Some of the most interesting books on religion, philosophy, atheism and skepticism published in the past months, organized in reverse order of when the book was reviewed. Readers across the theological spectrum can find interesting works covered here.
There is a common prejudice which says that philosophy is an esoteric subject with little or no relevancy for daily life. If true, this would suggest that the study of philosophy would bring no practical benefits. But is it true? I don't think so, and a recent book demonstrates that it isn't.
Does God exist? If so, is it possible for God to be male or female? Do we survive our physical deaths? What is religion and what purpose does it serve? Does life have any sort of meaning? All of these questions and more are topics in the philosophy of religion, the subject of the recent and worthwhile book "Global Philosophy of Religion" by Joseph Runzo.
Currently in the United States, the discussion over the relationship between public security and civil rights has reached new heights as the American government attempts to strike a new balance between protecting citizens against terrorism and protecting citizens against excessive government power.
Why do non-Christians make a fuss about Christmas in America? How could anyone have problems with Christmas? There are parties, gifts, days off - this should be a fun time for all concerned. Anyone who would challenge and/or reject Christmas sounds like a Scrooge, right?
Since the beginning of recorded human history, and probably well before that, people have wanted to learn about what the future would bring for them as individuals and for their societies. What sorts of methods have they used, and why has this common urge existed?
Does ESP exist? Are some people telepathic? Can your mind by read by someone else? Are there people, for example Uri Geller, who are genuine psychics? These are all interesting questions, and a large percentage of people would be inclined to answer "yes" to all of them. But why is that?
Munson's book covers a few recent topics like stem cell research and the growth of new organs. Also, it is aimed at people who don't have much experience either with medicine or with ethical philosophy, making it a good introduction for the average reader.
The only way to really understand the problems in the Middle East is to better understand the history of Muslim reactions to Western power, influence, religion and policies. Even then, a complete understanding may be elusive, but without greater historical background, it won't even be possible. Very quickly, a study of the history of the region leads to the question: What went wrong?
Why is it that Islam seems to be the only world religion which consistently produces large-scale terrorism and suicide bombers who kill and die explicitly in the name of their faith? Who are the people who commit such terrorism in the name of Islam? What do they want to achieve through their violent actions, and why?
Few people are unaware of the violence which keeps occurring between Israelis and Palestinians. Why is this happening - what are the causes, and are there any solutions? If you want to learn more but simply don't know where to start, a recent book from Dan Cohn-Sherbok and Dawoud El-Alami the place.