Compare and Contrast

A couple of weeks since I blogged – just too busy with work and travel – but as usual that combination gave me reading time on west-bound Atlantic flights. Two recent reads of note:

The (reverendSam Norton’sLet Us Be Human, Christianity for a Collapsing Culture” and (atheist-humanist) Philip Pullman’sThe Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ“.

Sam’s is an easy read. Sadly, the scientific evidence of global crises, is a bit simplistic and superficial so it’s hard to imagine many scientific atheists taking the trouble to read on – it smacks of  jumping on (and thence reinforcing) that particular meme in order to get published. If culture is collapsing, it is simply happening at the prevailing rate of idolatrous (*) human communication, as it always has been. I say sadly however, because scientific minded atheists are precisely the people who should read this book. I’m no bible-scholar, but the truths that transcend history in the words of the prophets are something science (and scientism in wider life and governance) tends to ignore in its own search for transcendental objective truth. The irony for me is that Sam (in his blog) is not practicing what he preaches (in his book):

Let us get on with the task of building our cathedrals of justice, forgiveness and kindness in our communities, and [allow ourselves to be taught] what it means to be human.

Pullman, is equally easy to read – in fact a very engaging and creative read told by a recognized story-teller, about story-telling. Ironically his setting proves my point about Sam’s book. The impending Judeo-Roman “crisis” around the time of Jesus Christ. Life has always been about dealing with the next crisis – nothing new under the sun since 4000BC in that respect. The book is a creative “how it might have happened” re-telling of the gospels in matter of fact language around the “reporting” of the life and times of Jesus and the parables of what it means to be (a good) human. Good news of the truths recorded beyond actual historical fact; mythical and mystical naturally, but quite independent of any need to believe in earthly powers ascribed to any omniscient or omnipotent god. Excellent stuff – and, without any Greek philosophical content, it manages to weave in a starring role for a (presumed) Greek philosopher, just enough to tantalise that each school of thought fed off the other.

Any more would be a spoiler.
Go read …. both of them.

[(*) Idolatrous in the sense that we “worship” established meaning in words as somehow high-quality, objective reality – after Owen Barfield – whereas Dr. Johnson reminds us “Words are the daughters of  Earth” – created by humans.]


Also published on Medium.

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