Crossing oceans, faiths and languages
Wednesday, June 20, 2007 11:51:18 PM
Number 37 (I think - I may have forgotten one): The End of Faith, by Sam Harris.
This seems to have been a pretty popular book. And whenever I read reviews or excerpts, it annoyed me. It is about how religious faith, in general, is a bad idea that is always bad whether it is extremist or moderate, but then it does go on to paint Islam as a particularly dangerous religion.
It seems Sam Harris is one of the few people who hasn't got the humourous spam entitled "why can't I buy a Canadian" - which looks at the Bible in the way that Harris looks at the Koran, and makes it look ridiculous as well as demonstrating that people simply ignore a lot of what is there in order to develop a modern christian theology.
I am not a religious person, in the traditional sense. If I were, I would be more fundamentalist than many, since either a religion is right, and if it is a religion of the book like Islam, Christianity or Judaism, that means you have to work out how to believe in the book, or it is wrong, in which case it is nothing more than an interesting social phenomenon.
I have nothing against people having a faith, whatever I think of the particular faith. I even have no problem with people trying to impose their faith on others - that's actually a requirement of many faiths. But I don't want to live in a country that is taken over by religion - and the US, despite its constitutional seperation of church and state is a relatively religious society, while Norway with its state church is not so religious, and Australia whose head of state is the head of the major church is mostly even less so.
Ultimately, I found Harris' book a bit of a disappointment - better than I had expected from what I had read about it, but not as good as I had hoped it might actually turn out to be.
After reading it, I had a week where I did not read a single book - or even begin reading one. THat's a first for this year...
Number 38 - Tomas Fs siste nedtegnelser til Almenheten, by Kjell Askildsen.
This is the third book I have read in Norwegian. It is pretty short, and actually has two stories in it. One is a story about a guy who is being questioned by the police, and the other, the title story, is a collection of essays in the first person, by Tomas F, an old man almost at the stage of waiting to die.
I still sometimes fail to understand words (the title beng a case in point) as I am reading them. But rather than look them up, I tend to simply go on reading. When I am listening to people, I often mis-hear or just miss words they say, and yet mostly I manage to understand (occasionally of course I do need to ask someone to repeat something, but there is a lot of redundancy in much of our communication). So it seems a reasonable approach to reading, too.
Anyway, I thought this was a good book. And being pretty thin was a bonus. (I actually bought it at the train station because it was thin and cheap, matching the handful of coins I had in my pocket...)
Number 39: The tipping point, by Malcolm Gladwell
Joen recommended this to me, and lent it to me. It's quite a well-known book already. While interesting, I had already heard or read most of the ideas (often in discussions of the book), so I don't have anything much interesting to add. It is about how sometimes, the things that make a difference to how something happens is a relatively mundane thing - and how looking at the spread of disease epidemics provides a good way to understand the spread of ideas, or memes.
So number 40 looks like it might be about Genghis Khan...