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New/updated essays in recent months.
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2017-November's book selection:

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"Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People," by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$
17.80 plus postage in Paperback, $13.99 in Kindle format, or $22.99 in hardcover.

A sampling of Amazon.com book reviews:

  • “Unflinchingly honest (and funny)…You don't have to be religious to get something out of this book.”
    -NPR’s “Best Books of 2015”

  • "[Bolz-Weber] is one of the most important Christian voices around -- not because she has come up with some catchy, easy new way to do faith, but because when talks about the destructive power of sin, as well as redemption and grace, she knows of what she speaks."
    -Huffington Post

  • "Wickedly funny and painfully vulnerable, theologically nuanced and lyrically sonorous. [Her] voice communicates the scandal of the Christ and the sacraments of his church with more force and vitality than most writers can hope to summon."
    -The Christian Century

  • “Engaging and accessible…Bolz-Weber is clear-eyed about the personal travails faced by the marginalized and those without faith.”
    –Booklist

  • "If Saint Augustine were to return to life and live among us now, he would be Bolz-Weber; and if his Confessions were to be written in 21st century rhetoric and style, they would be this book. Accidental Saints is what every Christian yearns to know is possible." 
    -Phyllis Tickle, author of The Divine Hours and The Great Emergence

About the Author:

Nadia Bolz-Weber is the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. She is the au­thor of the New York Times best-selling memoir Pastrix. Nadia has been featured on CNN and in the Washington Post, Bitch Magazine, NPR’s Morning Edition, More Magazine, and the Daily Beast.

Average rating in reviews by 259 Amazon customers: 4.6 out of 5 stars. The book was on the New York Times list of bestsellers in 2015.

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The web site had 11 newly created, re-written, or updated essays so far during 2017-OCT, including the above book review.
In addition, we make major and minor updates to many essays each day that are not recorded below

Note about terminology relating to gender identity:

The term "transgenderism" was once widely used to refer to transgender persons. It is still often used by religious conservatives and others in articles opposed to persons being transgender. However, among the LGBT, liberal religous, and scientific communities, it has largely been replaced by "being transgender," or a similar phrase. During 2017-NOV, this web site tracked down all of its 104 references to "transgenderism" and modified them.

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2017-October's book selection:

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The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (Berlin Family Lectures) by Amitav Gosh

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$
18.24 plus postage in Paperback, $11.50 in Kindle format, or $24.17 in hardcover.

Amazon.com book review:

"Are we deranged? The acclaimed Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh argues that future generations may well think so. How else to explain our imaginative failure in the face of global warming? In his first major book of nonfiction since In an Antique Land, Ghosh examines our inability—at the level of literature, history, and politics—to grasp the scale and violence of climate change.

The extreme nature of today’s climate events, Ghosh asserts, make them peculiarly resistant to contemporary modes of thinking and imagining. This is particularly true of serious literary fiction: hundred-year storms and freakish tornadoes simply feel too improbable for the novel; they are automatically consigned to other genres. In the writing of history, too, the climate crisis has sometimes led to gross simplifications; Ghosh shows that the history of the carbon economy is a tangled global story with many contradictory and counterintuitive elements.

Ghosh ends by suggesting that politics, much like literature, has become a matter of personal moral reckoning rather than an arena of collective action. But to limit fiction and politics to individual moral adventure comes at a great cost. The climate crisis asks us to imagine other forms of human existence—a task to which fiction, Ghosh argues, is the best suited of all cultural forms. His book serves as a great writer’s summons to confront the most urgent task of our time."

Average rating of this book in reviews by Amazon customers: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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The web site had 20 newly created, re-written, or updated essays so far during 2017-OCT, including the above book review.
In addition, we make major and minor updates to many essays each day that are not recorded below.

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2017-September's book selection:

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Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination 1st Edition by Ryan T. Anderson, John Corvino, and Sherif Girgis.

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$9.99 in Kindle format or $21.95 plus postage in Paperback.

Amazon's book review:

"Virtually everyone supports religious liberty, and virtually everyone opposes discrimination. But how do we handle the hard questions that arise when exercises of religious liberty seem to discriminate unjustly? How do we promote the common good while respecting conscience in a diverse society?

This point-counterpoint book brings together leading voices in the culture wars to debate such questions: John Corvino, a longtime LGBT-rights advocate, opposite Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Girgis, prominent young social conservatives.

Many such questions have arisen in response to same-sex marriage: How should we treat county clerks who do not wish to authorize such marriages, for example; or bakers, florists, and photographers who do not wish to provide same-sex wedding services? But the conflicts extend well beyond the LGBT rights arena. How should we treat hospitals, schools, and adoption agencies that can't in conscience follow antidiscrimination laws, healthcare mandates, and other regulations? Should corporations ever get exemptions? Should public officials?..."

" In point-counterpoint format, Corvino, Anderson and Girgis explore these questions and more. Although their differences run deep, they tackle them with civility, clarity, and flair. Their debate is an essential contribution to contemporary discussions about why religious liberty matters and what respecting it requires."

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The web site had 18 newly created or re-written essays so far during 2017-SEP, including the above book review.
In addition, we make major and minor updates to many essays each day that are not recorded below.

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2017-August's book selection

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"The Beauty and Nobility of Life: The Restoration of Meaning in a World Overwhelmed by Commercialism, Scientism, and Fundamentalism," by Andrew Cort

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$9.99 in Kindle format, or $23.14 plus postage in hardcover.

Amazon book review:

"The Beauty and Nobility of Live" has several related themes. On the one hand, it critiques many aspects of contemporary life that attempt to extinguish that radiant "Gleam of Light" we all possess and turn us into powerless servants of the status quo: mindless conformity, excessive consumerism, disrespect for ourselves and others, disrespect for Nature, and narrow-minded, fall-in-line thinking. In response to this, the book focuses on the Sanctity of the Individual, the Magnificence of Life, Unity with each other and with Nature, and the Oneness of Creation. In a time of so much anger, divisiveness and hate, it emphasizes Love, Compassion, Creativity, Learning to Think for Oneself, Standing up to Power, and Intuiting Higher Levels of Life beyond what can be seen, heard, or touched, in order to Transcend our Limitations, and discover our true place in this Marvelous Universe.

This book won the 2017 Nautilus Book Awards' 1st Place Gold Award in the category ‘USA Spiritual Growth & Development”. It includes a chapter entitled "Beyond Religious Tolerance.

The web site had 1 newly created or re-written essays so far during 2017-SEP, including the above book review.
In addition, we make major and minor updates to many essays each day which are not recorded below.

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The web site had 9 newly created or re-written essays so far during 2017-AUG, including the above book review.
In addition, we make major and minor updates to many essays each day which are not recorded here:

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2017-July's book selection:

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"The Last Faith: a book by an atheist believer," by Karmak Bagisbayev

Read reviews or order this book from Amazon.com online book store
$3.71 in Kindle format, and $9.96 in Paperback

Amazon.com book review:

"What is the unique and most important feature that distinguishes man from all other living beings?

Why is it that, contrary to the instinct of self-preservation, a parent will throw themselves headlong into fire or water to save their child?

Why do people get married, and why do they get divorced? Why do people have extra-marital affairs, and why do two people in a couple become jealous of one another?

What is Love?

Is it possible to give a clear and straightforward answer to all these questions?

It is in fact possible!

“The Last Faith: a book by an atheist believer” provides a clear and scientifically elegant answer to all the questions listed above. The answer which will cause the reader to reconsider many established moral principles and notions about the world around us. The answer which will help the reader to understand the nature of human actions, dilemmas, dramas and passions, in their true light. The answer which will elucidate the current stage in the development of human civilisation and offer unexpected predictions for its future. ..."

The author's autobiography and blog are at www.thelastfaith.com

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The web site has 5 newly created essays so far during 2017-JUL, including the above book review.
In addition, we make many major and minor updates averaging many essays each day which are not recorded here:

Note: Some this web site's links to Amazon.com are currently broken. We are now attempting to repair them.

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2017-June's book selection:

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"Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet" by Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope.

Read reviews or order this book from Amazon.com online book store
$12.00 in Kindle format, and $16.43 in Hardcover

Amazon.com book review:

From New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former head of the Sierra Club Carl Pope comes a manifesto on how the benefits of taking action on climate change are concrete, immediate, and immense. They explore climate change solutions that will make the world healthier and more prosperous, aiming to begin a new type of conversation on the issue that will spur bolder action by cities, businesses, and citizens—and even, someday, by Washington.

  • "Climate of Hope is an inspiring must read." —Former Vice President Al Gore, Chairman of The Climate Reality Project.

  • “Climate change threatens to reshape the future of our world's population centers. Bloomberg and Pope have been leaders on fortifying our cities against this threat, and their book proves that victory is possible—and imperative.” —Leonardo DiCaprio

  • "If Trump is looking for a blueprint, he could not do better than to read a smart new book, Climate of Hope." —Thomas Friedman in The New York Times

The 2016 election left many people who are concerned about the environment fearful that progress on climate change would come screeching to a halt. But not Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope.

Bloomberg, an entrepreneur and former mayor of New York City, and Pope, a lifelong environmental leader, approach climate change from different perspectives, yet they arrive at similar conclusions. Without agreeing on every point, they share a belief that cities, businesses, and citizens can lead—and win—the battle against climate change, no matter which way the political winds in Washington may shift.

In Climate of Hope, Bloomberg and Pope offer an optimistic look at the challenge of climate change, the solutions they believe hold the greatest promise, and the practical steps that are necessary to achieve them. Writing from their own experiences, and sharing their own stories from government, business, and advocacy, Bloomberg and Pope provide a road map for tackling the most complicated challenge the world has ever faced. Along the way, they turn the usual way of thinking about climate change on its head: from top down to bottom up, from partisan to pragmatic, from costs to benefits, from tomorrow to today, and from fear to hope.

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The web site has 4 newly created so far during 2017-JUN, including the above book review.
In addition, we make many major and minor updates to many dozens of essays each month which are not recorded here:

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2017-May's book selection:

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"Life on Purpose: How Living for What Matters Most Changes Everything" by Victor J. Strecher.

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
$15.75 in Kindle format, or $19.38 plus postage in hardcover, or $16.95 in audible format.

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Amazon.com book review:

"A pioneer in the field of behavioral science delivers a groundbreaking work that shows how finding your purpose in life leads to better health and overall happiness.

Your life is a boat. You need a rudder. But it doesn't matter how much wind is in your sails if you're not steering toward a harbor - an ultimate purpose in your life.

While the greatest philosophers have pondered purpose for centuries, today it has been shown to have a concrete impact on our health. Recent studies into Alzheimer's, heart disease, stroke, depression, functional brain imaging, and measurement of DNA repair are shedding new light on how and why purpose benefits our lives.

Going beyond the fads, opinions, and false hopes of "expert" self-help books, Life on Purpose explores the incredible connection between purposeful living and the latest scientific evidence on quality of life and longevity. Drawing on ancient and modern philosophy, literature, psychology, evolutionary biology, genetics, and neuroscience as well as his experience in public health research, Dr. Vic Strecher reveals the elements necessary for a purposeful life and how to acquire them and outlines an elegant strategy for improving energy, willpower, and long-term happiness and well-being. He integrates these core themes into his own personal story - a tragedy that led him to reconsider his own life - and how a deeper understanding of purposeful living helped him not only to survive but to thrive.

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The web site has 24 newly created or significantly updated essays during 2017-MAY, including the above book review.
New essays are marked "N". Essays that underwent a major upgrade are marked "U." In addition, we will make minor updates to dozens of essays this month which are not recorded here:

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2017-April's book selection:

book cover "The Bible Doesn't Say That: 40 Biblical Mistranslations, Misconceptions, and Other Misunderstandings," by Joel M. Hoffman

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
$12.64 in Kindle format, or $17.76 plus postage in hardcover, or $20.95 in audible format.

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Amazon.com book review:

"The Bible Doesn't Say That" explores what the Bible meant before it was misinterpreted over the past 2,000 years.

Acclaimed translator and biblical scholar Dr. Joel M. Hoffman walks the reader through dozens of mistranslations, misconceptions, and other misunderstandings about the Bible. In forty short, straightforward chapters, he covers morality, life-style, theology, and biblical imagery, including:

The Bible doesn't call homosexuality a sin...

It doesn't advocate for the one-man-one-woman model of the family that has been dubbed "biblical."

The Bible's famous "beat their swords into plowshares" is matched by the militaristic, "beat your plowshares into swords."

The often-cited New Testament quotation "God so loved the world" is a mistranslation, as are the titles "Son of Man" and "Son of God."

The Ten Commandments don't prohibit killing or coveting.

What does the Bible say about violence? About the Rapture? About keeping kosher? About marriage and divorce? Hoffman provides answers to all of these and more, succinctly explaining how so many pivotal biblical answers came to be misunderstood."

Average rating by eight Amazon customers' reviews: 4.3 out of 5 stars, including 5 five star ratings. This is a very high rating for such a controversial topic.

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The web site contains 37 newly created or significantly updated essays during 2017-APR, including the above book review.
New essays are marked "N". Essays that underwent a major upgrade are marked "U." In addition, we will make minor updates to dozens of essays this month which are not recorded here:

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2017-March's book selection:

"The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements" by Eric Hoffer.

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
$10.39 in Kindle format, or $132.60 in hardcover plus postage, or $11.35 in plus postage in paperback format.

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Two book reviews:

  • Christian Science Monitor "[Eric Hoffer] is a student of extraordinary perception and insight. The range of his reading and research is vast, amazing. [The True Believer is] one of the most provocative books of our immediate day.”

  • Amazon.com: The famous bestseller with “concise insight into what drives the mind of the fanatic and the dynamics of a mass movement” (Wall St. Journal) by Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Eric Hoffer, The True Believer is a landmark in the field of social psychology, and even more relevant today than ever before in history. Called a “brilliant and original inquiry” and “a genuine contribution to our social thought” by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., The True Believer is mandatory reading for anyone interested in the machinations by which an individual becomes a fanatic.

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Webmaster's Note:

This book was originally not intended to be the selection for March. However our Contributing Editor, Susan Humphreys, wrote an essay about "True Believers in the United States of Hate" where she said:

"There have been many ... articles since the 2016 election trying to figure out and justify why so many people voted for Trump and why there is such a great divide between urban and rural areas of the U.S., and between Conservatives, Liberals and Progressives.

Answers to some of the questions can be found in a 1951 book written by Eric Hoffer "The True Believer, Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements".

From the Back Cover:

"A stevedore on the San Francisco docks in the 1940s, Eric Hoffer wrote philosophical treatises in his spare time while living in the railroad yards. The True Believer -- the first and most famous of his books -- was made into a bestseller when President Eisenhower cited it during one of the earliest television press conferences. Completely relevant and essential for understanding the world today, The True Believer is a visionary, highly provocative look into the mind of the fanatic and a penetrating study of how an individual becomes one.

About the Author:

Eric Hoffer (1902 -- 1983) was self-educated. He worked in restaurants, as a migrant fieldworker, and as a gold prospector. After Pearl Harbor, he worked as a longshoreman in San Francisco for twenty-five years. The author of more than ten books, including The Passionate State of Mind, The Ordeal of Change, and The Temper of Our Time, Eric Hoffer was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983.

The web site had 34 newly created essays and major updates to existing essays during 2017-MAR, including the above book review.
New essays are marked "N"; essays that underwent a major upgrade are marked "U." In addition, we have made minor updates to dozens of essays this month which are not recorded here:

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2017-February's book selection

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"American Secularism: Cultural Contours of Nonreligious Belief Systems (Religion and Social Transformation)"

by Joseph O. O. Baker and Buster G. Smith.

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
$12.62 in Kindle format, or $89.00 plus postage in hardcover, or $27.00 in paperback format.

Amazon.com book review:

"A rapidly growing number of Americans are embracing life outside the bounds of organized religion. Although America has long been viewed as a fervently religious Christian nation, survey data shows that more and more Americans are identifying as 'not religious.' There are more non-religious Americans than ever before, yet social scientists have not adequately studied or typologized secularities, and the lived reality of secular individuals in America has not been astutely analyzed. American Secularism documents how changes to American society have fueled these shifts in the non-religious landscape and examines the diverse and dynamic world of secular Americans.

This volume offers a theoretical framework for understanding secularisms. It explores secular Americans’ thought and practice to understand secularisms as worldviews in their own right, not just as negations of religion. Drawing on empirical data, the authors examine how people live secular lives and make meaning outside of organized religion. Joseph O. Baker and Buster G. Smith link secularities to broader issues of social power and organization, providing an empirical and cultural perspective on the secular landscape. In so doing, they demonstrate that shifts in American secularism are reflective of changes in the political meanings of “religion” in American culture.

American Secularism addresses the contemporary lived reality of secular individuals, outlining forms of secular identity and showing their connection to patterns of family formation, sexuality, and politics, providing scholars of religion with a more comprehensive understanding of worldviews that do not include traditional religion."

Joseph O. Baker is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at East Tennessee State University and a senior research associate for the Association of Religion Data Archives. 

Buster G. Smith is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Catawba College. He is the co-author of Grounding Our Faith in a Pluralistic World.

The book received an Honorable Mention by the American Sociological Association in their Religion Distinguished Book Award

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The web site had 33 newly created or updated essays during 2017-FEB, including the above book review.

New essays are marked "N"; updated essays are marked "U":

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Sponsored link:

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2017-January's book selection:

book cover "Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance," by Janet Jakobsen & Ann Pellegrini

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

$18.90 plus postage in Paperback, $16.69 in Kindle format, or $89.00 plus postage in hardcover.

A sampling of Amazon.com book reviews:

  • A brilliant book, one that can move public conversations about sexual, racial, and religious difference beyond present assumptions and impasses. Love the Sin suggests that religion can become the ground for sexual freedom rather than the justification for sexual repression.”
    -Margaret R. Miles,author of Seeing and Believing: Religion and Values in the Movies

    As ambitious, feisty, and exciting as any new passion, Love the Sin takes its readers on a compelling ride across the volatile landscape of religion and sex in American public life. The authors not only provoke and stimulate, guide and elucidate, but they redefine freedom and democracy as values for our sex lives as well as our sexual politics.”
    -Lisa Duggan,coauthor of Sex Wars: Sexual Dissent and Political Culture

  • Jakobsen and Pellegrini argue convincingly that movements for ethnic, racial, gender, and sexual justice would be well served by using the paradigm of religious freedom instead of biological determinism to make the case for social change. Love the Sin is required reading for all the sinners to whom the title euphemistically refers, and for everyone who dreams of a more just society.”
    -Rabbi Rebecca Alpert,author of Like Bread on the Seder Plate

  • “Jakobsen and Pellegrini do a nice job of showing how the love-the-sinner/hate-the- sin tradition falls dramatically short of the higher aspiration to tolerance.”
    -Stephen Pomper,Washington Monthly

  • “Gives us vital language to escape both the trap of toleration and the seduction of assimilation. Not afraid to challenge the certainties of the secular left on religion, nor willing to settle for a narrow version of gay and lesbian rights, Love the Sin presents a new vision of American sexual and religious freedom.”
    -Laura Levitt,Director of Jewish Studies, Temple University

Average rating in reviews by 3 Amazon customers: 4.6 out of 5 stars.

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The web site had 39 newly created or updated essays during 2017-JAN, including the above book review.

New essays are marked "N"; updated essays are marked "U":

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2016-December's book selection:

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"The Illusion of God's Presence: The Biological Origins of Spiritual Longing" by John C. Wathey

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
$
18.52 plus postage in Paperback, $7.56 in Kindle format, or $20.89 plus postage in hardcover.

Amazon.com's book review:

An essential feature of religious experience across many cultures is the intuitive feeling of God's presence. More than any rituals or doctrines, it is this experience that anchors religious faith, yet it has been largely ignored in the scientific literature on religion.

"... [Dr. Wathey's] book delves into the biological origins of this compelling feeling, attributing it to innate neural circuitry that evolved to promote the mother-child bond. ...[He] argues that evolution has programmed the infant brain to expect the presence of a loving being who responds to the child's needs. As the infant grows into adulthood, this innate feeling is eventually transferred to the realm of religion, where it is reactivated through the symbols, imagery, and rituals of worship. The author interprets our various conceptions of God in biological terms as illusory supernormal stimuli that fill an emotional and cognitive vacuum left over from infancy. 

These insights shed new light on some of the most vexing puzzles of religion, like:

  • the popular belief in a god who is judgmental and punishing, yet also unconditionally loving;
  • the extraordinary tenacity of faith;
  • the greater religiosity of women relative to men;
  • religious obsessions with sex;
  • the mysterious compulsion to pray;
  • the seemingly irrepressible feminine attributes of God, even in traditionally patriarchal religions; and
  • the strange allure of cults

Finally, Dr. Wathey considers the hypothesis that religion evolved to foster reproductive success, arguing that, in an age of potentially ruinous overpopulation, magical thinking has become a luxury we can no longer afford, one that distracts us from urgent threats to our planet.

Average rating by 11 Amazon customers' reviews: 4.6 out of 5 stars, including nine 5 star ratings.

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The web site had 40 newly created or updated essays during 2016-DEC, including the above book review.

New essays are marked "N"; updated essays are marked "U":

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2016-November's book selection:

book cover "The God Problem: How a Godless Cosmos Creates," by Howard Bloom. Prometheus Books; New edition (2016-FEB) Available in Kindle format for $7.45 and paperback for $14.28 and hardcover.

Amazon.com customers gave this book a rating of 3.3 out of 5 stars. This is low but expected rating for a book on such a controversial topic. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. Available for $5.99 in Kindle format or $15.99 in Paperback.

A sampling of Amazon.com book reviews:

  • "If Howard Bloom is only 10 percent right, we’ll have to drastically revise our notions of the universe. ... [His] argument will rock your world."
    Barbara Ehrenreich, National Magazine Award winner and author of Nickel and Dimed.

  • "Enthralling. Astonishing. Written with the panache of the Great Blondin turning somersaults on the rope above Niagara. Profound, extraordinarily eclectic, and crazy. The most exciting cliff-hanger of a book I can remember reading." James Burke, Creator and host of seven BBC-TV series, including Connections.

  • "Bloody hell. . . . What a truly extraordinary book. I’m gobsmacked. It’s a fast-paced, highly readable, and deeply researched thriller-documentary that grapples with the big issues of the universe. ... Food for the brain." Francis Pryor, President of the Council for British Archaeology, author of Britain BC

  • "For those of us who do not invoke god(s) to explain things, there is a challenge—where did the complexity of the physical and natural world come from? . . . This deep, provocative, spectacularly well-written book provides some answers. ... A wonderful book." Robert Sapolsky, MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" winner and author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers

  • "Strong. Like a steam roller. Impressive. Great." Richard Foreman, MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" winner and founder of the Ontological-Hysteric Theater

Howard Bloom has been called "the Darwin, Einstein, Newton, and Freud of the 21st Century" by Britain's Channel 4 TV and "the next Stephen Hawking" by Gear Magazine.

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The web site has 41 newly created or updated essays during 2016-NOV, including the above book review.

New essays are marked "N"; updated essays are marked "U":

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New and updated essays on the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (OCRT) web site.
Updated daily
Author:
B.A. Robinson

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