch Studies at the University of Sheffield, in his excellent Introduction to this long unavailable classic, ‘Ernst Bloch and the Quantum Mechanics of Hope’ (i – xxx, i):

(R)eligion as both debate and way of life has not crumbled in the face of an apparently inexorable rationalist, scientific, modernising Enlightenment and the globalisation of the market economy, but retains a potency and strength which remains far in excess of its ability to explain.

Bloch himself rubbed shoulders with that unique coterie of enlightened radical Marxists – Brecht, Adorno, Benjamin, for example. Perhaps we have the embryo of some such today in Eagleton, Badiou, Žižek, Habermas and others for whom religion-averse aggressive sorts of atheistic fundamentalism are as intellectually uncongenial as the ‘exclusively modern phenomenon’ (Habermas 2001: 10) of their religion counterparts. Marx’s own dialectical understanding of religiosity, captured well in his open-minded insight into ‘the opium of the masses, the heart of the heartless world’ pervades Bloch’s ‘detective work’, as he himself called it, on the emancipatory – for which, read ‘heretical’, a favourite Blochian trope – potential within Christianity. Bloch’s exegesis of the Bible is an insider’s hermeneutic, unlike that verstehen-free religion-cynical spleen of Hitchens, Dawkins, Gray and other high priests of resurgent Darwinism.

Read the full review:
http://churchandpomo.typepad.com/conversation/2009/08/ernst-blochs-atheism-in-christianity-a-review.html

ATHEISM IN CHRISTIANITY.
Ernst Bloch.

Paperback: Verso, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]


A Review of Esther Sternberg’s
HEALING SPACES: THE SCIENCE OF PLACE AND WELL-BEING
http://landscapeandurbanism.blogspot.com/2009/08/reading-list-healing-spaces.html

I have a keen interest in the healing dimensions of space, and in particular the role of landscape architecture and exterior spaces to provide this function. This comes from doing a lot of work and research in the realm of therapeutic garden design over the years in hospital, hospice, and eldercare facilities. I first became interested in the phenomenon while doing my undergraduate final project related to a cemetery design that utilized physical space design to aid in the bereavement process, and was fascinated by the connection between environmental design and health. There is an innate connection between space and health – but sometimes the connections, both physiologically and spatially, are a bit fuzzy. There are a number of successful examples in literature and design, but often there is either dismissal of designs as unscientific by the medical community, or by inadequate application and understanding of scientific concepts and mechanisms by designers – resulting in poor or partially realized applications.

That’s where Ms. Sternberg’s book shines. It is not neccesarily a ‘how-to’ (there are a growing number of resources out there in this genre), but more aptly a bridge between the scientific research of the concept of healing and how this work in the design of spaces. The book spans the available research, starting with some of the more intuitive architectural concepts of Wright, Aalto, and Neutra, touching on the pioneering work of Ulrich, and expanding on the growing design-science connections being made by collaborations between space design and health research, and looking specifically at both the microcosm of hospitals, and the macro-scale of cities, and the range of designs that this thinking can inform.

Read the full review:
http://landscapeandurbanism.blogspot.com/2009/08/reading-list-healing-spaces.html

HEALING SPACES:
THE SCIENCE OF PLACE AND WELL-BEING

Esther Sternberg.

Hardback: Harvard UP, 2009.
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BookForum Reviews
Lev Grossman’s new novel
THE MAGICIANS
http://bookforum.com/review/4167

Lev Grossman’s third novel, The Magicians, pulls liberally from a grab bag of very familiar fantasy tropes: the troubled boy–turned–master conjurer; the school of wizardry, hidden by spellcraft in plain sight; the sinister presence that haunts the students’ nightmares; even a sport played, tournament-style, exclusively by young mages. As the book opens, seventeen-year-old Quentin Coldwater is preparing to leave his bucolic Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood for the greener lawns of the Ivy League. He has a small circle of friends, kind but distant parents, and a GPA “higher than most people even realize it is possible for a GPA to be.”

And yet something is awry. Although Quentin has “painstakingly assembled all the ingredients of happiness . . . happiness, like a disobedient spirit, refused to come.” On a bitter winter day, he stumbles through one of Park Slope’s myriad community gardens, past “the corpses of gladiolas, petunias, shoulder-high sunflowers, rosebushes,” and onto the campus of Brakebills College. Here, on an aging country estate, Quentin has been summoned to learn magic from an eclectic cast of master wizards. “First things first: magic is real,” the dean of Brakebills tells him shortly after his arrival. “This isn’t summer school, Quentin. This is . . . the whole shebang.”

Read the full review:
http://bookforum.com/review/4167

THE MAGICIANS: A NOVEL.
Lev Grossman.

Hardback: Viking, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]