Selected here are the best books reviewed during the year 2005. It was difficult to pick just a few, there were so many good books from the past year, but I had to narrow the list down to fit this page. Qualities which helped books stand out include providing an interesting/unusual perspective on long-running debates, offering a real enduring value to readers (i.e., worth reading more than once), and being an invaluable resource on its topic.
Democracy is very important to America. Its a fundamental component of Americas politics, Americas culture, and most importantly Americas self-identity. America is defined less by ethnicity or religion like other nations and more by a political ethic of democratic self-governance. Is America truly democratic, however? Does it understand what democracy is and is it ready for democracy?
When one thinks of 'holy wars' waged with the approval of religion, religions like Christianity and Islam come to mind, not Eastern religions which appear more peaceful. Buddhism is thought of as focused on the personal development of peace and harmony. Most don't realize the extent of Zen Buddhism's complicity with the Japanese war machine and the horrors it unleashed on Southeast Asia.
Religion is not an unmitigated good. Although religion can do some good for people, religion can also be used as a cover for crimes - or merely for what is otherwise a naked grab for power. Unfortunately, too many people act as though religion is always positive.
A popular belief is that Nazism was the polar opposite of Christianity: in Germany, the Nazis planned to eliminate Christian churches while devout Christians opposed the Nazi agenda. Is this perception accurate? No. Some Nazis were anti-Christian and some Christians were anti-Nazi, but the majority were equally at home in both camps.
Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code' is one of the most popular fiction books of recent memory, but its just that: a work of fiction. How many readers who are supposed to know this also fully appreciate what this means? Just how much of the purportedly 'true' documents and history in the book are really fiction? Most readers dont know, but they should.
You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney and to have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you at no cost. Do you understand these rights? If you do, its because of the case of Ernest Miranda v. Arizona...
Opponents of gay marriage rely heavily on the argument that marriage has been defined in a particular way for hundreds and thousands of years; thus, altering the legal definition to include unions between members of the same sex is an unacceptable breach with the past. Such arguments are devoid of historical reality...
The debate over gay marriage is one of the most important social issues facing America today. If gays are denied the right to marry, then homosexual relationships will remain in a second-class status as compared to heterosexual relationships. If gays are afforded the same right to marry as others, then America's promises of liberty and equality will be expanded to include another group.
What role do embarrassment and shame play in human morality? Probably quite a bit - they are very effective means for controlling people in small groups. At the same time, though, they can lead people horribly astray. Just such a person was Jean-Claude Roland, currently in a French jail for killing his wife, his children, and his parents...
Most people realize that one of the central features of modern American fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism is a distinctive vision of gender roles both in society at large and in the family in particular. When fundamentalists are criticized, it is often on the basis of their perceived reactionary ideas about women, sex, and gender.