Thursday, June 28, 2012

Interviews with a Vampire Novelist IV: Final Encounter

(For earlier parts of the conversation, see Part I, Part II, and Part III.) 

A.  The Devil and Mrs. Rice

AR: I've been talking about Western Civilization.  And I do think the West is putting considerable pressure on the Asian and African countries to try to stop genocide, and female mutilation and other evils in other parts of the world. We have a long way to go, but this is the first time in history (the last fifty years) that the world has even seriously entertained the notion of human rights for all persons and putting an end to global hunger, genocide and war. I think we are doing marvelously well.

Stonings in the Middle East make international news. So do cruel applications of Sharia in Pakistan.

So does cruelty to women in Afghanistan. So bride burnings in India. And there is pressure put in all these places to stop these abuses and others.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Perspectives: Bombay Flip-Flops

From time to time, I think I'll post some of my favorite photographs, and tell readers of this blog a little about them.  Some are full of spiritual or other significance, others are just fun, and some may be both. 

I took this picture in 1984, at Church of the Good Shepherd, in a slum in or near Bombay, India.  (Now called Mumbai.)  What struck me about the church -- in which I think spoke briefly -- was how clean it was, an island of beauty and order in a sea of ugliness. 

We had parked several blocks away, and walked into the sprawling slum on foot.  One had to watch one's step, as the streets were full of garbage.  I took another photo of an old woman sitting crunched up under an umbrella in the hot sun, by the side of a concrete culvert / river / open sewer.  I remember the smell.  Later that day, we also visited a school that was heartbreaking to me: large rats ran along the tops of partitions between classrooms during the middle of the schoolday, with classes full of children. 

But this church was, as I said, living proof that cleanliness often is next to godliness.  Good to pile one's sandals outside: Heaven knows where they had been that day. 

And notice how nicely the child is dressed -- much better, let me add, than is the standard in comfortable America.

Ugly as the slum was, two of my other favorite photographs were also taken here, which I may share some time: a beautifully-dressed woman carrying an idol on her head, and a small girl standing by drapes and a rusty old can -- the beauty of which scene is best shown, rather than described.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

6th best: Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God

"An Essential Book"             

*****     84 + / 5 -

If I were going to pick ten "must read" books out of the two hundred or so I have reviewed for Amazon or in print, this brilliant work would stand near the top. Your education is not complete, and may be defective, until you have come to terms with Stark's arguments.

Friday, June 22, 2012

6th Most Unpopular Review: Richard Carrier, Sense & Goodness Without God

** "Bold, Ambitious, Sloppy and Often Wrong"

36 +/ 50-
I was asked to read this book by a thoughtful college (now doctoral) student who had read my response to Dawkins, The Truth Behind the New Atheism, and thought I might find Carrier's case for atheism more challenging.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Answers for Jeffery Lowder

An atheist who seems more reasonable than most, Jeffrey Lowder, recently re-posted twenty-five questions for theists.  I'm a theist, and I perversely enjoy essay tests, so let's give it a crack.  If anyone wants to improve my responses -- not all of this is equally interesting to me --  feel free. 

(1) "Why is the physical universe so unimaginably large?"

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Second Review: Nicholas Wolterstorff

A second review of our new book, Faith Seeking Understanding, has now come in from the insightful philosopher, Nicholas Wolterstoff (Penn State historian Phillip Jenkins kindly wrote the first)

Faith and intellectual inquiry are often pitched against each other, not only by unbelievers but also by believers. David Marshall's FAITH SEEKING UNDERSTANDING is a collection of seventeen engaging stories of search in which the two are intertwined. Some are stories of seeking to understand what one is longing for; some are stories of seeking to understand better what already one believes; some are stories of seeking to understand the world in the light of what one believes. What makes the collection especially fascinating and valuable is the individuality and particularity of the stories -- a concrete testimony to the fact that the Christian intellectual life takes many forms.

 Nicholas Wolterstorff

 Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, Yale University
 Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia.

Faith Seeking Understanding is due out this fall.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Interviews with a Vampire Novelist III: Anne Rice on politics, fundamentalists, and Southern Ambrosia

Late last year, I began posting long exerts from a conversation that had recently taken place between Anne Rice, myself, and several other people, on an Amazon forum.  Here's Part III of the conversation.  It rambles a bit, and may be hard to follow at times -- topics change abruptly, and focusing on the dialogue between Rice and myself, I unfairly cut other posters out, yet sometimes refer to their comments.  Still, I think readers will find a lot of interesting stuff here: a snapshot of a mind in the continued process of seeking.  Throughout much of this part of the conversation, I am trying to draw Rice into a dialogue, which she resists, for reasons she evantually gives.  Towards the end, while still in marked disagreement on many subjects, we can at least wish one another a Happy Thanksgiving.  But more political disagreement follows, a little more storm before final calm.   

Monday, June 11, 2012

Congratulations, John!

John Marshall and his proud parents at his graduation from Mount Si High School.  (The mountain in the background is the namesake Si, a rocky peak with much the aura of a Sinai or a Tai, despite its mere 4000 + foot elevation.)

John earned about a 3.85 GPA, aced six Advanced Placement exams, and is pumped about studying Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Washington next fall.  Of course we're glad he's not going any further than that.

The proto-scientist.
And here, just a few months ago, is a photo of John showing his early interest in science.  "Is this the North Pole?" He asked, standing at the shore of Mendenhall Lake, facing Mendenhall Glacier, just north of Juneau.  Now he's holding a chunk of highly-compressed glacial ice.  (We used to use it to make ice cream -- Alaskans love ice cream.) 

This is what the North Pole ought to look like.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Why PZ Myers won't debate.

Fly, fly away!
A few weeks ago, biologist and atheist blog-king, PZ Myers, explained on his popular web site, Pharungula, that if for no other reason, we should "tear down" cathedrals because Christianity (and other religions) harm women.  I challenged PZ here to debate the subject in person, and also e-mailed him the challenge directly.  He knows who I am.  I predicted, though, that he would not respond at all, or would respond with mere vitriol and mockery.  He did not respond.  Curiously, PZ has just responded to another Christian, a popular blogger and video game afficiando named Ted Beale, who calls himself Vox Day, on this very same issue, indeed Beale had challenged him over the very same post.  Myers took the occasion to explain why he does not "do debates" anymore, at least not with "the other side," apparently meaning people who are not doctrinaire atheists. 

The funny thing is, PZ's "response" to Beale actually does show why he doesn't do debates, and why that may really be a wise policy for him.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Seventh Best Review: G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

"Fit only for unscientific children -- like me." 

*****            85 + / 9 -  

Orthodoxy is written for the poet and child in each of us (The part Jesus said can inherit the Kingdom). Orthodoxy is, at the same time, one of the wisest, and funniest, books I have ever read; almost up to the level of Everlasting Man. It seems to me Chesterton does give a logically challenging, if rather whimsical, argument for the Christian faith here. And having read many of the most famous skeptics of our time, his argument remains no less timely, powerful, and suggestive.

Monday, June 04, 2012

7th Worst Review: Victor Stenger, the New Atheism

We continue our off-again, on-again series of popular and unpopular reviews I've posted over the past 14 years on Amazon.  Today we come to one with a personal connection: Victor Stenger's The New Atheism.

Victor Stenger, The New Atheism "Shakes my faith . . . in Skeptics"

(** ; Amazon votes: - 68 / + 54)

I am one of Stenger's targets in this book. Stenger quotes and tries to refute my book, The Truth Behind the New Atheism, extensively, especially in his key second chapter on faith.

I welcome the response; I only wish it were better.