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M. D. Abrams (Uckfield, UK)

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Burn After Reading [DVD]
Burn After Reading [DVD]
Dvd ~ George Clooney
Price: £3.18

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Small Town Audience Got it, 12 Jan. 2009
This review is from: Burn After Reading [DVD] (DVD)
All the five-star reviews got it: the writing, the acting, all impeccable. I saw this is a small English town. I like some of the Coen Bros. films very much, but find most of them only "very interesting," and "worthwhile." After a bit, I was convinced that this film will be ranked as not only one of their very best, but one of the great classic American comedies. It is absolutely vicious, but without the bleakness of, say, "Fargo." Anyway, it built flawlessly right to the end, and what I enjoyed almost as much as the film was the suppressed but uncontrollable, hysterical laughter from the entire audience during the final lines. You know, the kind of laughter when you really shouldn't laugh? It included, of course, me. Oh, and also my wife -- one of the hardest audiences I know.

The God Delusion
The God Delusion
by Richard Dawkins
Edition: Hardcover

82 of 107 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As Good As It Gets, 24 Oct. 2006
This review is from: The God Delusion (Hardcover)
Although to many the non-existence of "God" is self-evident, RICHARD DAWKINS' The God Delusion is an essential book, a five star book, a seemingly effortless vivisection of religious belief, comparable to James' Varieties of Religious Experience.

Unlike his critics and detractors, Dawkins draws on an oceanic body of knowledge in related fields to support his argument that the existence of God is in probability statistically insignificant, in any case unnecessary, and in practice, a cooked-up chimera responsible for more harm than good. This apparently confrontational position is actually a gateway to "...more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy," as Hamlet remarked to his friend Horatio. (I use "heaven" in this context to mean the unknown, which science has always acknowledged as a beckoning force.)

Here, as with all Dawkins' books, you will learn lots of new things, such as the apparent altruism of fish, birds and flowers, symbiosis in disparate creatures, and the Potlatch Effect in humans, as well as Dawkins' many generous references to and examples of the work of writers, moral philosophers, and real-world findings of scientists. I repeat: even if you completely agree with Dawkins' position, the book is still an eye-opener.

That Dawkins has seriously succeeded in aim as well as style is evidenced by some of the negative reviews here. Distinguished by their bad grammar, spelling, and the one (or two) -star grading, clearly meant as a "spoiler" for the enthusiastic five-star majority, these reviews show how effectively Dawkins' argument has poked the hornet's nest of monotheistic religious conviction and revealed it for the angry, buzzing, self-righteous swarm of half-truths and tribal prejudices it conceals. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the deep resentment and fear of Dawkins has more to do with his passion, class, breadth of knowledge and writing skill, than whether something called God exists or not.

This is a shame, because the "answer" to atheism is both simple and inclusive, clearly spelled out by the late Joseph Campbell: religious myth is a metaphor, a springboard into a state which, if reached, cannot be naturalistically described. The atheist has no problem with this, because it simply expresses individual taste.

It's the equivalent of having a good friend whose sexual preference you don't share. Expressing contempt for that preference, or even arguing about it, is neither friendly nor respectful, and will get you nowhere. Of course this respect must work both ways, and must never involve children. The trouble always begins when one or the other evangelises their position by force or threat of force, a characteristic of the Abrahamic religions, and the religions of communism and fascism. (I simply can't imagine a Buddhist Inquisition or a Taoist air force bombing a village, or a Confucian court hanging a young girl for adultery, can you?)

The number of books Dawkins has provoked in opposition continue to increase. I wasted some time by reading a few. I admit I was tempted to sprinkle some one-star grades around myself for playground fun before I realised that (a) I already had a life, (b) if I couldn't be constructive, I should shut up, and (c) it's not me, but Dawkins who has once again answered all his critics and all their questions (There's even a chapter sub-headed, "Why Be So Hostile?" -- a question asked repeatedly of Dawkins) comprehensively and directly. Those who won't get it will never get it; perhaps an imagined God will provide some consolation for their anger and confusion. But you're different: buy the book.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 24, 2011 5:15 PM BST

Dawkins' God: Psychological Perspectives: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life
Dawkins' God: Psychological Perspectives: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life
by Alister E. McGrath
Edition: Paperback

87 of 124 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No Second Act, 11 Sept. 2006
Dawkins God has a great first act. It generously sets out Dawkins' case, even if a bit distorted, and sets up the possibility of an exciting dialogue -- McGrath states this to be his intention -- between belief in a Supreme Being, and those who object to, or have no need to put up with, the very concept of one.

Unfortunately, the second act is an utter letdown. Not only does McGrath fail to answer Dawkins, what objection he does give, on the level of "Oh-yes-there-is a-God-and-you-can't-prove-there-isn't", falls into heard-it-all-before assertions of those for whom an "oceanic feeling" is accessible. This "oceanic feeling" (cf. Civilization and its Discontents) sometimes confused with "awe", undoubtedly exists. For some people. But McGrath never really explains why those who get along perfectly well without such a feeling, like Dawkins, are wrong, or mistaken, or missing out.

McGrath's generous treatment of Dawkins (whose Achilles' heel is his "meme" theory --best ignored) never even hints at "shrill" (the word most used by critics of Dawkins), but this only increases the disappointment on seeing a Professor Of Historical Theology At Oxford University fall into the time-worn trap of pointing at the "secular" regimes of, say, Robespierre, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Kim-il-Sung as examples of "atheist" or secular atrocities balancing any inhumanity the religious world had or has to offer.

In other words, some of us are good and some us (most of us, according to Thales) are bad. Sometimes we're worse. Nazism, Communism, and the Terror were all religions, and behaved as such. Their followers showed the same idolatry, the same fanatical intolerance of disbelievers and heretics, and the same kind of pomp and regalia as anything Rome, the Orange Order, or Islam could put on display.

The fact that God was forbidden by these "secular" regimes only proves they were anything but "atheist"; that "Dear Leader" or " Der Fuehrer" was simply another word for Lord Of The Universe.

Missing, too, is how regimes of the ancient world got along perfectly well -- and perfectly badly -- without monotheism, and how Buddhism manages without the concept of a Deity.

The greatest disappointment of the book is in McGrath's avoidance of Dawkins' real argument: not that organised religion does more harm than good, or that God doesn't exist, but that the concept itself is utterly unnecessary.

McGrath keeps telling us that Dawkins' attack on religion is naive and outdated, which would be an interesting point if he showed what the sophisticated and current religious position is, which he does not. It still falls to the late Joseph Campbell to remind us that religion cannot be more -- or less -- than a metaphor, a springboard into that which can't be articulated.

John ("Chinese Room") Searle is Mills Professor Of the Philosophy Of Mind And Language at Berkeley. In response to a South African Nobel Laureate in Neurology arguing that, because there was no physical evidence of God or Love in the brain, that these concepts existing outside mere biology was "a miracle." In reply, Searle went through a detailed description of what happens when the human eye sees an apple. After listing the possibilities for eating, cooking growing, painting and writing about the apple once it had reached Broca's Area, Searle asked the Nobel Laureate, "Isn't that miracle enough for you?"

The last word to Dawkins, who, at the conclusion of a largely excoriated two-part TV program in the UK, showed a Blue Planet-type series of scenes of the earth: seascapes, underwater marvels, mountains, etc., at the end of which he asked the viewer, "What more do you want?"

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