Sunday, August 6, 2017

Karen Armstrong's A HISTORY OF GOD

Some sentences I liked:

Chapter 3, A Light to the Gentiles, p. 91, last graf: " many of the people who attend religious service in our own society are not interested in theology, want nothing too exotic and dislike the idea of change. They find that the established rituals provide them with a link with tradition and give them a sense of security. The do not expect brillant ideas from the sermon and are disturbed by changes in the liturgy."

Chapter 3, A Light to the Gentiles, p. 101, last graf: "Human beings are aware that something is wrong with their condition; they feel at odds with themselves and others, out of touch with their inner nature and disoriented. Conflict and a lack of simplicity seem to characterize our existence. Yet we are constantly seeking to unite the multiplicity of phenomena and reduce them to some ordered whole."

Chapter 6, The God of the Philosophers, p. 194, 1st graf: "Most Western Christians had a very limited knowledge of Islamic culture and were ignorant of philosophical developments..."

Chapter 9, Enlightenment, p. 295, 2nd graph: "...under the old agrarianate dispensation, when law was regarded as immutable and divine. It was a sign of the new autonomy that technicalization was bringing to Western society: men and women felt that they were in charge of their own affairs as never before. We have seen the profound fear that innovation and change had unleashed in traditional societies, where civilization was felt to be a fragile achievement and any break in continuity with the past was resisted. The modern technical society introduced by the West, however was based upon the expectation of constant development and progress. Change was institutionalized and taken for granted. ... The old conservative spirt...had been replaced in the West by a desire for change and a belief that continual development was practicable. Instead of fearing that the younger generation was going to the dogs, as in former times, the older generation expected their children to live better than they. The study of history was dominated by a new myth: that of Progress. It achieved great things, but now that damage to the environment has made us realize that this way of life is a vulnerable as the old, we are, perhaps, beginning to grasp that it is as fictitious as most of the other mythologies that have inspired humanity over the centuries."

Chapter 9, p. 306, 1st graph: "Religion, however, like art often consist of a dialogue with the past in order to find a perspective from which to view the present. . . . Religion and art, therefore, do not work like science."

Chapter 9, p.322: 3rd graph: "Social historians have noted that Western Christianity is unique among world religions for its violent alternations of periods of repression and permissiveness. They have also noted that the repressive phases usually coincide with a religious revival. The more relaxed moral climate of the Enlightenment would be succeeded in many parts of the West by the repressions of the Victorian period, which was accompanied by an upsurge of a more fundamentalist religiosity. In our own day, we have witnessed the permissive society of the 1960s giving way to the more puritan ethic of the 1980s, which has also coincided with the rise of Christian fundamentalism in the West. This is a complex phenomenon, which doubtless has no single cause."

Chapter 9, p. 341, 2nd graph: "In 1729 Jean Meslier, a country priest who had led an exemplary life, died an atheist. He left behind a memoir. . . . This expressed his disgust with humanity and his inability to believe in God. . . . Religion was a device used by the rich to oppress the poor and render them powerless. Christianity was distinguished by its particularly ludicrous doctrines, such as the Trinity and Incarnation."

Chapter 10, The Death of God?, p. 361, 2nd graph: "A negative image of the Prophet Muhammad and his religion had developed in Christendom at the time of the Crusades and had persisted alongside the anti-Semitism of Europe. During the colonial period, Islam was viewed as a fatalistic religion that was chronically opposed to progress."

Chapter 10, p. 361, last graf: "Freud had wisely seen that any enforced repression of religion could only be destructive. Like sexuality, religion is a human need that affects life at every level. If suppressed, the results are likely to be a s explosive and destructive as any sever sexual repression. . . . Repression of religion can breed fundamentalism, just as inadequate forms of theism can result in a rejection of God."

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Samuel Johnson

I finished W. Jackson Bate's biography on Johnson. Some selections that caught my eye:

The Seven Years' War had begun. In political articles, he strongly attacked the policy of imperial and commercial expansion. The quarrel of the British and the French in America, as he viewed it, was the quarrel of "two robbers" for the land stolen from the Indians. Of the two, the French had at least the credit of treating the victim -- the natives -- with more consideration.
(Chapter 19, section 4, 3rd graph)

The truth is that something very serious was beginning to happen to him, and he was quite aware of it. The general reconsideration of life so common in middle age and the problems inevitable to it were something he had foreseen long before this. He had taken them into account and half assimilated them in advance, in protective preparation . . . But now, as he was entering his fifties, he was more vulnerable . The larger part of middle age could seem already behind him, and instead of his life being half over . . .it could now, by any optimistic calculation, appear two-thirds over, and most of it could seem a waste -- a history of disappointments, frustrations, regrets, and mistaken choices, none of it to be blamed on the work but only on himself.
(Chapter 20, section 1, 4th graph)

"Work and love," said Freud near the end of his own life, in Civilization and Its Discontents, are the only ways in which human nature can come closet to happiness or at least avoid misery. Freud adds, of course, that far fewer people really "love " than think they do.
(Chapter 21, section 5, 1st graph)

[Baretti] was put in Newgate Prison, where a rival Italian teacher soon called on him saying he wanted to take over Baretti's pupils after his execution and asking Baretti to write him a letter of recommendation.
(Chapter 24, section 2, 3rd graph)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Morris Trump

I'm rereading Morris Berman's Dark Ages America, which was copyrighted in 2006. In Chapter 4, "Pax Americana", in the Hot versus Cold Wars section, there's this passage (page 130 in paperback edition):

[Voters in 1980] were drawn to Ronald Reagan, a man who saw the world in just such simplistic terms, and who pledged to make America great again.

Looks like Trump owes some royalties to Berman ;)

Monday, January 30, 2017

Juan Cole

I read this months ago, and it's been bee-bopping in my head recently. Just might be the best paragraph Cole' ever written:

It is downright weird that we haven’t been able to find any evidence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, given how old and big it is.  It occurs to me that carbon-based life may have a tendency to evolve toward an intelligent species that discovers how to manipulate fire.  But in each case, it isn’t quite intelligent enough to avoid burning so many hydrocarbons that it cooks its planet and causes its own extinction.  Hence, no radio waves from these serial hyper-tropical worlds. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

"LBJ: Architect of American Ambition" by Randall B. Woods

I recently read that bio. Two great passages in it:

Chapter 11, A Populist Gentlemen's Club, p. 246:
The North and Midwest viewed the Southeast as the most backward part of the nation, the most resistant to change, and the most out of step with postwar realities. Southerners viewed the Northeast as economic exploiters and racist hypocrites.

Chapter 39, Tet, p. 818:
Reform is rare and difficult in the United States, a deeply conservative country.