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3rd Quarter 2006 ~ NONFICTION Book Suggestions! 
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Post Re: 3rd Quarter 2006 ~ NONFICTION Book Suggestions!
Chris OConnor: Look over the tenets of humanism and show me the arrogance and then we can discuss how we're acting closed-minded.

That's just it -- it isn't my argument, so I can't.

Quote: GOD CREATED the world and all of its creatures in the year 4004 B.C. We have this on the assurance of...
We should read this book?

I guarantee you I could take a sentence and a half out of nearly any book we've read and make it sound absurd. Much depends on how he ends that second sentence. It might end with, "the Bible, which I believe to be infallible". Or it might end with, "the disgraced theologians of the past." I don't see any reason to assume that Ehrenfeld is going to end the way you seem to think he's going to end.

Personally, I would think that some of you would find this quote heartening: "In the first chapter I am especially hard on the JudeoChristian tradition, and this also requires explanation."

That said, I do see one point that is obviously objectionable to you. It does seem clear that Ehrenfeld believes in a divine creator. It also seems clear to me that he hasn't made that belief a central part of the book, to the extent that religious readers have criticized it in its originally published form.

So let's put that aside for the moment. I'm not going to try to convince you guys to read this particular book. I may read it myself, and when I do, I'll let you know what I thought. But while looking for a copy in the library stacks last night, I realized that there are several shelves full of books that review humanism in a critical light. Would anyone here be willing to read one of those, provided that we could find one that had fairly logical arguments? Or are critiques of humanism off-limits altogether?

riverc0il: thanks chris, those quotes say it all... not a freethinkers book.

I don't see that at all. In fact, if the basis of freethinking is thinking apart from institutional doctrine, then it looks to me as though Ehrenfeld has taken it a step further than most people. Not only is he critical of JudeoChristian religion, he's also critical of the philosophy that replaced it. The question that remains is that of how logical his argument is, and that's not something we can really estimate based on the quotes Chris provided.

Chris OConnor: but anyone that tries to argue that humanism is arrogant obviously doesn't understand a thing about it.

Wow. I'd be careful Chris. That sounds like an opinion that's ready to ossify.

At any rate, forget this particular book. What do you think of the possibility of reading another book which attempts a criticism of humanism?




Thu Mar 30, 2006 5:19 pm
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Post Re: 3rd Quarter 2006 ~ NONFICTION Book Suggestions!
Mad:

The main thing is, ANY doctrine that has at it's base an entity (pick one) that is most likely fake is not a doctrine that most of us here are willing to take seriously...and books on debunking that topic appeal more to a traditional freethinker (and I know theists like to think they are freethinkers, so I stress the traditional freethinker) than a book knocking a system that bases it's premises on people...reality...nature. Things we can pretty much study and work with.

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Thu Mar 30, 2006 5:56 pm
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Post Re: 3rd Quarter 2006 ~ NONFICTION Book Suggestions!
Quote:
But while looking for a copy in the library stacks last night, I realized that there are several shelves full of books that review humanism in a critical light. Would anyone here be willing to read one of those, provided that we could find one that had fairly logical arguments? Or are critiques of humanism off-limits altogether?

as i have already stated, i would be willing to read a balanced book that critically examines the humanistic position but one that does not rely on the existance of god and juxtoposition of belief vs unbelief to prove a point. i suspect the previous book you recommended did that which is why i said it isn't much of a freethinkers book. you don't need to be an athiest to be a freethinker (susan jacoby's book makes the case for this VERY eloquently) but you do need a healthy dose of skepticism. a freethinker would not agrue against humanism by bringing up god. a core of humanism is using reason and logic, not appealing to something that can not be proven to exist. humanism has nothing to do with faith any ways! humanism is free of faith from what i understand which means it is open to any one as a platform. using a god attack against humanism is like using a sword to cut the air.

perhaps i am not explaining the thought behind my statement very well, but i stand behind the stentiment that based on the quotes provided, the book proposed doesn't fit well into a freethinker mode.

my biggest point here: just because this is a freethinker community does not mean we should entertain every book under the sun with an open mind. we all have limited time here and limited choices on what we read. if something doesn't look like it holds water, why bother? should we read something with the sole intetion of critiquing and critisizing every word, just to prove someone else wrong and our belief correct? i have no problem doing this with a book that makes valid points, that only stregnthens my arguements and allows me to develop my opinion better. but disputing hogwash is a waste of time. the lack of critical reviews substantiating that this book has merit is most alarming and is the main reason behind this belief. if the book had reviews from both thiests and athiests alike, humanists and its critics alike, then cool, let's take a look. and i will read a book that meets that criteria.

putting this another way: if we are interested in politics but are really leaning on the left, should we read Ann Coulter for another perspective and to defend our arguements? or maybe watch some oreily factor to get a better sense of weakness in our arguements. this is the spirit in which i mean that last statement.




Thu Mar 30, 2006 6:09 pm
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Post Re: 3rd Quarter 2006 ~ NONFICTION Book Suggestions!
DH's suggestion of "Realizing Hope" looks interesting. though after having read so so many political books proposing an ideal solution to society's problems, i sometimes grow weary of books suggesting alternatives that are nearly impossible to see happen and ideas that about big picture re-alignment instead of grass roots (which i doubt any system could be changed from at this point in this country). however, this would be an interesting idea to create discussion and look at different view points. from a practical point of view, i have no use for utopian ideals as i have already accepted the fact that there are so so so many ways for governments and economic systems to be run that most people won't consider, why read yet another idealist vision that shall never come to pass. but on the discussion issue, this book has real potential of drawing in everyone about topics relevent to us all regardless of whether such systems change.




Thu Mar 30, 2006 6:13 pm
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Post Re: 3rd Quarter 2006 ~ NONFICTION Book Suggestions!
rivercoil: though after having read so so many political books proposing an ideal solution to society's problems, i sometimes grow weary of books suggesting alternatives that are nearly impossible to see happen and ideas that about big picture re-alignment instead of grass roots (which i doubt any system could be changed from at this point in this country).

This is interesting, considering I've found scores and scores of books providing scathing critiques of the contemporary world (what's wrong with everything), and a tiny few that actually consider what to replace it with. Especially on the Left, where there is no lack for critical analysis of global capitalism and American hegemony. Albert's book offers a harsh critique, but it's real meat involves the kinds of values and institutions that will replace our current malaise with the kind of world we actually want. In other words, it's not too difficult to say what is wrong; it is far more challenging to say what an alternative could be. Albert's book is the latter.

Of course, there are more than enough who see the current political and economic system as working well enough, and that there is no alternative: even to suggest as much is to be seen as a utopic loon, anti-American commie, or even terrorist sympathizers. Albert's book will never be read by these folk.




Fri Mar 31, 2006 11:59 am
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Post Re: 3rd Quarter 2006 ~ NONFICTION Book Suggestions!
riverc0il: as i have already stated, i would be willing to read a balanced book that critically examines the humanistic position but one that does not rely on the existance of god and juxtoposition of belief vs unbelief to prove a point.

I'm not convinced that it argues from that point of view. His preface seemed to me to indicate that, whatever his belief in regards to religion, he's argued from a largely naturalistic standpoint, and has met criticism from religious readers for precisely that reason.

At any rate, I'm dropping my suggestion. But the part of me that loves an underdog will be seeking out this book. I intend to read it as quickly as possible and post a brief synopsis, along with a thumbs up or thumbs down, in the "Secular Humanism" thread that Chris posted. That way we can at least have an answer to the question he posed.

humanism has nothing to do with faith any ways!

That's a topic for another thread. Suffice it to say, I think there's likely a very large element of faith in humanism. I also think we would do well to trace the history and development of humanism. The "Humanist Manifesto" that Chris has posted once or twice on BookTalk seems to me like a rather late manifestation of a philosophical stance that has had the better part of four centuries to develop -- it also seems to concentrate a great deal more on humanism's aspirations that on its methods. There's more to know about humanism, and I don't think we can reasonably entertain criticisms of humanism until we know a bit more about its premises and its conclusions.

my biggest point here: just because this is a freethinker community does not mean we should entertain every book under the sun with an open mind. we all have limited time here and limited choices on what we read. if something doesn't look like it holds water, why bother?

I agree. But I disagree that we've given this particular book sufficient consideration to determine whether or not its arguments are rational. All we know of its arguments so far are that they're levelled against some aspect of humanism.

the lack of critical reviews substantiating that this book has merit is most alarming and is the main reason behind this belief.

There is an equal lack of reviews undermining its validity. All I feel justified in concluding from this is that it isn't a very frequently reviewed book. And given how easily you guys have dismissed it, I suspect that I know why.

But I'll make more suggestions later on, and I'll steer clear of this topic until I've actually had a chance to read and evaluate the book. You guys may be right; it might be crap. I just don't feel like I've seen enough evidence to pronounce that verdict yet -- and I'm a picky guy when it comes to what I read. I'm not trying to be a burr in anybody's side. I wouldn't have resuggested the book had I remembered that it got disqualified from consideration last time; I simply forgot.




Fri Mar 31, 2006 3:18 pm
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This Crimes Against Humanity Amazon link lets you by the book new.

Mad, it may be advantageous to select a book which one of us had read before and can vouch for. We can avoid books like Value and Virtue, which none of us cared for.

If you want to learn about Middle East history, I'd recommend William Cleveland's . It presents more perspective, while A Peace to End All Peace focuses on a few years after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. They're both very good books.




Sun Apr 02, 2006 10:24 pm
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Post Re: Moral Politics
river: "Crimes Against Humanity" may not be the best choice simply because it comes across as something of a text book. The topic sparked my interest -- the origin of the concepts and laws concerning human rights is something that has interested me ever since I read Hannah Arrendt's "Eichmann in Jerusalem". Before that, it hadn't really occurred to me how recently we've begun to think of genocide as belonging to a category like that of "a crime against humanity". All sorts of complex problems arise therefrom. I stumbled on "Crimes Against Humanity" just looking through the Borders web site, but it looks like a fairly comprehensive study, and it's really the only one of its kind that I've seen.

Julian: You're right that it will usually be helpful to read books on the strength of trusted recommendations. But as it is, we don't have that many people participating in the discussions. We may be better off looking for trusted recommendations outside the pool of probably discussion participants.

Look at it this way: assuming that you just finished reading "Moral Politics", it will still be three months before we even vote on whether or not it's our quarterly reading. Maybe you have better recall than I do, or maybe you took careful notes, but I know that I wouldn't be able to make the same sort of contributions to a discussion that I had read three months prior that I would if I were currently reading the book. Given that you were one of the three or four people really involved in last quarter's discussion, I wouldn't want to see you only half involved in an upcoming discussion. Would you be willing to read the book again, three months from now? If so, then I have no objection. But if you'd be reluctant to do so, then I'd rather pick a book you haven't read, in hopes that you'd be willing to contribute to the discussion as you read.




Mon Apr 03, 2006 4:43 pm
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Post War and Conquest in the Modern Middle East
I think tackling Robert Fisk's massive The Great War for Civilisation : The Conquest of the Middle East would be an excellent education in the history of the Modern Middle East, crucial contemporary issues in the region, and future prospects as well. Fisk is an intrepid journalist who has covered the region for thirty years and has spoken face to face with many if not all of the key players that have helped to make up this turbulent history. He certainly has a point of view and will only challenge us to decide where we line up on many eminently important concerns in the world today.


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Starred Review. Combining a novelist's talent for atmosphere with a scholar's grasp of historical sweep, foreign correspondent Fisk (Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon) has written one of the most dense and compelling accounts of recent Middle Eastern history yet. The book opens with a deftly juxtaposed account of Fisk's two interviews with Osama bin Laden. In the first, held in Sudan in 1993, bin Laden declared himself "a construction engineer and an agriculturist." He had no time to train mujahideen, he said; he was busy constructing a highway. In the second, held four years later in Afghanistan, he declared war on the Saudi royal family and America.Fisk, who has lived in and reported on the Middle East since 1976, first for the (London) Times and now for the Independent, possesses deep knowledge of the broader history of the region, which allows him to discuss the Armenian genocide 90 years ago, the 2002 destruction of Jenin, and the battlefields of Iraq with equal aplomb. But it is his stunning capacity for visceral description



Fri Apr 21, 2006 3:31 pm
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Post Re: War and Conquest in the Modern Middle East
DH, any idea on what time periods are covered by "The Great War..." and how in depth Fisk explores the early parts of the last century or so? I am interested in the last 30 years of Middle Eastern history and politics, but I wouldn't want to focus on them to the exclusion on the earlier history of the 19th and 20th century. Those seems like crucial periods, and I'd really like to take a closer look at those.




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Post Re: War and Conquest in the Modern Middle East
MA: DH, any idea on what time periods are covered by "The Great War..." and how in depth Fisk explores the early parts of the last century or so?

The primary focus involves contemporary issues throughout his 30 year career in that part of the world. But he works to place all of these events in historical context. He has a few essays that focus specifically on historical issues: the history of European Colonialsm in the Middle East would be his expertise. Starting with Napoleon's interest in Egypt, through France, Great Britain, two world wars, a cold war, oil, and America's war on terror...he makes the right connections...or Left as it is.




Mon Apr 24, 2006 8:58 pm
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Post Re: War and Conquest in the Modern Middle East
Here's a page of reviews for Fisk's "The Great War for Civilization". They should be worth checking out in considering that title. Looks like a pretty mixed bunch. Just scanning through them, the most common complaint appears to be that Fisk's approach is untidy and polarized by his emotional responses. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I don't know that I can maintain interest in nearly 1200 pages of anger. That said, the average of the reviews is marginally favorable, and it may be worth while considering the good points the reviewers note.




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Post Re: War and Conquest in the Modern Middle East
Great link for the Reviews Mad. Fisk presents a strong and provocative point of view. He is not doing disinterested scholarship: but activist journalism. Of course, I think all scholarship has an activist element: serving political ends and alliances. Fisk is honest and up front about his allegiences. His anger is his critique, which is scrupulously documented and crushing. This can wear on the reader, no doubt. I think he represents a kind of journalism that tells the truth about things that matter, and is well worth his occasional storms.




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Post Re: 3rd Quarter 2006 ~ NONFICTION Book Suggestions!
Directive 19 The Memoirs of Sturmbannfuhrer Rolf Otto Schiller

Written by Rolf Schiller and Transcribed and Translated by Paul K. Harker

Review by Richard R. Givens: Perhaps the first book that explains the German perspective and reasons for the Holocaust. Mr. Schiller frankly discusses his distressing role in the Final Solution to the Jewish Question. Deeply profound and disturbing at times, this book recounts the career of an SS Legal Affairs Officer and speaks to us from the mind of a man who helped organize the destruction of the European Jews. Highly educational to anyone seeking to understand the methodology of genocide in the modern world.


This truly is a frank and disturbing book that explains the German reasons and methods of the Holocaust from the Nazi perspective. The author served 30 years for war crimes and wrote his account 60 years after the war. It's interesting to see his human and psychological development through the war years. Certainly a book worth reading and discussing.




Mon May 01, 2006 8:18 pm
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Post Re: 3rd Quarter 2006 ~ NONFICTION Book Suggestions!
This has to be one of the best suggestions I've ever seen on BookTalk. Please click on the above link and read the excerpt. I'd love to read and discuss this one.




Mon May 01, 2006 9:14 pm
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