Tag Archives: Religion

Jesus: A 21st Century Biography by Paul Johnson

Summary
  1. Author wrote this book to broadly summarize the life of Jesus and to explain the joy he gets from following him
Key Takeaways
  1. Jesus was born in the context of a very powerful and expanding Rome and a wealthy Judea ruled by Herod
  2. When Gabriel told Mary that she would bear Jesus, The Annunciation as it later became known, is one of the most touching moments in history
  3. Jesus’ time as a shepherd affected him throughout his life – his love of high places for prayer and how he delivered and thought about sermons
  4. No prophet is accepted in his own country
  5. Jesus was a reluctant performer of miracles as he knew that this could cause a stir and possibly riots. It made people realize he was special but also aroused the anger of the authorities
  6. Jesus’ teachings were often new and counterintuitive. They stressed forgiveness and inner acceptance rather than riches and outer rewards
  7. Compassion has quite literally no limits. Not race, sex, religion, status or any other common dividing line
  8. Jesus was a poet and almost always used very memorable images and parables to get his lessons across. It was his way of directing and capturing emotion
  9. We are all neighbors and our salvation and happiness depends on kindness and charity, not tribe or nationality or race
  10. Heaven is not so much about justice as mercy
  11. Jesus’ redeeming feature was his friendliness, opennness and willingness to listen. He accepted everyone as they were
  12. Jesus made marriage indissoluble and this gave women status like never before. He was also unique in his love of children and their innocence
  13. The aim of Jesus was not to change the world but to make its inhabitants fit for the kingdom of God. He did not want to start a new regime but portray a new way of life. A leader whose goals are entirely spiritual was new to the world at this point
  14. Personality is unique but incomplete. Soul is given by God and has a need to return. Through free will we can accept this and return to the kingdom
  15. You cannot lay down laws of love but you can show them and that is how Jesus lives his life
  16. A life of mercy is a holy one. Grace is mercy. By showing mercy, we act as close to God as we can
  17. He was a man who always kept his head, was always equanimous
  18. Was against those whose minds were closed
  19. Truth is both found in God and in nature. That is why he went to the desert to pray
  20. Jesus frightened the current religious orders as he was attracting a huge following. The priests trembled for their lives, jobs and property. They did not believe or understand that Jesus’ kingdom was solely a spiritual one
  21. Pilate did not condemn Jesus because he thought he was guilty but because he was afraid that the Jewish religious leaders would report him to Rome. In fact, him and his wife thought him innocent
  22. After the crucifixion, Jesus was resurrected and Mary Magdalene was the first to see him and to report back to the Disciples. Shortly after, there was a mass baptism for 3,000 people and thus began Christianity
  23. The Gospels are meant to be read and re-read, gaining something new or a deeper understanding every time
What I got out of it
  1. I really enjoyed and learned a lot about Jesus, his teachings and more from this short biography

Basil Moreau: Essential Writings by Kevin Grove and Andrew Gawrych

Summary
  1. A good biography on a great man. Basil Moreau founded and lead the congregation of the Holy Cross for nearly 30 years
 
Key Takeaways
  1. Above everything else, Father Moreau believed that the imitation of Christ is the key to success and happiness in life. Central to this was love of the cross – “Learning to love the cross as a sign of real hope was the spiritual core of Moreau’s theology
  2. “Love causes love. Never underestimate the power in this.” – Fr. Moreau
  3. Moreau was known for his unrelenting confidence in the beauty of the future
  4. Amazing that an unknown local seminary professor funded a fully global religious order in the Congregation of Holy Cross
  5. “This integrated theology flows from Moreau’s belief that to imitate Jesus Christ is “to seek to know Jesus Christ. By studying him, you will come to know him. By knowing him, you will come to love him. By loving him, you will be imbued with his Spirit and thenceforth you will imitate him.” Thus, for Moreau, a faith that seeks understanding is also a faith that practices imitation. It is this combination of study and imitation that then yields a “knowledge of Jesus Christ that is life-giving, profound, luminous and practical.”
  6. The French Revolution played an important role in Moreau’s intellectual, spiritual and educational formation – focus on charity as well as rigorous study schedule with prayer, fasting and mortification
  7. Moreau had three main intellectual and spiritual influences – Sulpician and French School spiritualization, Ignatius of Loyola (ongoing development of the community’s spiritual lives); liturgical spirituality through Dom Gueranger at Solesmes and silent retreats at La Trappe
  8. Moreau spent over 29 years, more than half his priesthood, founding, shaping, teaching and leading the international congregation of educators
  9. Holy Cross predates Moreau but he was the one to formalize it by joining the Brothers of St. Joseph with the Auxiliary priests
  10. Religious life with communal living of vows of poverty, chastity and obedience was central to Moreau’s vision for the Holy Cross
  11. Two main reasons for resignation as superior general of the Holy Cross – Financial woes and disagreements concerning governance of the Sisters (Vatican wanted a separate governance structure but this unity was central to Moreau’s vision)
  12. Sorin took over as super general once Moreau resigned and moved the general administration to Notre Dame which upset Moreau as they had an informal agreement that it would stay in France
  13. Moreau’s spiritual emphases include divine providence, union and zeal but all inherently tie back to imitating Christ
  14. One must continually strive for a perfect life which includes a life of obedience, discipline, punctuality, community spirit, zeal for the interior life, edification and devotion to work.
  15. Circular Letter 14 (pg. 379) lays out Moreau’s vision for the Holy Cross. It is a short read and worthwhile
 
What I got out of it
  1. Interesting read on a man who came from a small town and through hard work and a great vision was able to set up an international congregation for educators

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Summary
  1. The book surveys the history of humankind from the evolution of archaic human species in the Stone Age up to the twenty-first century. Its main argument is that Homo sapiens dominates the world because it is the only animal that can cooperate flexibly in large numbers. The book further argues that Homo sapiens can cooperate flexibly in large numbers, because it has a unique ability to believe in things existing purely in its own imagination, such as gods, nations, money and human rights. The author claims that all large scale human cooperation systems – including religions, political structures, trade networks and legal institutions – are ultimately based on fiction. Money is based on mutual trust, capitalism is a religion rather than economic theory, empire has been the most successful political system of the last 2000 years, treatment of domesticated animals is one of the worst crimes in history, people today not much happier than those of past eras, humans currently in the process of upgrading themselves into gods
Key Takeaways
  1. Part 1 – The Cognitive Revolution
    1. Our ancestors were insignificant animals with no more impact on the world that fireflies or jellyfish
    2. Our closest animal relatives are gorillas, chimpanzees and apes
    3. In the past, there were many species of homo alive at any one time (homo floriensis)
    4. Giant brains are so rare because they are difficult to protect and consume very many calories. Sapiens spent much more time searching for food and our muscles atrophied
    5. Our unique niche at first might have been scavengers who used stone tools to break open bones to get to the calorie dense marrow
    6. Around 300,000 years ago nearly all homos were using fire, an important evolutionary step as it provided light, warmth and was a weapon against predators but more importantly it allowed us to cook food and get more nutrients out of it
    7. Homo sapiens were surely on the scene around 150,000 years ago in Africa. These ancestors would have looked very similar to us today
    8. Recently it had been proved (tentatively) that Homo sapiens interbred with other homo sapiens. However, it’s possible that we also displaced other homo sapiens simultaneously
    9. Debates remain as to why sapiens are the last humans but many think our success hinges on our unique language
    10. Between 30-70,000 years ago sapiens began migrating all over the world and invented boats, arrows, needles, art, religion, social castes and much more.
      1. A cognitive revolution which may have begun due to a genetic mutation – tree of knowledge mutation which also helped spark language.
      2. Our language is unique in that it is much more flexible and specific.
      3. Humans are very social and language is an integral part, often used to gossip.
      4. The most unique part is our ability to speak about fictions – gods, past, future, etc. these myths help band together large tribes to cooperate in unprecedented ways
    11. Telling effective stories allows us to form companies, states, countries and it relies on millions of people buying into this story
    12. There is no “natural” way for humans to live, only cultural differences which influence what we believe and how we act
    13. As a collective we of course know much more today but our individual ancestors knew more about their world. There’s even evidence our brain has been shrinking since the age of foraging
    14. Foragers faced many dangers but lived better lives that most peasants and industrial workers
    15. Anima – the belief that every animal, every plant can communicate directly with humans. There is no barrier between humans and other beings
      1. We have solid evidence foragers were animists but little do we know about their practices and sociopolitical beliefs
      2. It is difficult to know much about this period (30-70,000) years ago because there is scarce evidence about how they lived
    16. The spread of sapiens to Australia is a major feat of human ingenuity and exploration. We came from some Indonesian island and almost overnight had to adapt to a completely new environment with marsupials over two tons and lizards over 7 feet long
    17. By 10,000 BC humans had invited every corner of the world – showcasing our flexibility and adaptability. Our spread killed off animal species everywhere we went
  2. Part 2 – The Agricultural Revolution
    1. This change in lifestyle began about 9000 BC in SW Turkey, starting with wheat and goats
    2. The agricultural revolution in fact did not come about because people were slowly getting smarter and this lifestyle was often more brutal and dangerous than the foraging lifestyle. Yuval argues that it was in fact the plant species that domesticated us and not the other way around (a la Michael Pollan). The demanding work to take care of wheat often lead to many physical ailments that the human body wasn’t used to or designed for
    3. Luxury trap – Luxuries tend to become necessities and spawn new obligations. What we own come to own us
    4. Another argument is thy foragers knew the trade offs of the agricultural life but decided to do it anyway to pursue other hobbies (amazing pillar carvings)
    5. The development of individual homes lead to a much more selfish group of people
    6. Out of the agricultural revolution came for the first time concern about the future, future planning
    7. By around 1,000 BC, cities had grown so large and organized that they were able to keep an army of tens or hundreds of thousands of soldiers
    8. The Code of Hammurabi and the Declaration of Independence are two of the greatest examples of human coordination and cooperation in history
    9. Argues that humans are not all equal, that this is a man made myth. Evolution makes everyone different. Birds don’t fly because they have a right to, but because they have wings
    10. Can only sustain myths and order like Christianity, politics or countries by never admitting they are myths, by saying they come from some higher being, over educate people
    11. The order organizing people’s lives are purely in their minds but can be woven into our material world, the imagined order shapes our desires, the objective order is inter subjective
    12. Conscious effort is needed to sustain our myths as they cannot be encoded into our genomes
    13. Writing first began with cuneiform in order to keep track of debts and trade. These clay tablets needed to be organized and needed people who knew how to read and write which lead to some of the first schools. Writing has gradually changed how people think and view the world
  3. Part 3 – The Unification of Humankind
    1. Hierarchies are always rationalized through myths, human imagination as hierarchies are universal, it is believed they are necessary to organize complex societies. The lower castes were always portrayed as somehow being inherently “pollutive”
    2. Can cut through a lot by seeing what biology enables but what culture forbids (equality of men and women, homosexuality)
    3. Physical power does not lead to being higher on the totem poll but, rather, through better social skills which helps build support and allies
    4. Culture can be thought of as artificial instincts, helping people and tribes to work together and survive
    5. Contradicting beliefs or cognitive dissonance is necessary for culture
    6. If looking at a long term view of history, it becomes very clear that we are moving towards unity
    7. Money more than anything else helps unify and connect people around the world. Barter systems are limited and money helps make trade more efficient and relies on universal convertibility and mutual trust among everyone
    8. Ancient Roman coins were called Dinarius and it lasts today to certain currencies in the Middle East called Dinars
    9. Empires must rule over many different groups of people and have flexible borders. While there is a lot of violence required to forge empires, their success has lead to unprecedented cultural accomplishments. People, ideas and goods can move much more easily within an empire. Eventually minority cultures (barbarians) are incorporated into the majority
    10. The three great unifiers of mankind are money, empire and religion
    11. Religions hold that there is a universal and timeless superhuman order and based on this order creates norms and values which are binding. It must also try to convert all people to this set of beliefs (missionary)
    12. Agricultural revolution turned plants and animals into spiritual equivalents into our possessions
    13. Polytheism raised humans as we thought our actions had some consequence on the world around us. Polytheism tends to be more open than monotheism
    14. Saints have simply replaced the myriad of gods in polytheistic religions
    15. Other religions such as Buddhism, Jainism and Stoicism espoused a religion of natural laws instead of super humans
    16. Suffering arises from craving. Eliminate craving and you cannot suffer
    17. Can think of communism, nazism and other “ideologies” as religions as well
    18. Evolution like history does not move forward or take into account human happiness
  4. Part 4 – The Scientific Revolution
    1. The scientific revolution was more about admitting and dealing with our ignorance than anything else. For the first time it was ok and encouraged to seek answers to questions we didn’t know
      1. Not until this age did technology and knowledge come to mean almost the same thing
    2. Up until recently wars were won mostly due to politics and strategy, not technological dominance
    3. Europeans came out of relative obscurity to dominate the world with the their technology and scientific method
    4. Belief in the future is absolutely vital for the continued stability and success of our culture and economy. Credit existed in the past as well but most did not believe the future would be better than the present and this stifled economies
    5. Adam Smith’s argument that greed is good not only for me but everyone was revolutionary. Growth spurs more growth through reinvestment
    6. The incredible amounts of money being printed are relying on the future being much better than today. If it isn’t, we are all in big trouble
    7. The Dutch were able to become the richest state in Europe in less than a century because of their intelligent use of credit. Paying debts in a timely manner and a reliable rule of law also helped separate the Dutch from Spain and other superpowers
    8. French Mississippi company promised paradise near Louisiana and its stock soared. It became a bubble and soon after burst, leaving the government and many small investors broke. The world lost faith in the French government and Britain started its path to dominance in the 18th century
    9. Steam engine revolutionized the world as work could now be done mechanically instead of with only muscle power
    10. Industrial revolution allowed less people to work in agriculture and specialize in other areas. This lead to consumerism and the adoption of a worldwide timetable. Communities and families started falling apart and being replaced by states and markets
    11. The improbability of war in today’s world is a new phenomenon and will continue to decrease as wealth comes more from technological savvy than material goods and as the world becomes even more interdependent
    12. We have seen unprecedented growth in the last century but are humans happier overall. We look at a lot of trends and ask a lot of questions but this all important question is often overlooked
    13. More than anything happiness depends on expectations
    14. The emergence of intelligent design technological breakthroughs maybe one of the biggest revolutions in evolutionary history speaks about the future and what it might hold with new technological inventions such as cyborgs and collective consciousness
    15. We have come very far in the last couple millennia but what have we really done. Are people happier today than they used to be?
    16. As we get further and further in the technological revolution we may soon get to the point where we are designing beings and cyborgs with artificial intelligence who are much smarter than humans. At this point we need to start thinking about what kind of people we want to fail and what we want to want those people to want
What I got out of it
  1. Extremely interesting read. The importance of being able to flexibly cooperate in huge numbers never really occurred to me and the idea that we can come to believe truly imaginary and abstract concepts and that these concepts rule our lives in so many ways is fascinating

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

Summary
  1. This book is about why it is so hard for people to get along and Haidt’s aim is to remove the stigma and decisiveness of morality, religion and politics
Key Takeaways
  1. People are intrinsically moral and while this helped us create large groups that can cooperate, it also ensures moral strife
  2. 3 parts to the book –
    1. Intuitions come before reason and we therefore often have trouble changing our minds (separation of rider and elephant, reason and emotion)
    2. Moral intuitions can take on 6 “taste receptors” which change for every culture
    3. Morality binds and blinds
  3. Morality is about treating people well, more than simply not harming
  4. Society’s moral rules tend to put either the individual or the group at the center
  5. Moral reasons and moral emotions are separate processes
  6. Moral reasoning has evolutionary roots but is also learned through culture by understanding what hurts others
  7. To truly change someone’s mind you need to truly see things from their perspective
  8. The rider, reason, evolved after and in order to serve emotion. We feel an emotion and then rationalize it, not the other way around
  9. Appeal to emotion and intuition rather than people’s reason
  10. Reason developed to rationalize, not to find truth
  11. Evolution shaped people to care more about looking good than being good (reputation so important)
  12. Most people cheat if given the opportunity and plausible deniability. But only but to a certain point where they can rationalize it
  13. The difference in the mind between can and must are profound
  14. The 6 moral receptors –
    1. Care / harm
    2. Liberty / oppression
    3. Fairness / cheating
    4. Loyalty / betrayal
    5. Authority / subversion
    6. Sanctity / degradation
  15. More to morality than harm and fairness
  16. Sacredness and disgust are different sides of the same coin.
    1. Disgust helps protect us from overstepping physical and moral boundaries and sacredness helps us rationalize that we are more than thinking meat
  17. Republicans are better at aiming their campaigns at the elephant whereas democrats target the rider
  18. Group selection exists and leads to occasional altruistic actions and strategic cooperation (true team players)
  19. People obsessed with their reputation and this helped stimulate altruistic actions
What I got out of it
  1. An interesting addition to The Happiness Hypothesis. Interesting to hear about the difference between the average democratic and republican campaign and the different moral “taste receptors” and how people/cultures differ based on which of the receptors are most important to them

The Bhagavad Gita by Eknath Easwaran

Summary

  1. The blind King Dhritarashtra asks Sanjaya to recount to him what happened when his family the Kauravas gathered to fight the Pandavas for control of Hastinapura. His family isn’t the rightful heir to the kingdom, but they have assumed control, and Dhritarashtra is trying to preserve it for his son Duryodhana. Sanjaya tells of Arjuna, who has come as leader of the Pandavas to take back his kingdom, with Sri Krishna as his charioteer. The Gita is the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna leading up to the battle
Key Takeaways
  1. Arjuna doesn’t want to fight. He doesn’t understand why he has to shed his family’s blood for a kingdom that he doesn’t even necessarily want. In his eyes, killing his evil and killing his family is the greatest sin of all. He casts down his weapons and tells Krishna he will not fight. Krishna, then, begins the systematic process of explaining why it is Arjuna’s dharmic duty to fight and how he must fight in order to restore his karma.
  2. Krishna first explains the samsaric cycle of birth and death. He says there is no true death of the soul — simply a sloughing of the body at the end of each round of birth and death. The purpose of this cycle is to allow a person to work off their karma, accumulated through lifetimes of action. If a person completes action selflessly, in service to God, then they can work off their karma, eventually leading to a dissolution of the soul, the achievement of enlightenment and vijnana, and an end to the samsaric cycle. If they act selfishly, then they keep accumulating debt, putting them further and further into karmic debt
  3. Krishna presents three main concepts for achieving this dissolution of the soul — renunciation, selfless service, and meditation. All three are elements for achieving ‘yoga,’ or skill in action. Krishna says that the truly divine human does not renounce all worldly possessions or simply give up action, but rather finds peace in completing action in the highest service to God. As a result, a person must avoid the respective traps of the three gunas: rajas (anger, ego), tamas (ignorance, darkness), and saatva (harmony, purity).
  4. The highest form of meditation comes when a person not only can free themselves from selfish action, but also focus entirely on the divine in their actions. In other words, Krishna says that he who achieves divine union with him in meditation will ultimately find freedom from the endless cycle of rebirth and death. He who truly finds union with God will find him even at the moment of death.
  5. Arjuna stills seem to need evidence of Krishna’s divine powers, so Arjuna appears to him in his powerful, most divine form, with the “power of one thousand suns.” Seeing Krishna in his divine state, Arjuna suddenly realizes what enlightenment can bring him in union, and he now completely has faith in the yogic path. He goes on to ask Krishna how he can receive the love of God, and Krishna reveals that love comes from a person’s selfless devotion to the divine, in addition to an understanding that the body is simply ephemeral — a product of prakriti, emerging from purusha, and is subject to endless rebirth. A person must let go of their body’s cravings and temptations and aversions to find freedom.
  6. The Gita ends with Krishna telling Arjuna he must choose the path of good or evil, as it his his duty to fight the Kauravas for his kingdom. In that, he is correcting the balance of good and evil, fulfilling his dharma, and offering the deepest form of selfless service. Arjuna understands and, with that, proceeds into battle.
What I got out of it
  1. Good, simple read which lays out basic Hindu principles like karma, letting go of desires in order to gain freedom

I and Thou by Martin Buber

I and Thou

Summary

  1. Buber claims that there are two modes of engaging with the world – the mode of experience (gather data and analyze) and the mode of encounter (simply relate to the world around us). The first mode is that of science and reason and in it we treat what we experience as an object. Through encounter we relate to the world as a You, not as an object to be used, but as an other with whom we must relate.

Key Takeaways

  1. Book comprised of 3 parts:
    1. Examines the human condition by exploring the psychology of individual man –  man as two distinct ways of engaging the world, experience and encounter
    2. Examines human life on the societal level and claims that  modern society leaves man unfulfilled and alienated because it acknowledges only one of our modes for engaging the world.
    3. Examines religion and explains how to build a fulfilling, meaningful society by making proper use of the neglected second mode of engaging the world, and by using this mode to relate to God. Open yourself up to encounter– relation to You’s rather than experience of It
  2. After absolute encounter we realize that every single being is a You and come to feel affection for everyone and everything, and to have a sense of loving responsibility for the whole course of the world – divine revelation and salvation. Filled with loving responsibility, given the ability to say “You” to the world, man is no longer alienated, and does not worry about the meaninglessness of life.

What I got out of it

  1. A very challenging and difficult book to follow but one with a deep and meaningful message. Never use anybody or anything as a means to an end. Treat everything as a “You” and you’ll come to love and appreciate everything around you. By living this way you can attain salvation (peace of mind).

 

The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

Power of Positive Thinking

 

Summary
  1. Norman Vincent Peale shows us how to live a happy life with a faith-based inspiration behind his examples. Believe in yourself, take care of the little things, thoughts have a self-fulfilling prophecy and send love to yourself and those around you.
Key Takeaways
  1. Don’t ever be defeated, aim for peace of mind, improved health and endless energy
    1. These characteristics help achieve a happy and self-fulfilling life
  2. Attitudes are more important than facts
  3. Body is designed to give us all the energy we will ever need if we take care of it
  4. It is a well-defined and authentic principle that what the mind profoundly expects it tends to receive
    1. But remember that your subconscious mind in a sense is one of the greatest liars in existence
  5. Anxiety is the great modern plague
  6. The little things matter – cut out the small fears/worries/anxieties and this will quickly get rid of your big problems
  7. Give everything your best and do things right and let the results take care of themselves. it will be the right thing even if you don’t immediately recognize it

What I got out of it

  1. Peale details many faith-based practices which are pragmatic and immediately implementable. Nothing he discusses is revolutionary, but if you can actually put into action a handful of these practices, it is sure to make a noticeable difference in your relationships and general happiness.

Buy The Power of Positive Thinking

Continue reading

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

Summary

  1. Siddhartha is the story of the journey of a young man who experiences all the riches and desires any man can have but soon becomes bored with them. He strives for a life of simplicity, peace and wisdom and finds them in an unexpected place
Key Takeaways
  1. A goal stood before Siddhartha, a single goal: to become empty, empty of thirst, empty of wishing, empty of dreams, empty of joy and sorrow. Dead to himself, not to be a self any more, to find tranquility with an emptied heard, to be open to miracles in unselfish thoughts, that was his goal. Once all of my self was overcome and had died, once every desire and every urge was silent in the heart, then the ultimate part of me had to awake, the innermost of my being, which is no longer my self, the great secret.”
  2. Realizes he knows a lot, but nothing about himself
  3. “Nothing was, nothing will be; everything is, everything has existence and is present.”
  4. Siddhartha finally realized his goal was to be able, at all times, to feel and inhale the oneness. Knowledge of the eternal perfection of the world, smiling, oneness
  5. Wisdom which a wise man tries to pass on to someone always sounds like foolishness
  6. The opposite of every truth is just as true
  7. And this is now a teaching you will laugh about – “love, oh Govinda, seems to me to be the most important thing of all. To thoroughly understand the world, to explain it, to despise it, may be the thing great thinkers do. But I’m only interested in being able to love the world, not to despise it, not to hate it and me, to be able to look upon it and me and all beings with love and admiration and great respect.”
  8. He claims he has 3 skills – he can wait, fast and think. And while these do not seem like great skills, they preclude Siddhartha from becoming impatient and making irrational decisions, he can wait to eat longer than others and can think through difficult situations or problems
  9. “It is good,” he thought, “to get a taste of everything for oneself, which one needs to know. That lust for the world and riches do not belong to the good things, I have already learned as a child. I have known it for a long time, but I have experienced only now. And now I know it, don’t just know it in my memory, but in my eyes, in my heart, in my stomach. Good for me, to know this!”
  10. The perfected ones are always smiling
What I got out of it
  1. One of the few books that have had a profound influence on me. Siddhartha’s up and down journey and how he eventually reached peace and wisdom after suffering resonated a lot with me. One must first know lust and riches and the evils it brings before one sees the true beauty of giving it up

Buy Siddhartha

Continue reading

Love Wins by Rob Bell

Love Wins

 

Summary:
  1. Rob Bell argues that the eternal life starts before we die and we can enter either heaven or hell, depending on whether we accept and embrace love or turn away from it
Key Takeaways
  1. Goes through a lot of Bible verses and examples and shows how Jesus was all about love. I can’t relate to a lot of the examples but I very much can and agree with the general theme of the book, love wins even if not directly observable or obvious
  2. Love demands freedom
  3. God is love and turning away from that love leads to unlove or unhappiness (Hell)
What I got out of it
  1. This was a book that is out of my typical comfort zone but I think there are a lot of great lessons to be taken out of it. Mainly, there is no downside to love. Love yourself and everyone around you and you will live a happy life. Eternal life doesn’t start once we die, we can choose to live in heaven every minute of every day. But, by turning away from love we enter hell immediately.

Buy Love Wins

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

God Delusion

Summary:

  1. Richard Dawkins examines God in all His forms and brings out the flaws that many religious arguments contain and details some of the atrocious harm religion has caused throughout humanity’s past – war, prejudice, abuse to children, etc. He lays out intriguing evidence that atheists should be admired for their healthy skepticism and that they can truly appreciate the world’s wonders better than most. No doubt controversial but very interesting read
 
Key Takeaways:
  1. Dawkins writes that The God Delusion contains four “consciousness-raising” messages:
    1. Atheists can be happy, balanced, moral, and intellectually fulfilled
    2. Natural selection and similar scientific theories are superior to a “God hypothesis”
    3. Children should not be labelled by their parents’ religion. Terms like “Catholic child” or “Muslim child” should make people cringe
    4. Atheists should be proud, not apologetic, because atheism is evidence of a healthy, independent mind.
  2. Dawkins does not claim to disprove God with absolute certainty but instead suggests that simpler explanations are preferable 
 
What I got out of it:
  1. I thought Dawkins did a very good job of writing a balanced book which attempts to lay out many of these very controversial topics in a neutral and uncontroversial tone. While there will of course be many people who completely disagree with what he has to say, I believe many of his arguments are extremely valid – especially the point about not labeling children by their parent’s religion as they have not yet had the chance to properly form their own beliefs. Also, I came away with a new term that seems to be taking on increasing moment, pantheist – using the term “God” to symbolically represent nature and the universe. God is in everything and all around us.

Buy the book here

Continue reading