A short review of the Pope’s book, Jesus of Nazareth

Now seems like an apt time to talk about my reading of Pope Benedict the XVI book, Jesus of Nazareth, considering he is in the middle of a historic visit to the USA. The best that can be said about it is that it’s short. It could be shorter, there really shouldn’t be so much to say about a carpenter who lived in the first century AD, and who either fancied himself a demi-god or happened to have the right group of friends who fancied him to be. If you’ve walked through your local bookstores religions section though you’ll notice a great deal of thick books expounded on Jesus’ remarkable role in the history of the world, they’re also usually full of greek and latin words. These are the types of books that look good on a bookshelf. I suspect though that if Jesus’ message was so simple and clear you wouldn’t need several 1000 pages to explain to someone. But anyway back to the Pope’s book

It’s all right I guess, I’ve been told by numerous sources (New York Times, Washington Post, etc…) that Benny is one smart guy, he was John Paul’s head theologian. The man can certainly string an argument together and he does, but it always falls apart when we get to of Jesus. Which is the problem with Christianity (or Islam, or Mormonism) Benedict really wants us to believe that Jesus is God, and he holds up the Bible, and the fuzzy feeling he and millions of others get when they think about him as justification for his beliefs. This doesn’t work for me, because Scientologists get the same fuzzy feeling from reading Dianetics and thinking about L. Ron Hubbard, and I know at least two guys who get it when thinking about Playboy magazine. Perhaps I’m missing something, but I can’t see why the age of the Bible and the number of its followers should separate it from the weirdos in the latter two groups.  The Judeo-Christian God isn’t any more legitimate than the Flying Spaghetti Monster or He-Man, he just happens to be followed by a hell of a lot more people. Which brings us to the ultimate problem I have with Jesus of Nazareth, I don’t have any faith. I can follow the Pope’s arguments up until he makes the leap that leaves logic behind and goes head-long into faith…

I could also mention the Pope’s tired argument that if everyone just believed as he did all our problems would go away. If we all just scurried back to the 12th century where the Catholic church controlled their lives but also their thoughts. I’m sorry I don’t believe a sincere belief in Jesus as the Savior of the World and the Catholic Church as his instrument here on earth would stop people from finding reasons to hate and kill each other. In fact the history of western civilization only confirms my belief.

Two More Books off the List… Oh, look there’s still a Library here…

Yesterday I finished reading The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy by Two Guys. I didn’t finish the book but I am done with reading it. I should have just picked up the original article these two wrote. I don’t need a 400 page, immaculately researched, and backed up book to tell me that Israel gets a free pass here in the United States. Turn the news on and you see it does. As do all our other brutal but anti-terrorist friends in the world.  Is this going to change anytime soon? Probably not, the book quotes innumerable politicaians and organizations that all say the same thing, “The Israel Lobby is the most powerful in Washington”, and “They control the public discourse relating to Israel and the Middle-East in this country”. That is a depressing thought, it is also depressing to think that even bringing up the topic of a bias in American discourse towards Israel gets you immediately labeled a new anti-Semite. So I guess that is what I’m going to be looking forward to, when I say that Carter is right and what is going on in Israel and along the West Bank is Apartheid and there is no excuse for it in a democratic country. There is also no excuse for anyone who thinks that it is okay to do so, regardless of the reasoning behind it. Racism is Racism, Hate is Hate. You don’t get rid of it by building walls around it, or killing it.

Enough of the depressing, soul wrenching dump we call the Middle East.

I also just finished Hardcore Zen by Brad Warner. I liked the book, but then Buddhism appeals to me Zen in particular because there is no religiousness about it. It’s a practice and it’s solely concerned with the here and now, this existence. If more people were doing that instead of getting weepy eyed and hopeful about what might happen after were dead, the world would be a better place. I didn’t need all the talk about the punk scene in the 80’s but that’s Warner’s life and this is his book… So he can do what he wants. Stripping all the bull out of practice though, I liked that. Also the talk about Godzilla rocks, he needed more of that and less of Ultraman, who likes Ultraman?

In conclusion, if you’re interested in learning about Zen Buddhism without all the ritual and formula and tricky words, without all the baggage you should pick up a copy of the Hardcore Zen.  If you need all the references to back up what you already knew about American foreign policy towards Israel pick up the first book and flip to the back, there is pages of it. Oh, and pointing out the truth doesn’t make you a bigot. Some people just don’t like the truth… Screw them.

Reviewing Cradle to Cradle

I just finished reading Cradle to Cradle by W. McDonough & M. Braungart.  It’s an interesting book, big on ideas sadly short on details. The book is about changing how things are designed in our world today. Most designers approach their project as a cradle to grave affair. Create a product that will breakdown after X years and then have the consumer throw it away. They advocate a paradigm shift of creating products that when disposed of can be upcycled instead of downcycled (recycled) or when thrown away give something back to environment. They list a couple of projects that they’ve worked on that did just that or at least started down that road.  They don’t acknowledge though the enormous difficulty in restructuring an entire economic system, especially one in which billions of people and trillions of dollars are heavily invested.

There’s nothing to disagree with in the book because of its abstraction.  There isn’t anything here to attack because everything is only intellectual. The only complaint that can be leveled against them is their lack of concrete details. There isn’t any plan here to get done what they want to get done. It’s easily to build castles in the clouds, it doesn’t take anything to do so. The difficulties arise when you start devising a plan, a plan that not everyone is going to agree with. A plan that some are goingto vehemently oppose. No one, no one wants to destroy the planet. Everyone agrees it should be cherished and protected. Say when you say that you’re preaching to the choir. When it comes to the “how” that is where the trouble starts. McDonough and Braungart don’t offer any hows though so their book ultimately goes no-where and does nothing…

%d bloggers like this: