Profile for Michael Morton > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Michael Morton
Top Reviewer Ranking: 632,010
Helpful Votes: 109

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Michael Morton

Show:  
Page: 1
pixel
CTS New Daily Missal: People's Edition with New Translation of the Mass (Missal Daily)
CTS New Daily Missal: People's Edition with New Translation of the Mass (Missal Daily)
by Catholic Truth Soc
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £40.28

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars worth waiting for, 19 Mar 2012
The Catholic Truth Society took on a huge task providing all the books for the new translation of the Mass. Now they have released the Daily Missal which gives the texts and readings for every day of the year. It is very well designed and produced and an excellent resource for Catholics. However, it is quite a bulky tome and not easy at all to carry about. And because of this, I wonder about its durability. Former versions of a people's Missal would last a lifetime - securely bound and with very thin, fine paper. The CTS version may crack under strain - but only time will tell.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 15, 2012 11:58 AM BST


Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate (Terry Lectures) (The Terry Lectures)
Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate (Terry Lectures) (The Terry Lectures)
by Terry Eagleton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.95

48 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faith seeking understanding, 25 Jan 2010
Terry Eagleton has grown in stature over the years. From the late 1960s as the editor of Slant, a left-wing Catholic magazine brought out in the heady days after Vatican II, he became a renowned literary theorist, Oxford Professor of English and expert on Marxism. He has written over forty books and always writes wisely and well. On his life's work, he comments wryly that `one of the best reasons for being a Christian, as well as a Socialist, is that you don't like having to work, and reject the fearful idolatry of it so rife in countries like the United States. True civilisations do not hold predawn power breakfasts.'

His latest book is an edited version of the Terry Lectures, given at Yale University on the subject of the links and disjunctions between science and religion. He professes to know only a little about each, but takes as his adversaries the so-called `New Atheists', principally Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens (whom he irreverently joins together as `Ditchkins') and their disdainful dismissal of religion as the roots of all human evil, or most of it.

Writing for the defence, Terry returns surprisingly to his Catholic roots. His argument is that salvation is a political affair and all about the anawim (the poor and needy in Hebrew). He concedes that left-wing, radical Christians are a rarity, but that Christian faith is principally a matter of helping people, visiting the sick and the lonely and speaking up for them. It is a view that would be dismissed by most metaphysical, realist churchmen. After all, social workers can do all that.

Yet here is the point. Faith is not an intellectual assent to propositions; it is always faith-as-trust. As Kierkegaard would say, the facts do not really matter, nor even does universal truth. The truth for me is truth enough for me, a truth to live by. Most atheists miss this point. Not only do they have a naive understanding of God and theology, they inveigh against religion without understanding that they are the least qualified to do so. (After all, why go into it deeply when there are better things to do?)

Yet Terry's Socialism and critical background will not let Christianity off the hook. Clerical abuse of children - especially in Ireland where it was far, far worse than here - the demeaning of women, the move of the Church towards the bourgeoisie are all deeply disturbing. Christianity has betrayed itself badly. On the other hand, it is often more down to earth than the fantasies of the Enlightenment. It has the power to transform parts of human society without the hubris of Progress. Ditchkins and their allies cannot see that the Enlightenment was a mixed blessing. Neither are they willing to concede what Christian faith has indeed achieved, for that would mean putting tiresome qualifications on their dislike of it.

As the book and lectures progress, the reader is led into profound areas of religious belief. That it is not the opposite of reason, only of credulity or fanaticism. The relationship between belief and knowledge is complex: belief can be rational but untrue, but then quantum physics can be `true' but irrational (or at least deeply counter-intuitive). And then, most people believe in luck, but no-one knows what it is. Faith, as Terry constantly reiterates, articulates a commitment that precedes an description of the way things are. Suddenly a polemic against the New Atheists becomes a profound and stimulating reflection on the nature of religious faith. And this is the heart of the book, the pearl in the oyster.

And speaking of corny metaphors, sometimes there are things which jar the easy flow of the debate. Terry appears to join his enemies in exaggeration when it comes to organised religions faults. In his view, nuns (he means religious sisters) who ill-treated children were all `psycho-pathologically sadistic' He is also the master of the confusing simile. I puzzled for a while over his point that `it is rather like saying that thanks to the electric toaster we can forget about Chekhov.' And yet some of his gnomic utterances bear thinking about. That 'there has been no human culture to date in which virtue has been predominant' is a notion that qualifies many beliefs - religious or secular.

This is a well-written and valuable work. Terry Eagleton is reaching a rich maturity and he has much to offer during the course of his debate. That it reaches no conclusion is no matter. We could profitably take a line from economics and concede that if we put all the world's theologians in a line, they still would not reach a conclusion.


A Swamp Full of Dollars: Pipelines and Paramilitaries at Nigeria's Oil Frontier
A Swamp Full of Dollars: Pipelines and Paramilitaries at Nigeria's Oil Frontier
by Michael Peel
Edition: Hardcover

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oil and Troubled Waters, 16 Oct 2009
Michael Peel, the former West Africa correspondent for the Financial Times, has written a fascinating book. Part travelogue, part insight into big oil and the multinationals that produce and market it, the book is also a story of admiration for Nigeria with all its chaos, corruption and injustice. Peel travels the (often dangerous) world of the Niger delta where Shell, AGIP Chevron and other companies are tapping one of the more important reserves of crude oil in the world. The light, sweet crude is readily refined into petrol and there are considerable reserves in nearby Sao Tome, Gabon and Cape Verde. Yet the vast oil revenue that has come to the Federal Government (and the states) of Nigeria has done little to raise the living standard of the poor people who live in the delta. Quite the opposite, in fact. Pollution from the oil and the disinclination of the oil companies to clear up have turned the delta into something of a wasteland. And the story of theft by successive Nigerian government officials is staggering. Yet at the end of his story, Michael Peel is optimistic. Nigeria is a new country; its injustices and problems and abuses of power are more open, more blatant but in a way more honest. Legitimacy is really longevity, as it is in the West. People in newer countries can offer fresh ways of thinking and a hunger for reform. As the need for oil grows, and the need for this reformation, we shall surely hear a lot more about Nigeria.


DOM HELDER CAMARA: Essential Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters)
DOM HELDER CAMARA: Essential Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters)
by MCDONAGH
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.84

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Creation and Liberation, 30 July 2009
Many people will know that Karl Marx called religion the `opium of the people'. Far fewer, I would guess, will recall that he added that it was `the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world'. It was this that the South American bishops began to look at and act upon during the late 1960s. Earlier in the decade the Ecumenical Council of Vatican II had been a qualified success, particularly with regard to the role of the Church in the modern world. In 1967 Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Populorum Progressio had also examined the need to help the poor in what came to be called the `Third World'. But it was all done from a European perspective. The Conference of Latin American Bishops, known by its Spanish acronym CELAM, met in Medellin, Colombia, in 1968 and resolved on a brave and radical initiative - a preferential option for the poor. The Latin American Church would break from its identification with the state and its other-worldly view of salvation symbolised by the eighteenth-century Baroque and identify with the people at the most elementary level.
Helder Camara was a charismatic and influential figure in the debates of CELAM. He had been appointed Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, the state capital of Pernambuco in NE Brazil, in 1964 at almost the same time as a right-wing military junta under General Humberto Castelo Branco seized power. Although silenced by the regime for his outspoken views, he soon became an international celebrity for his writing and championship of those in need. This present book is edited by Francis McDonagh who has spent the last twenty years following development and religious issues in Latin America, including three years living in Recife as a correspondent for The Tablet. His deft editorship offers a good selection of the (mainly English) writings of Dom Helder Camara and an insight into his mind, his spirituality and his commitment. The selections from his many books highlight Dom Helder's distinctive blend of prayerfulness and social vision. They point toward the renewal of the church, the transformation of the social order, and the healing of a wounded planet.

Dom Helder's writing uncovers a genuine and very moving compassion for the poor, the needy and the marginalised both in the favelas and the sertao - the backlands of rural Brazil. He combines this with a deep faith in God's presence in creation. Interspersed with poetry, the text remind one of the vision of St Francis of Assisi. A faith that loves the earth.

His writing reveals that the many problems about Christian faith as a religion were submerged in genuinely serious problems about society. However, the `option for the poor' was a reasonable political choice but not as novel as some advocated of Liberation theology seemed to think. In reality it was very naive about the use of biblical texts. The flaw in an interpretation of the scriptures from a left-wing stance is that it is equally possible to interpret the Bible from a right-wing stance as well. Moreover, nothing in the modern history of the Church inclines people to trust the judgement of priests in politics. Politics does not solve religious questions; at some stage or other what emerges from political dialectic is the demand for an end to discussion: for conformity and for submission to those who know best where the true interests of society lie. Liberation theology was a kind of politicisation of orthodoxy, an attempt to make orthodoxy more palatable by gently secularising it. But it was a retreat from radical theology and it all made the defeat of Liberation theologians and activists possible during the years of Pope John Paul II. Men like Helder Camara and his one-time protégé, Cardinal Evaristo Arns of Sao Paolo, were gradually marginalised by the Roman Curia and then replaced by right wing establishment men on their retirement.

The book is not just the testimony of a kind, caring and highly single-minded pastor, It is also the tip of an iceberg revealing a sad and unhappy chapter of the Catholic Church in South America. The Theology of Liberation, inspired by the writings of Peruvian theologian Gustavo Gutierrez, was set to be a binding force throughout the continent. Unfortunately, it was regarded as Marxist anti-establishment and dangerous. Reading Dom Helder's account, many people will wonder why. Dom Helder was always puzzled that he was labelled with an attachment to Communism. `Christianism is much more revolutionary,' he said.


Religion and Human Fulfilment
Religion and Human Fulfilment
by Keith Ward
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.56

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is the Good Life Possible, 13 Jun 2009
By the late nineteenth century, as Friedrich Nietzsche disobligingly pointed out, most educated people in the West had ceased to believe in God. They had been won over to what they took to be a scientific view of the world. All the same, the traditional morality based on Christian and Judaic religion continued in full flight. Nietzsche protested that this was inauthentic and indefensible. You no longer believe in the foundations of your own value-system: if there is no God, then your morality cannot come from a transcendent source. Or - as Ivan Karamazov argued - if there is no God, everything is permitted.

For more than a century, the question posed by Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky has troubled philosophers and theologians. They have been aware that the relationship between religion and morality is close, but fraught with ambiguity. There are those who regard religion as being morally reactionary and vicious, opposing progress in the name of archaic divine laws. And then there are others who would uphold religion as an important defence of human value, moral dignity and objective moral standards.

Professor Keith Ward is one of the foremost commentators on Christian belief and doctrine in the context of modern science and the world faith traditions. He is Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford, the successor to Rowan Williams no less, and is to be taken very seriously. He is one of our foremost commentators on religious belief in the context of modern science and world faiths. And he comes up to evidence; he is easy to read, his argument is good and accessible. I must also pay tribute to SCM press whose presentation and setting is very easy on the eye. For that is no flattery in a world where theological and philosophy are often printed in texts and literary styles that are wearisome to read and difficult to follow.

The essential argument in this work is that all the major world religions have at their heart a concern for personal fulfilment, and that they place the ideal of such fulfilment in a transcendental or spiritual realm that has primary existence, reality and value. The objective and categorical moral force of morality can be safeguarded by religious devotion to transcendental goodness.

The book follows the structure of a lecture-series and so Keith explores this thesis by a careful examination in successive chapters. He discusses specific moral problems such as violence, human genetic modification and ethical concerns around the beginning and ending of human life. He looks at questions about secular and religious law in Christianity, Islam Judaism and Buddhism. He argues that these traditions have positive and creative vitality that can inspire and re-inforce a humanistic or `personalistic' moral engagement.

For he calls religious humanism `transcendental personalism', and I think that this is a bit of a three-card trick, because they are not really the same. No-one deep in religious faith and particularly in an academic setting like Oxford University wants to hear the proposal that morality is really a human conversational product. That it evolves slowly through a forensic debate, one that is best illustrated by the Jewish Rabbis and by the Jesuits during the seventeenth century. I felt that he missed this in his discussion of religious law when considering the contribution of the Torah; he circles around it but never bites. The same is true of The Case of Islam and Jihad which I thought he gave too easy a ride when you consider the common antipathy towards Islamism (as well as towards any organised `traditional' religion which are commonly viewed as morally ugly and violent. He acknowledges this all right, but does not respond strongly enough.)

In general, Professor Ward does write with a tone of reasonable, easy benevolence. It is a bit like Duke Senior in As You Like It who, free from the envious court, found `sermons in stones, books in the running brooks; good in everything'. However, he appears to realise this in the Prologue, which in some ways is the most interesting part of the book. The lectures from 2006 on which the book is based just predated the stream of literary invective from Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchen, Sam Harris and the boys, which seem to have shaken Keith Ward's goodwill and he feels he has to answer it all. His defence is, broadly speaking, to distinguish between good and bad religion. However, the making of that distinction entails an authentic moral judgement. Which is where we came in.


Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets
Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars luck be a lady, 2 Mar 2009
Taleb should do the races. He spends a good deal of his book explaining in a rather self-satisfied way that if you can keep your head when all around are losing theirs, then you don't understand the situation. He applies this to the rarified air of market trading, but all over the country people will tell you just why their dead cert never came in at Kempton Park and why it was likely that the 100/1 was going to win if only they'd looked more closely. It's interesting - but it's cracker barrel philosophy.


Page: 1