Category: Books

Books highlighted in these articles deal with religion from a variety of perspectives.

See also Religion News Blog’s bookstore

India’s Diverse Faiths, As Told Through ‘Nine Lives’

India is the world’s largest democracy and home to a multitude of faiths. British journalist William Dalrymple, who has lived in India on and off for the last 25 years, surveys the subcontinent’s rich religious topography in his latest book, Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India.

The religious journeys Dalrymple describes in Nine Lives are incredibly personal. The book itself, though, is “emphatically not” about Dalrymple’s own religious search — (he comes from a Catholic background.) Instead, he says the real lesson of both Nine Lives and India itself “is pluralism.”

The nation’s incredible diversity “makes it very difficult to believe in only your own faith — that the faith you happen to have been born into is the only possible way of reaching God,” he says. India inspires the idea “that there are many ways up the mountain.” But is that true?

Book traces the long strange trip of drug-induced spirituality

Harvard Psychedelic Club If the word “psychedelic” conjures up images of San Francisco or Woodstock, there’s much more to learn from journalist Don Lattin’s mind-blowing guided tour of the colorful people who gave birth to America’s psychedelic era in an unlikely place: Harvard University.

Says Religion News Service: In his new book, “The Harvard Psychedelic Club,” which has received enthusiastic reviews and generated interest in Hollywood, Lattin expertly shows how Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, Huston Smith and Andrew Weil crossed paths at Harvard in the fall of 1960 before going their own separate ways.

Lattin, a veteran religion reporter who walked on the wild side more than a few times himself, traces how the four men forever changed the way people — both straight and stoned — think about spirituality.

Overrated Optimism: The Peril of Positive Thinking

Smiley Americans have long prided themselves on being “positive” and optimistic — traits that reached a manic zenith in the early years of this millennium. Iraq would be a cakewalk! The Dow would reach 36,000! Housing prices could never decline!

By the mid-’00s optimism wasn’t just a psycho-spiritual lifestyle option; it had become increasingly mandatory.

Two years into the Great Recession, it’s time to face the truth…

Faith and Belief: ‘The Book of Genesis Illustrated’ by R. Crumb

Book of Genesis Illustrated How do we read R. Crumb’s “The Book of Genesis Illustrated“? It seems a contradiction: a sober reconstruction by a man who admits he ” not believe that the Bible is ‘the word of God.’ ” And yet, the further we get into this electrifying adaptation, the more it all makes sense.

If you remove divinity from the equation, “Genesis” becomes a human creation — “a powerful text,” in Crumb’s words, “with layers of meaning that reach deep into our collective consciousness, our historical consciousness, if you will.” These stories are sacred, then, not because they were handed down by any deity but because they speak to the elemental conflicts that drive us as women and men.

Whitehouse denied Harry Potter author medal over witchcraft

Harry Potter A memoir by George W Bush‘s former speechwriter claims that Bush administration officials objected to giving JK Rowling a presidential medal of freedom on the grounds that her Harry Potter books “encouraged witchcraft”.

Latimer, whose memoir Speech-Less: Tales of a White House Survivor was published last week by Crown in the US, says that the “narrow thinking” of “people in the White House” led them “to actually object to giving the author JK Rowling a presidential medal because the Harry Potter books encouraged witchcraft“.

See also: Harry Potter is converting Christian critics, Christian themes abound in Potter and How the boy wizard won over religious critics — and the deeper meaning theologians now see in his tale

Freemasons hail Dan Brown’s latest novel as “good fun”

Dan Brown The Lost Symbol While the fictional story lines about conspiracy and the Catholic Church in “The Da Vinci Code” caused an uproar among some Catholics and drew censure from the Vatican, a senior representative of the Freemasons in Australia called “The Lost Symbol” the work of a “terrific novelist.”

“We are very pleased, there is nothing in this book that will offend my organization. It does give us the opportunity to open it up a bit,” said Greg Levenston, Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory for the Freemasons.

Cartoonist gets religion

R. Crumb Genesis The influential comics artist Robert Crumb, best known for such outré works as “Keep On Truckin’ ” and “Fritz the Cat,” is exploring a surprising new topic in his latest work: the Bible.

Over at Beliefnet, Rabbi Brad Hirschfield wonders whether Crumb’s work will be heavenly or heretical?

Children’s author says Jesus is not God

Philip Pullman Philip Pullman, the children’s author, is set to cause controversy with a new book – called The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ – denying that Jesus was the son of God.

Publisher Jamie Byng said that Pullman’s book, which will be published next Easter, “strips Christianity bare and exposes the gospels to a new light”.