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Femion » Every Five Books: Religion is Scary

Every Five Books: Religion is Scary

July 1st, 2008

Since it’s summer, and I have time to read, I’m back to cataloging all the books I read on my blog. This summer, I’m not allowed to cheat and read the really short young adult books. No, for this first entry of the summer, I read an 800 page book on evolution.

godnotgreat.jpgGod is not Great, Christopher Hitchens - another atheist friend of mine lent me this book after being unable to complete it himself. I can understand. Though there are a lot of scary tidbits about religion - the rabbi in New York who transmitted herpes to around 30 babies because of the practice of sucking off a baby’s foreskin during circumcision sticks out in my mind, though it definitely wasn’t the worst example, Hitchens comes off as pedantic and pretentious. He writes like he speaks, and too often comes back to examples of his own life, as if he, too, is a genius persecuted by religion. It was a great vocabulary builder, though.

OmegaJackMcDevitt.jpgOmega - Jack McDevitt. I picked up this book because John picked it out of the library and I was looking for something to read on my trip home to Antigonish at the beginning of May. The basic plot is that there’s an astronomical storm heading towards a planet with a primitive civilization, and so humans arrive and pretend to be their gods in order to save them. Sounds like the plot of a forgettable episode of Star Trek. It was well written, but the ending was kind of lame. I read 300 pages of the book before realizing that it was just one in a series and that because of this, the book would not have a satisfying ending by the last page. The quality of writing is enough to get me through one book, but not the entire series. It was also kind of preachy, as if the author was trying to convert his readers into believing in some great celestial god that most of his characters believed in.

infidel.jpgInfidel - Hirsi Ali. This book is amazing. Ali was born in a Muslim political family in Somalia but ran away to the Netherlands on her way to an arranged marriage in Canada. She learned Dutch, got citizenship and earned a college degree in political science, eventually becoming a political leader in the Netherlands. She campaigned against the abuse of women in Islam, which makes her a constant target of death threats - she wrote the screenplay for Theo Van gogh’s Submission. Now that she is in the united states, she mostly appears on talking heads shows to denounce Islam. Here’s an example of two different styles of interview with Ali:


The first, the reporter from Canada, seems to refuse to believe that Ali had a difficult life in Somalia. He paraphrases her biography and insists that life in the west isn’t as good as Ali says it is. In the second, Glen Beck nearly falls to his feet in adoration of Ali, but is it really respect for her life or just happiness that he’s found someone to support his beliefs? Neither interview does a very good job of capturing Ali’s message. Infidel is probably one of the best books on feminist issues ever written, and it’s nice to see the message of female empowerment coming from a non social relativist, far left point of view.

quicksilver.jpgQuicksilver - Neal Stephenson. This is probably the nerdiest book I’ve read in a while. It follows Daniel Waterhouse (the fictional founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Tecnickal Arts) who was Newton’s roommate at Cambridge, but who later joined Leibniz in creating a difference engine after Newton turned into a crazy astrologer. Heavy on the science and history, low on plot. The only female characters were a dumb housewife and a prostitute.

ancestorstale.jpg The Ancestor’s Tale - Richard Dawkins. The Ancestor’s Tale is an 800 page book that could serve as a substitute for half of first year biology and earth science. I would recommend it to anyone who hasn’t taken first year biology, as this book covers the parts of biology that I found interesting (I’m sorry Dr. Staicer, memorizing the Krebbs cycle or the phylogeny of a hundred different sorts of microbial life was not helpful). Dawkins writes a lot of his own life into the book, so even though I felt like I was reading what I already knew as gospel, every so often I’d read a little amusing tidbit about his childhood that made the book interesting.

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