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Nadine
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?

I'm on for the History of God. Besides, I have it on my TBR shelf.

 Joseph_F wrote:

Ok, so I'll be making a more official announcement once I have time to consult with Jon on how it should be done, but I've settled on the following featured readings for May:

 

Scholarly/non-fiction book:

 

A History of God 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lighter/fiction book:

 

The Shack 

 

I know very little about this one, but there seems to be a lot of interest in it right now, so let's read it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There will be two separate discussions, so it's ok to only get one of those books or get both and participate in both discussions. Up to you! Also, when it gets closer to May, I'll probably introduce a short reading from some scripture to discuss (nothing that will take you too long to read) for those interested in that.

 


 

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blkeyesuzi
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?


Nadine wrote:
I'm on for the History of God. Besides, I have it on my TBR shelf.

 Joseph_F wrote:

Ok, so I'll be making a more official announcement once I have time to consult with Jon on how it should be done, but I've settled on the following featured readings for May:

 

Scholarly/non-fiction book:

 

A History of God 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lighter/fiction book:

 

The Shack 

 

I know very little about this one, but there seems to be a lot of interest in it right now, so let's read it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There will be two separate discussions, so it's ok to only get one of those books or get both and participate in both discussions. Up to you! Also, when it gets closer to May, I'll probably introduce a short reading from some scripture to discuss (nothing that will take you too long to read) for those interested in that.

 


 


I'm up, too!  I'll be picking the book up today at the local B&N.

Suzi

"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see. " --John Burroughs
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Peppermill
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?


Joseph_F wrote (excerpt):

Ok, so I'll be making a more official announcement once I have time to consult with Jon on how it should be done, but I've settled on the following featured readings for May:

 

Scholarly/non-fiction book:

 

A History of God 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Joseph -- please share with us how you chose between History of God and 

The Great Transformation.

 

(I have no strong preferences; in fact, I have been skimming the two, trying to determine if there was something I wanted to convey between those the two options.)

 

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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vivico1
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?

[ Edited ]

I would like to suggest a fiction book that involves two different beliefs, a different time, but some wonderful, thoughtful insights. It was a book offered as a club in here when it first came out, a first book by the author but only about 4 of us in the club. There is something for everyone in this book, from exploring the really really unusual to exploring yourself. I have talked in emails to the writer and just wait for his next book. It is not a hard read at all. It is about a Jewish gem trader from the ghettos in Venice in 1598, who goes to the Burmese kingdom of Pegu to trade for jewels. It has a historical nature because of the time frame. It brings to you the story of a young Jewish man and his beliefs and how will he deal with those when thrown into a world so incredibly different from his own, it would make each of us question ourselves. The Burmese people, their traditions, spiritual beliefs, the Buddhist faith there in the 1500s, everything about this place is so intriguing. There is even a love story in it, but how these two cultures, two different faiths, two different worlds really will affect that or each person involved can really make you think about how you view the world around you and those who are different. I have found some of the best one line thoughts in this too that I told  the author, those were the real gems. It is a novel that I think about a lot, about do we really believe what we say we are when it comes to religion or even just morals, or when tested, is that really when we find who we are. And learning about these areas during the 1500s was fascinating too. The book is The Jewel Trader of Pegu by Jeffrey Hantover. It is offered in paperback now too.

 

The Jewel Trader of Pegu 

 

Message Edited by vivico1 on 04-03-2009 05:39 PM
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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Laurel
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?

I have really enjoyed the books of Chaim Potok, including

 

The Chosen 

 

 

 

 

and

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Name Is Asher Lev .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Promise   

 

This is one I haven't read yet.

"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Brad_W
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?

I like the idea of disussing the Karen Armstrong book, "The History of God".  I think that's a great starting point persoanlly.

 

 

History of God 

 

Bargain priced edition (Hardcover) 

A History of God  

Regular Edition (Paperback)

With purpose and on purpose
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IBIS
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?

[ Edited ]

I've had Karen Armstrong's "A History of God" on my TBR pile for over a year.

 

This is the perfect opportunity... dare I say a God-given one... for me to read it.

 

I'm glad the discussion will be in May. That'll give me plenty of time to actually finish it.

 

Or not.

Message Edited by IBIS on 04-04-2009 09:52 PM
IBIS

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Melissa_W
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?

I'm up for that!  It's been on my "ought to read" list for a few years now :smileyhappy:


Joseph_F wrote:

for May:

 

Scholarly/non-fiction book:

 

A History of God 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Melissa W.
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Everyman
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?

For right now, I'm leaning towards making Karen Armstrong's A History of God the scholarly book for May.

 

It may be an excellent book for discussion, but I'm not sure I would consider it a scholarly book.

 

I haven't read it, but I have scanned parts of it. One of the elements of scholarly writing, I belive, is reference to sources that readers can use to question or verify assertions made by the author. In the pages I was able to review, Armstrong puts forward a number of assertions which are neither sourced nor give any indication how the reader can verify her interpretations. There was not a single footnote or specific refence in any of the pages I reviewed.

 

On page 5, for example, talking about the ancient belief in the Sky God, she writes "these myths were not intended to be taken literally..." She offers no validation of this bald assertion. On what does she base that? Has she gone back and asked the ancient civilizations whether they perceived these merely as stories, or whether they did believe them to be literally true? She may be right, but to make that bald an assertion with no supporting documentation behind it is hardly scholarly, as I understand the term.

 

There is no way to question her assertion other than just to say "I disagree," since she gives no basis for her point of view other than that this what she believes.

 

If one review I read is accurate, she badly misrepresents most Platonic scholarship on his view of the nature of the Forms. According to this reviewer, she writes on page 36 "Plato's divine Forms were not realities `out there' but could be discovered within the self." Huh? Sorry, but if you put to Plato whether this was what he believed, I am quite sure that he would say absolutely not, there are actual forms out there, and I am talking of real things that exist.  Things found "within the self" are necessarily subjective, not objective.  This is the esact contrary of what Plato's forms, I belive, represent.

 

Armstrong makes her thesis pretty clear on page 4, where she assets baldly and without equivocation "it seems that creating gods is something that human beings have always done." This assumes that all gods are created and not discovered, that the whole concept of god is a human construct without any objective reality. She asks us to go back to the ancient world of the Middle East "where the idea of our God gradually emerged..." Note she says the idea of, not the understanding of. This terminology is significant.

 

For example, talking of the development of astronomy, would you find it accurate to say say that ancient man developed the idea of the motions of the planets, or would you find it more accurate to say that ancient man developed an understanding of the motions of the planets? The difference is obviously critical, but she doesn't even suggest, at least in these pages, that there is a legitimate alternative to her bald assertion.

 

I'm not suggesting that we should not read the book. But from what I have been able to see from my skimming of it and of several reviews of it, to call it a scholarly work is an  offense to serious scholarship. From what I have seen, it is not a scholarly work but a polemic which relies on unsourced assertions and unverifiable assumptions to support her core assumption that god is entirely a human construct and has no objective reality.

 

It may be worth reading, but let's not start out by mistaking what it is.

_______________
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Nadine
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?

Everyman wrote:

For right now, I'm leaning towards making Karen Armstrong's A History of God the scholarly book for May.

 

It may be an excellent book for discussion, but I'm not sure I would consider it a scholarly book.

 

I haven't read it, but I have scanned parts of it. One of the elements of scholarly writing, I belive, is reference to sources that readers can use to question or verify assertions made by the author. In the pages I was able to review, Armstrong puts forward a number of assertions which are neither sourced nor give any indication how the reader can verify her interpretations. There was not a single footnote or specific refence in any of the pages I reviewed.

----------------------------------------------

 

It is "scholarly" enough for this humble person. I want something "Scholarly Readable". I don't particularly like wading through footnotes. I want to be learn more about the subject but not to have to have a Phd in it to understand the content.  I understand Joesph's definition of "scholarly" and it is a fine one with me. Or would we want to use "Informative Non-fiction"!? :smileywink:

 

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Laurel
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?

I agree with Everyman on this one. I would want to know why this person's opinions are worth spending my time with.

Nadine wrote:

Everyman wrote:

For right now, I'm leaning towards making Karen Armstrong's A History of God the scholarly book for May.

 

It may be an excellent book for discussion, but I'm not sure I would consider it a scholarly book.

 

I haven't read it, but I have scanned parts of it. One of the elements of scholarly writing, I belive, is reference to sources that readers can use to question or verify assertions made by the author. In the pages I was able to review, Armstrong puts forward a number of assertions which are neither sourced nor give any indication how the reader can verify her interpretations. There was not a single footnote or specific refence in any of the pages I reviewed.

----------------------------------------------

 

It is "scholarly" enough for this humble person. I want something "Scholarly Readable". I don't particularly like wading through footnotes. I want to be learn more about the subject but not to have to have a Phd in it to understand the content.  I understand Joesph's definition of "scholarly" and it is a fine one with me. Or would we want to use "Informative Non-fiction"!? :smileywink:

 


 

"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Everyman
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?


Nadine wrote: [snip]

[Anderson's book]  is "scholarly" enough for this humble person. I want something "Scholarly Readable". I don't particularly like wading through footnotes. I want to be learn more about the subject but not to have to have a Phd in it to understand the content. 

 


I agree with all of that.  I usually ignore 95% of the footnotes in a work.  But I do want to know where a scholarly author has gotten the information they have offered, so if something doesn't make sense to me I can go and see the basis for their saying it.  Otherwise, everything is mere opinion.  There's nothing wrong with opinion as such, but we should not mistake it for scholarly writing.  

 

Scholarly writing comes in two (at least) versions, that written for the PhD, which as you say neither of us enjoys except in our specific fields of knowledge, and scholarly writing for the intelligent reader, which is what I would prefer to read here. 

 

Such writing doesn't have to have footnotes, but I think it has to have references.  For example, not just "Aristotle believed ..." but "As Aristotle wrote in Book 3 of the Ethics, "....," which I understand o mean ...."     In the first case, you have no idea why or on what basis the author thinks Aristotle believed that.  In the second, you know why the author says what he or she says, where the opinion comes from, and if you're not sure you agree with the position you can go directly to the quote, see whether it's pulled out of context, look up if you want to go that far how other scholars have interpreted the same passage, etc.  Or, a scholarly author will present a range of viewpoints so the reader knows that there are multiple interpretations and that he or she is selecting one interpretation.  

 

Some scholarly writing can be extremely engaging.   It doesn't have to be dry or dull or overly complex.   

 

For me, I guess, the thing that distinguishes scholarly writing is that the reader not only knows what the author believes, but how the author reached that point of view, what the other points of view on the same issue are and some of the major scholars who have held that  view, and where this particular work lies within the ongoing dialogue of which any scholarly endeavor constitutes just a part.  

 

As I said elsewhere, otherwise all we have is a "the author said x, but I disagree," and where is the benefit in that?  

_______________
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Nadine
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?

Everyman said:

I agree with all of that.  I usually ignore 95% of the footnotes in a work.  But I do want to know where a scholarly author has gotten the information they have offered, so if something doesn't make sense to me I can go and see the basis for their saying it.  Otherwise, everything is mere opinion.  There's nothing wrong with opinion as such, but we should not mistake it for scholarly writing.  

------------------------------------------

 

Actually, everyman, she does give all this information. I just didn't notice the footnote references and didn't think to look in the back of the book! There she has a glossary defining all the terms she uses, footnotes to the sources she mentions (15 pages), and a very extensive bibliography (10 pages). I will probably make some use of her footnotes. I too am sometimes curious as to exactly what the original source might have said.

 

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Everyman
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?

I will take a look at that when I get the book from the library.

 

In the meantime, can you tell me whether she footnotes her statement on page 36 about Plato and the forms, and if so what the footnoting is to?   

 

Thanks

 

 


Nadine wrote:

Everyman said:

I agree with all of that.  I usually ignore 95% of the footnotes in a work.  But I do want to know where a scholarly author has gotten the information they have offered, so if something doesn't make sense to me I can go and see the basis for their saying it.  Otherwise, everything is mere opinion.  There's nothing wrong with opinion as such, but we should not mistake it for scholarly writing.  

------------------------------------------

 

Actually, everyman, she does give all this information. I just didn't notice the footnote references and didn't think to look in the back of the book! There she has a glossary defining all the terms she uses, footnotes to the sources she mentions (15 pages), and a very extensive bibliography (10 pages). I will probably make some use of her footnotes. I too am sometimes curious as to exactly what the original source might have said.

 


 

_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
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Nadine
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?


Everyman wrote:

I will take a look at that when I get the book from the library.

 

In the meantime, can you tell me whether she footnotes her statement on page 36 about Plato and the forms, and if so what the footnoting is to?   

 

Thanks

 

 

You are way ahead of me, everyman. I haven't started reading this yet. This doesn't mean anything to me but maybe to you:

 

34. The Symposium, trans W. Hamilton, (Harmondsworth, 1951), pp. 93-4.

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Everyman
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?

Thanks.  That just refers to one of the dialogues, and not even one in which the theory of forms is prominent (the Symposium is primarily a dialogue about love.} 

 


Nadine wrote:

Everyman wrote:

I will take a look at that when I get the book from the library.

 

In the meantime, can you tell me whether she footnotes her statement on page 36 about Plato and the forms, and if so what the footnoting is to?   

 

Thanks

 

 

You are way ahead of me, everyman. I haven't started reading this yet. This doesn't mean anything to me but maybe to you:

 

34. The Symposium, trans W. Hamilton, (Harmondsworth, 1951), pp. 93-4.


 

 

_______________
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Joseph_F
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?


Everyman wrote:
Armstrong makes her thesis pretty clear on page 4, where she assets baldly and without equivocation "it seems that creating gods is something that human beings have always done." This assumes that all gods are created and not discovered, that the whole concept of god is a human construct without any objective reality. She asks us to go back to the ancient world of the Middle East "where the idea of our God gradually emerged..." Note she says the idea of, not the understanding of. This terminology is significant.

An assumption in the human-created nature of all aspects of religion is fundemental to the study of religion from an anthropological and historical perspective. It would have been very odd and made for an essentially useless academic study if she had to account at all times for the possibility that all three faiths she is discussing were simply giving accurate descriptions of the actual movements of a real supernatural entity. 

 

As for your other objections: well, I haven't read the book, so we'll go through them as we get to them! :smileyhappy: There is a distinct possibility she makes claims with insufficient evidence (most scholarly work does, even though the authors would never admit it), but I feel that her credentials and reputation make "scholarly" a reasonable term for her work. If you disagree I would not be offended by you referring to it by a term you find more appropriate. 

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IBIS
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?

I understand Everyman's objection to Armstrong's thesis that "...creating gods is something that human beings have always done."  This is her thesis, and obviously not one that I as a converted Roman Catholic would believe.

 

Knowing that, I intend to read her book with the understanding that her perspective is historical and anthropological. I understand from the get-go that I will not agree with her basic premise... but I will read it because her reputation and credentials inform me that she has information that I would like to know.

 

 


Joseph_F wrote:

Everyman wrote:
Armstrong makes her thesis pretty clear on page 4, where she assets baldly and without equivocation "it seems that creating gods is something that human beings have always done." This assumes that all gods are created and not discovered, that the whole concept of god is a human construct without any objective reality. She asks us to go back to the ancient world of the Middle East "where the idea of our God gradually emerged..." Note she says the idea of, not the understanding of. This terminology is significant.

An assumption in the human-created nature of all aspects of religion is fundemental to the study of religion from an anthropological and historical perspective. It would have been very odd and made for an essentially useless academic study if she had to account at all times for the possibility that all three faiths she is discussing were simply giving accurate descriptions of the actual movements of a real supernatural entity. 

 

As for your other objections: well, I haven't read the book, so we'll go through them as we get to them! :smileyhappy: There is a distinct possibility she makes claims with insufficient evidence (most scholarly work does, even though the authors would never admit it), but I feel that her credentials and reputation make "scholarly" a reasonable term for her work. If you disagree I would not be offended by you referring to it by a term you find more appropriate. 


 

 

IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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Everyman
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?

Joseph wrote (in part):   An assumption in the human-created nature of all aspects of religion is fundemental to the study of religion from an anthropological and historical perspective.

 

I'm not sure why you say this.   It seems to me that belief concepts or systems can be studied from an athropological and historical perspective without assuming them to be human-created.  For instance, love is a concept which may be entirely human created or may have a biological foundation definable in purely objective scientific terms, but one can still study the anthropological and historic roots and implications of love on individuals and societies without having to assume either alternative. 

 

It also seems to me that if one studies religion under the core assumption that it is entirely human created,one has severly limited the field of inquiry and the scope of possible discovery of truth.  For a time, for example, many, if not most, doctors believed that fibromyalgia arose from psychological rather than physiological causes, a belief which I think is by now largely exploded, but which seriously delayed the development of a useful etiology of the condition.  

 

I grant that one approach to scientific inquiry is to make a core assumption and then attempt to validate it.  So it is not illegitimate for an author to posit  that "for the sake of this inquiry,  I am assuming that religion is entirely a human construct, and will undertake this study in an attempt to validate or invalidate that assumtion."  

 

But I wonder why you suggest, if I rightly read what you said, that it is impossible to undertake a valid anthropological and historical study of religion unless one starts with the unexamined assumption that it is all a fiction and fabrication.    Can you help me understand why you consider this to be necessary? 

 

_______________
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Joseph_F
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Re: What kinds of books would you like to discuss?

Everyman - It would not make much sense to study the religion of humans, particularly theology, from an anthropological standpoint, in other words from the viewpoint of the study of humans, unless you assume that the religion is a creation of humans.

 

If you were to assume that God was an actual entity with historical movements that could be described, then it would make little sense to approach a study of that being through the study of humans, any more than it would be to study the biology of a fish to understand ocean currents just bcause the fish is moved by the currents. It is only if you assume that God came from, was created by, humans, does studying humans in order to study God make sense. 

 

Anthropology is at heart a science, and as a science it has to assume a reason behind its observations that fits all known scientific data until evidence is found suggesting any part of that data is wrong. They cannot discuss God as a real entity any more than they could discuss the possibility that the hunter is actually transforming into a wild animal in some tribal ritual. All beliefs outside of the realm of the observable world are considered equal, and all must be considered the creation of humans in order for an anthropological study to be useful.