Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

A Grant Hagiography


(FTB Pharyngula) – PZ Myers:

Imagine a Federal leadership that had Lee sign his surrender at Appomattox, and then slapped irons on his wrists, put him in a wagon with bars, and shipped the racist slave-holding traitor off to trial in Washington. We’d be a better country now, I think, with precedent set.

I think I need to read a black scholar’s perspective on the Civil War, because these pleasant reassurances that our country did the right thing aren’t so reassuring any more. …

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Ron Chernow: Grant


Paul as a Midrashic Creation


(Vridar) – Neil Godfrey:

The Book of Acts is written to tell several stories, one of which is the gradual replacement of the Jews by the gentiles as God’s people.

The author’s use of Saul as the precursor or first-life of Paul was chosen to advance this theme of Jews being gradually replaced by the gentiles.

Saul represented the first glory of the Jews, a majestic king and conqueror. But he failed to listen to God’s message through his prophet, Samuel, so was replaced by David. Before that replacement took effect Saul became a persecutor of David, and even killed the priests of Nob, both men and women (I Samuel 22).

According to Maurice Mergui‘s Paul à Patras: Une approche midrashique du paulinismePaul the persecutor as per Acts 8 was worked up from the life of Saul. …

vridar paul midrashic-creation

Maurice Mergui: Paul à Patras: Une approche midrashique du paulinisme

Contrapuntal Consciousness


(Aeon Essays) – Ilari Kaila:

There are good reasons for GEB’s fame besides the sexy and marketable title. In its attempt to build a grand theory of minds and meanings, the book discusses an eclectic range of topics and, at its best, does it in a genuinely enlightening way. It is obviously an inspired work, even if the fundamental case it sets out to make falls flat. Like most attempts at ‘explaining’ consciousness, GEB is rooted in a category mistake: it treats our phenomenological core as just another phenomenon, making the book an 800-page exercise in begging the question. But it’s a stimulating 800 pages, riffing on fractals, Zen koans, computer languages, quantum physics and much more. To his credit, Hofstadter at least senses that the volume of a phonebook is required if you claim to be adding something to this perennial conversation. …

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Douglas R. Hofstadter: Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

Real Jesus Hiding in the NT?


(Debunking Christianity) – David Madison:

It’s standard practice for art dealers to provide documentation that the works they sell are the real thing; ideally there will be a paper trail showing ownership back to the original artist. At the end of movies there are several minutes of rolling credits, hundreds of names, of all the people who helped make the film. At the end of any biography, the reader can find the sources used, commonly hundreds of them: this is where the information comes from – and any curious researcher can find them as well.

A couple of hundred years ago, Bible scholars began to grapple with the inconvenient truth that the gospels – those iconic titles, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – have no such anchors: No documentation, credits at the end, or identified sources. They seem to position themselves as history, but what’s the evidence for that?

So, without the documentation, any list of credits or identified sources, just what are the gospels? Yes, they are theology, but what if the gospel of Mark – which all the others copied, referred to and modified – was never even intended as history? R. G. Price’s 2018 book, Deciphering the Gospels Proves Jesus Never Existed, presents the case for that. Price, a software engineer and data analyst, demonstrates his skills as a detective, looking behind the façade of the gospels to get at what really happened. His book is highly readable, and can help laypeople grasp why a real Jesus is subject to doubt. …

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R. G. Price: Deciphering the Gospels - Proves Jesus Never Existed

Losing Earth: A Recent History


(NYTimes) – Nathaniel Rich:

This narrative is a work of history, addressing the 10-year period from 1979 to 1989: the decisive decade when humankind first came to a broad understanding of the causes and dangers of climate change. …

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Nathaniel Rich: Losing Earth: A Recent History

Wikipedia: Losing Earth: A Recent History

The Jesus Nobody Wants


(Debunking Christianity) – David Madison:

Am I allowed to indulge my fantasy that there are normal Christians? By which I mean folks who love their families, go to work every day, plan their careers, save for retirement, look forward to vacations, mom and dad enjoy consenting-adult time alone together, and they show up at church. All of these pursuits—except for showing up for church—take a hit in the New Testament.

Love their families: Luke 14:26, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”

Go to work every day and plan their careers: Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.”

Save for retirement: Matthew 6:19: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth…”

Look forward to vacations: I Corinthians 7:29-30: …“from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice…”

Mom and dad enjoy consenting-adult time: ditto, I Corinthians 7:29: “…from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none…”

Maybe the normal Christians are those who don’t pay all that much attention to Bible details. At least they shrug off these texts that sound okay when recited piously from the pulpit (well, except for Luke 14:26…when did you ever hear that from the pulpit?). But they should be cautioned about giving them close inspection: Funny how that can backfire. As David Fitzgerald has said, “It’s no coincidence that the Christians who study the Bible the hardest are also the most likely to become ex-Christians.” …

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David Fitzgerald: Jesus: Mything in Action, Vol. I

The Crew of the U.S.S. Shakespeare


(Good Tickle Brain) – Mya Gosling:

I’m a huge Star Trek nerd, and, as I am in the midst of a long-running TNG/DS9/VOY rewatch project, it seemed only natural to figure out which Shakespearean characters would make the ideal Federation starship crew. Here are my (totally non-definitive) picks …

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Mya Lixian Gosling: The Crew of the U.S.S. Shakespeare

Adam Mann: Not His Real Name


(Freethought Today) – Daniel C. Dennett:

Confidential confessions of disbelief by practicing clergy are gripping revelations of what it is like to be caught in a web of evasion.

When my wife Susan read the final draft of Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind, the book Linda LaScola and I wrote about the confidential interviews Linda had conducted with nearly 30 nonbelieving clergy, her immediate reaction was that this would make a stirring play. She was right. Linda and I joined forces with New York City playwright Marin Gazzaniga, who, supported by a grant from the Richard Dawkins Foundation, combed through the thousands of pages of transcripts and assembled a play drawn directly from their interviews.

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Adam Mann: Not His Real Name

The Empty Promise of Boris Johnson


(New Yorker::A Critic at Large) – Sam Knight:

The man expected to be Britain’s next Prime Minister makes people in power, including himself, appear ridiculous, but that doesn’t mean he’d dream of handing power to anybody else. …

Of course, he could still fail to become Prime Minister. His self-belief is matched only by his capacity for self-sabotage. Until this moment, Johnson’s life and career have been a kind of monument to wishful thinking—of ridiculous expectations shockingly fulfilled. Brexit is much the same. “I’ve got nothing,” Johnson said. Britain is about to find out what nothing means. …

newyorker 2019/06/24 boris-johnson

Bendik Kaltenborn: Boris Johnson

Pirate Ex Machina


(Good Tickle Brain) – Mya Gosling:

Have you ever written yourself into a corner and found yourself trapped in a plot complication that seems impossible to untangle? Consider doing what Shakespeare often did in such situations: introduce convenient pirates! …

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Mya Lixian Gosling: Pirate Ex Machina