Garstor's World, My realm of 3D art, LEGO and atheism

Posts Tagged ‘Books’

Re-reading A Song Of Ice & Fire

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Since the next HBO season for Game Of Thrones might not air until 2019, I decided to re-read the books. Heck, maybe I’ll get lottery-win-lucky and George R. R. Martin will publish The Winds Of Winter in the mean time…

So I am digging back into A Game Of Thrones. I’m only about 87 pages in so far. Yet I am already struck by the number of differences between the books and the show. The biggest one that hit me was this:

Robert’s queen, Cersei Lannister, entered on foot with her younger children. The wheelhouse in which they had ridden, a huge double-decked carriage of oiled oak and gilded metal pulled by forty heavy draft horses, was too wide to pass through the castle gate.

The royal entourage on the show was impressive; but it did not have anything like that!

A Wiki Of Ice And Fire is an excellent resource for fans. In particular, the Chapter Summaries feature is wonderful.

Naturally, in my mind’s eye as I immerse myself in Westeros, I am seeing the actors from the show. Sean Bean is Eddard Stark to me. I just cannot see it any other way; but I don’t think that is a bad thing. I’m curious to see if I can build a vision from the books that replaces something on the show.

Book Reading Update

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

imageThis morning I finished reading Aron Ra’s book The Foundational Falsehoods Of Creationism. Much of this was read during bus trips into Dundas to visit my grandmother – otherwise I might have finished it sooner.

A book such as this might have helped me reach my atheism conclusion faster since I had clung on to creationist ideas long after I had stopped attending church or praying. This is a good read and provides a solid primer on the notion of clades – indeed, Ra has sometimes referred to himself as The Ace Of Clades as a nod toward Motörhead.

The writing is very approachable, which is appreciated. It is based on Aron Ra’s YouTube videos and the conversational nature of that shines through.

Although it is not likely that a creationist will read this; since they love to hide behind lies. The book makes very clear the correct definitions and uses of words like “theory” and “evolution.” By providing demonstrations of how these terms are misused in creationism, Ra tears away at the already flimsy shielding they have.

Goodness knows I was guilty of the same such abuse of language back in the day!

imageSpeaking of language; I am now getting embroiled in Steven Pinker’s The Sense Of Style.

I began reading this on my trip to Florida for Photoshop World. So far so good. I cannot add much else to this until I am further into it; so I will certainly post about it again.

The 10th Anniversary Of “The God Delusion”

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

Today Hemant Mehta at The Friendly Atheist published about the 10th anniversary of Richard Dawkins’ excellent The God Delusion.

Like so many other thousands of people, The God Delusion was a major factor in my de-conversion to atheism. One day I will write a detailed, personal account of that process. For now, I want to express my gratitude to Professor Dawkins for his incredible work.

The near future of the world will be better as more and more atheists are able to come out openly. Today’s youth are rejecting organized religion in record numbers; soon they will be raising their own families and hopefully the new generation will be equally non-religious. Meanwhile, the older generations are facing the inevitability of death.

The future is secular. I can’t wait!

Latest Books Read

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

imageSure, it is atheism and religion again. Shoot me! Open-mouthed smile

50 Simple Questions For Every Christian is a really good read. The title pretty much says everything about the book. What are miracles? Why doesn’t everyone believe what you do? Have you read the bible?

Guy Harrison offers his own atheistic/skeptical answers to each one; but he clearly means for a believing reader to ponder these on their own. Each question’s “answer” from the author typically covers 2-4 pages.

The book is in no way an attack. Harrison is respectful throughout. I wish that I could keep my cool like that. But his demeanor is refreshing and definitely made me imagine asking these questions of my mother.

I know there is no chance of her reading this though. What a shame.

So, I had to kick things up a notch with the current book I’m reading – devouring actually, I’m already two-thirds through it.

imageDavid Silverman’s first (and hopefully not last) book Fighting God is considerably more direct and confrontational.

It is less the autobiography that I thought it would be and much more his defense of being a firebrand atheist. Silverman comes out swinging with the chapter, “Atheist, Know Thyself.” He makes the case that we non-believers should use the word atheist. Don’t use humanist, freethinker, agnostic or other labels.

First, most people don’t know the meaning of those other words; but they do know the meaning of atheist. Second, the more we use the word, the more normalized it will become. Anything else makes atheists appear to be a smaller minority than we actually are. That is just what the religions of the world want people to think!

So far it is a great read but with nothing surprising (so far) if you have ever seen David Silverman speak publicly.

Both books are well worth the read.

A Better Life

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

A Better Life book coverIt was a couple of years late, but I finally bought Chris Johnson’s book A Better Life: 100 Atheists Speak Out on Joy & Meaning in a World Without God. I say “a couple of years late” because I first heard Chris speak at FFRF’s 2014 National Convention in Los Angeles.

He gave a wonderful talk about the idea for the book and the work that went into creating it. It really does make a beautiful coffee table piece and Chris’ photography really inspires and explores what is beautiful in life. Many of the people featured inside have been past – or will be future – speakers at the FFRF Convention.

I often buy several books at the FFRF Conventions; but this time around, I couldn’t. I rectified that a little over a week ago and in spite of the possible postal strike in Canada, the book arrived a couple of days ago.

Check it out! Buy your own copy! It is worth it.

Newest Books Read

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Three weeks ago, I said I hadn’t done anything worth mentioning. That wasn’t quite true. I’ve continued – slowly – going through my book collection.

Alas, my commute time to and from work has not been as productive as I would like. I usually snooze.

imageNonetheless, I have recently finished reading two more books from the ever-growing atheism/religion/politics section of my shelves.

Dan Barker’s newest book is GOD: The Most Unpleasant Character In All Fiction. The title is, of course, taken from the well-known opening tirade in Chapter Two of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Barker breaks down his book into one chapter for each one of Dawkins’ adjectives. He provides dozens of verses from the bible to support every single one of those adjectives. It is both astonishing and disturbing that those words are so easily proven by the very words that are supposed to entice someone to believe in him and think of him as “good.”

However, Barker raises the bar. He finds additional adjectives to apply the moral monster that is The Lord Jealous.

imageNext up was Darrel Ray’s book The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture. It is an interesting extended metaphor of faith and religion as a biological virus. It surprised me just how far Ray was able to go with this idea.

The book does not focus on any one religion. Ray uses terms like the “Catholic virus” and the “Islamic virus” when he needs to get specific but then refers to the “God virus” for broader general concepts. He is able to apply concepts of evolution – just at they apply to biological virii – to explain how God virii adapt and change over time to continue infecting other minds or to protect themselves against other God virii “invading” their territory.

On one level it is obviously tongue-in-cheek; but on another level – as one ponders the ideas a bit – it makes a lot of sense.

Both books are well worth reading.

New Books & Reading Progress

Sunday, February 7th, 2016

One nice benefit of a commute to Mississauga or Toronto on the GO Transit system is that I can get more reading time in. Still not as much as I would like – I have found that the evening trip home is especially difficult to focus on something deep.

didJesusExistI mentioned previously that I want to dig-in to the historicity versus the mythic stories of Jesus. To that end, I have begun reading Bart Ehrman’s excellent (so far) Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument For Jesus Of Nazareth. Ehrman is certainly a historicist; it is not a spoiler to say this because it is printed right on the dust jacket flaps. Ehrman is focusing on the evidence he sees for Jesus having been someone walking around early first century Palestine.

Currently, I am approaching the half-way mark. So far Professor Ehrman has considered the evidence from the Gospels and from the Bible outside of Gospels (focusing specifically on Paul’s writings). He has touched on Flavius Josephus and his epic The Antiquities Of The Jews and will examining this in greater depth later in the book.

islamAs a bit of a change, I also read the short book Islam And The Future Of Tolerance by Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz.

This book is slightly longer than Harris’ Letter To A Christian Nation, but a marginally slower read since Letter is more like a rant and this book is a back-and-forth discussion between two very smart men.

It is refreshing to give Harris enough time to expound on his ideas. Famously, on Bill Maher’s show Real Time, Ben Affleck began a shouting session – actually changing the topic since Harris was not on the show to discuss Islam – that devolved rapidly.

Nawaz is a former radical Muslim who spent time in an Egyptian prison. He did not come out of prison a non-believer. He still practices Islam; however, he agrees that there needs to be secular reform. He helped create the Quilliam Foundation to promote and foster these ideas.

It is dialogue like this that gives me hope. As an atheist, I wish religion would just disappear; but I know that that won’t happen.

Both of these books are well worth reading.

Another Book Finished & Another Started

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

SavingCapitalismLast Friday night, just before nodding off to sleep, I finished Robert Reich’s excellent book Saving Capitalism: For The Many Not The Few.

My first encounter with Reich’s ideas was in the documentary Inequality For All. You can think of this book as an expansion or companion to that film. Although one might think economics to be a dry subject; Reich’s writing is very approachable. The first several chapters break down the causes for today’s chasm between the Haves and the Have-Nots.

The final chapters then explore the steps that are necessary to correct the imbalance.

What struck me the most was how Mr. Reich repeatedly stressed that this is not about some conspiracy theory. The ultra-rich have not gathered in secret somewhere to pull the political strings to create this situation. They have behaved as any rational actor would. Rather like the death by 10,000 papercuts, no one person or action is responsible. Instead, many discrete events over the course of a few decades have brought this about.

Both the documentary and this book emphasizes that we have been here before. The Great Depression of the 30s and the height of the Robber Barons of the late 19th Century have close parallels with what is happening today. Corrective action was taken in order to fix what had gone wrong. We need to take corrective actions again and make capitalism work for everyone instead of just a handful of ultra-rich.

ExtremeBricksMy next book is a bit of a unicorn-chaser.

Extreme Bricks is about the LEGO fans and Master Builders who build huge models. These are often on display at LEGOLand parks or at toy conventions.

The chapters cover some biographical information about the builder and then discuss the model and challenges behind its creation. Fascinating stuff.

As much as I love LEGO and dream of having millions of bricks, I know that I do have the patience to build at scales like these. But I profoundly appreciate the passion that these people have.

Finished Another Robert M. Price Book

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

Although I do enjoy reading Robert M. Price’s books, they usually take me a long time to get through. He is spectacularly knowledgeable on the subject and explores issues very deeply. I often need to take extended breaks from reading before returning to them.

jidJesus Is Dead was not that different. I did manage to finish it faster than The Incredible Shrinking Son Of Man but that was mainly due to it being a shorter book!

Still, it was an enjoyable read covering a subject that I will certainly be exploring in greater depth in 2016. In short, was Jesus a real man or completely fictional? It is a fascinating question.

In Jesus Is Dead, Price tackles several Christian apologists with a chapter for each one. He takes apart each of their arguments with laser-like precision. Price easily pokes holes in their theories – doubtlessly his former life as an apologist helps.

As one can guess, Price is a mythicist – Jesus is created out of whole-cloth from previous myths and hero tales. My favourite author on the subject of the Bible is Bart Ehrman and I believe he is a historicist – Jesus was a real person whose story has been exaggerated with miracles and such.

Like Price, historian Richard Carrier is a mythicist. I have books by both Ehrman and Carrier on this subject. I’m curious to find out which author presents the best evidence.

Although I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions; I do hope to read a lot more books in 2016. My list grows faster than I can clear it!

A Song Of Ice & Fire

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

woiaf

Last week I finally finished the fifth book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire series.

Of course, it was the HBO Game Of Thrones that got me into this. I started with season 1 from Netflix and then immediately bought seasons 1-3. I can’t wait for season 4 to become available.

If Martin doesn’t hurry up with book six, HBO is going to catch up to him!

Most recently, I bought The World Of Ice & Fire. This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen! It has a soft, faux-leather cover and the artwork is simply incredible. I love seeing the impressions of Westeros and its inhabitants through the eyes of others. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for any fan.

Forged

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

A couple of days ago I finished reading Bart Ehrman’s Forged.

Powerful stuff. When combined with his other books; – Jesus, Interrupted and Misquoting Jesus – you get something much closer to real bible study than what I ever experienced inside a church. This actually is one of the most frustrating things that I face when discussing Christianity with believers – they simply cannot accept that their holy books have been altered over the centuries. The idea is completely alien to them.

Ehrman’s work is not intended to make new atheists or to trash a religion. Simply, he seeks to uncover the truth about Christianity’s history. There is so much that happened during the first few formative centuries and we only have enticing snippets of it today. The belief systems of the various sects – again, modern Christians simply cannot seem to wrap their heads around other, equally valid but now all-but-lost, ways of thinking and worshipping. This stuff is endlessly fascinating to me.

I look forward to reading more of Bart Ehrman’s books.

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