TWO BOOKS : Why Religion?, AND, The Alphabet Versus The Goddess

Admit it. ¬†You’re a believer. ¬†You believe in something, many things. ¬†Anyone who has ever taken Philosophy 101 has heard this question: why is there something rather than nothing?¬†(Nothing¬†is what the rocks dream of, wrote Aristotle.) ¬†You¬†“believe” but the varieties of belief are vast. ¬†Perhaps you believe in a god of wrath who, like santa claus, knows naughty from nice ; ¬†or in¬†ha satan¬†(Hebrew for¬†the accuser:¬†AKA satan, the boogey man) ; ¬†or in material reductionism (a determinism which denies free will, arguing that atomic force-fields comprise reality, denying that you have any choice) ; ¬†or in a Messiah (ever-present, or yet to come, and/or in an attendant Holy Ghost) ; ¬†or in The Church of Medicine (no heretics or free-thinkers allowed) ; ¬†or naturopathy ; ¬†or in sex-drugs-and rock’n’roll ; ¬†or simply in¬†gardening your beliefs.¬† ¬†Interpretation is¬†everything. ¬†And culture shapes our beliefs. ¬†So, on to the two books . . .¬†

I’ve just finished reading both books depicted above, back to back. ¬† What a fabulous experience! ¬†I read the Alphabet book first, but at 450 pages, I suggest you start with¬†Why Religion?, as it’s faster paced, and gripping. ¬†I’ve enjoyed several books by Elaine Pagels, and am stunned by the candor of her storytelling here. ¬†It’s autobiographical ‚ÄĒ painfully so. ¬†She relates the loss of her first child, age 6, followed by the death of her husband, a prominent physicist, a year later while on a group hike, shortly after they had adopted two infants. ¬†(I’ll put her book alongside a classic by CS Lewis, titled¬†A Grief Observed.) ¬†While the Pagels book could be prickly for someone recovering from loss of a loved one, her telling contains blessings, and surprises. ¬†(Read it before gifting it.) ¬†It contains much wisdom about consoling the bereaved. ¬†She deals with anger, rage, superstition, alcoholism, depression, theology, and much more.

Next, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, was written by a nuerosurgeon who was also a competent scholar with interests in history, anthropology, language, and gender-issues. ¬†He, too, is a great storyteller ‚ÄĒ and his book argues compellingly that the world became a crueler place due to the invention of reading and writing, when matriarchy was displaced by patriarchy (and by its male hunting-parties and armies). ¬†Momma! ‚Äďthis book is an education. And it’s in the collection at Merida English Library, with a Dewey number of 302.22.

The Pagels book can also be found there, as I have donated my copy to the collection.