Category: Book Review

The Variety Show of Religious Experience

At least since Gilgamesh went on a quest for immortality in the ancient Babylonian epic that bears his name, road novels have often doubled as flights of spiritual fancy. In “Dharma Bums,” for example, Jack Kerouac read the pilgrimages of his Beat Generation friends through the lens of “A Buddhist Bible,” an anthology of Zen and other Buddhist scriptures edited by the Christian-minister-turned-Buddhist-advocate Dwight Goddard. “The Devil Is a Gentleman,” by J. C. Hallman, is nonfiction, but it too is a tale of the sort of spirituality that can be found on the American road. Like Kerouac, Hallman reads the

Speaking with the Devil: Author explores ‘America’s Religious Fringe’

In his book about extreme forms of religious practices, former Rancho Bernardo resident J.C. Hallman did not have to look far for one of the most striking examples of a belief gone wrong. Heaven’s Gate, the cult that ended with the suicides of its 39 followers in a Rancho Santa Fe mansion in 1997, kicks off Hallman’s “The Devil Is a Gentleman: Exploring America’s Religious Fringe” ($25.95, Random House). “I think I wanted to address the cult idea right from the get-go,” said Hallman, 39, the writer in residence at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. Inspired by philosopher William James’

One nation, under God — or not

Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism By Michelle Goldberg NORTON; 242 PAGES; $23.95 The Devil Is a Gentleman: Exploring America’s Religious Fringe By J.C. Hallman RANDOM HOUSE; 332 PAGES; $25.95 For most of the 20th century, the main debate over religion was whether it was merely dying or already dead. From Descartes to Darwin, the purveyors of Enlightenment rationalism and the scientific method had inflicted critical wounds. The only question in the minds of many thinkers was how much longer the bleeding could last before the veins went slack. At the outset of the 21st century, we appear to

Spirituality of celebrities revealed

THE GOD FACTOR: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People. By Cathleen Falsani. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux Book Publishers. 263 pages. $24.00. What do celebrities, politicians, authors, writers and other public figures have in common? They all have their own definitions of spirituality and what it is and isn’t, according to the book “The God Factor” by Cathleen Falsani. The book is a compilation of Falsani’s syndicated columns from the Chicago Sun Times. She includes interviews and photographs from a diverse group including playboy Hugh Heffner, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, NBA star Hakeem Olajuwon, the Rev. Al Sharpton and rock

Praying on the Innocent

Critic’s Choice: THE ABODE OF LOVE by Kate Barlow (Mainstream, Pounds 16.99) Secrets lurked around every corner at Agapemone (Greek for ‘Abode of Love’), the grand country house where Kate Barlow spent much of her extraordinary childhood. In its heyday the 200-acre estate at Spaxton in Somerset had been home to a notorious religious cult, started in the 1800s by a hellfire-and-brimstone priest. By the time Barlow stayed there, the cult was on its last legs and she knew nothing of her home’s scandalous history. She took for granted the team of very

On growing up fundamentalist

Historian reflects on getting, losing religion My Fundamentalist Education: A Memoir of a Divine Girlhood Our Rating A Author: Christine Rosen Publisher: Public Affairs Pages: 186 Genre: Biographies & memoirs Price: $25 Author and historian Christine Rosen doesn’t consider herself religious. She lives an entirely secular lifestyle with her husband in Washington, D.C. But wait. Can this be the same Christine Rosen who, as a child, attended Keswick Christian School, in St. Petersburg, Fla., during the ’70s? Who nurtured the idea of becoming a glamorous missionary? Who was so engrossed in the King James Bible that she tried to convert

‘While Europe Slept’ a must-read book on Islam and the West

“While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West From Within” by Bruce Bawer; Doubleday ($23.95) If the ongoing “Battle of Khartoon” (let’s give it some historical resonance) proves anything, it’s that many otherwise well-educated Westerners remain illiterate about Islam. According to the Wall Street Journal, the editors of Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten newspaper didn’t understand when they published their visual bombshells that some strains of Islam (but not all) oppose depiction of Muhammad. Consider that just one gap in knowledge that new books like Bruce Bawer’s “While Europe Slept” help close. Indeed, thanks to Voltaire, the Enlightenment, and American freedom

Religion: The Occult Tradition

Religion: The Occult Tradition From the Renaissance to the Present Day, by David S Katz Cape £17.99 pp272 The critic Theodor Adorno once wrote that the defining characteristic of occultism was “the readiness to relate the unrelated”, rather like drawing a line of your own invention through several dots on a puzzle rather than following the numbers to draw a face. That is almost the mission statement of David Katz’s concise, erudite and often comic book: to restore a vast and coherent body of occult knowledge from the condescension of modern science or the demotic residue epitomised by the astrologer

Book Looks At America As The Land Of Oz

The title of Christine Wicker’s “Not in Kansas Anymore” alludes, of course, to Dorothy’s comment to Toto upon arriving in the Land of Oz. Wicker’s inquiry into “how magic is transforming America” does, in fact, make her much like L. Frank Baum’s corn-fed Kansas farm girl “off to see the Wizard” with some extremely odd companions. As she travels the length of the Yellow Brick Road she remains true to her quest: to look past appearances and ask serious questions about what magical people do and why; to understand why so many people today are drawn to magic; and to

Review: The Truth Book

The Truth Book by Joy Castro Every year growing up, Joy Castro began the school year with an explanatory note for her teachers. She was not to say the Pledge of Allegiance. If the class decorated for Christmas or Halloween, she was to be excused. Birthday celebrations and cupcakes were also forbidden, and of course, she was not to be present for any discussion of evolution. Slang was verboten, as was the phrase “good luck,” since luck doesn’t exist and has Satanic connotations. After class, she was to go to the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall and read from religious literature,