God is not Great by Christopher Hitchens: A Book Review

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When my friends or the new people I’m acquainted with find out that I am an atheist ,they tend to raise their eyebrows or purse their lips. It is unusual for someone  like me in the Philippines to not believe in God/god. The same as what happened a long time ago, when my best friend based in Thailand confirmed that I belong now to the  members of the “Four Horsemen of New Atheism”, she was worried that I would no longer be saved in the event that the Judgment Day came. She insisted that I believe in him.Inculcated in militant character,I explained my side in flagrant defiance. As a result, we had had heated debates many times; our friendship almost turned to ice in view of our irrepressibly acrimonious opinions. In the end, we still  make sure that her religion will never shake the foundation of our friendship.

Christopher Hitchens is one of the major influences on my being an apostate. Actually, I’ve read his God is not Great once,  and I decided to read it for the second time because I wanted to understand its contents more. It was still unintelligible to me since I read its free PDF. That’s why I was not even able to write my review of it. Besides, I was not scholarly ready yet to give my thoughts of it; it needs deeper assimilation.

Hitchens  strongly emphasized that religion kills every thing. He believed that  it causes violence, irrationality, intolerance, alliance to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, investment in ignorance and hostility to free inquiry, scorn for women and coercion toward children and sectarian.

To deduce  his arguments, he  wrote  various personal stories, documented historical anecdotes and critical analysis of religious texts. The result? Voila! A book that believers must find ridiculous beyond logical explanation, a big threat to their incessantly dominant indoctrination.

After reading it, I felt like I had a rude awakening for Hitchens’ views  that religion causes violence, religion is full of superstitions, religion in particular is hazardous to health, some religions are just copy-cats,  both the old and the  new testaments are inconsistent, religion has been the root of corruption, religious dominance can come to an end,religion  has been emphasizing   the meaning of sin, religion abuses children, and people can live without religion.

In the end, what Hitchens wanted to point out, the way I see it overall, is that there has been a culture of ignorance in that people conform to the facts they find universal. Go figure!

I’ve been an avowed atheist for four years, since I read some books dealing with atheism. (Well, if you are deeply religious cringing at what I’m blabbering about here  now, you might opine that I should not read such anti-religion books, for they  corrupt my mind. Duh! )So, comparatively speaking, I would say that my life is better than before. I am now comfortable to live the way I want. I don’t need to conform to religious customs I find paradoxical. I don’t need to shape my life according to what the bible dictates  to me. Rather, I lead my life based on what I know what is right for the sake of humanity. I might call it the ” universal conscience”. And don’t even dare tell me that conscience is a godly gift. As a matter of fact, I have proven prominent atheists’ belief  that a person can be good without the misleading guidance of religion. However, contrary to the militant attitude of Hitchens, I still believe that respect for one’s religious views is the best way  to gain rapprochement among us ,only if we know our limitations without being affected by our deep-seated devotion and fanaticism. No wonder Hitchens strongly believes that religion kills everything.

For those people who have the same struggle  with their religious conviction, I suggest that you firs read God Delusion by Richard Dawkins or  Atheism: The Case Against God  by George H. Smith. I believe that these books are the springboard for breaking all the spells that have been binding you for a long time. Good luck and let me know then about your thoughts of them. Happy reading!  🙂

Rating: 5/ 5 ( It’s amazing.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: A Book Review

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Along with her The Blind Assassin, this is one of the most convoluted and elaborate novels I have ever read. The story is too cloudy to understand that it requires your powers of concentration, especially if you are not analytical enough to grasp its complexity, the style I have proven Atwood bears the hallmark of.

Instead of analyzing it in a broader literary context with intellectual bravado since everyone can turn to Wikipedia, I’d rather review it in a manner of  what I found out in her writing styles: I’m envious of her skilled mastery for turning into beautiful prose her train of thoughts or whatsoever plays  in the figment of her imagination. Furthermore, she is an unfathomable female writer who can be as genius as any writers mostly celebrated in world literature.

This novel from the first pages to the last is strewn with vivid, beautiful, elegant, graceful, sumptuous sentences which I enjoyed reading rather than   gripping its main idea. The sentences are so lyrical that I chanted them again and again. They melt in my tongue like sweet, dark chocolate, or smell good like a garden,  full of a variety of colorful flowers hovered  above by a swarm of butterflies.

Under an unlikely scenario, if there were still such a world that men were superior to women over skills in writing stories or any literacy pieces, and Atwood were into such a literary show-off ,surrounded by supercilious writers looking down on her feminism, I bet my life that Atwood could dominate or catch up with them at any cost of literary bouts. Don’t dare her write one because this her The Handmaid’s Tale has proved me   wrong that there is something Atwood could make her rather genius. Her novels may appear complex, much more if she writes a simpler or more intricate one. In other words, there is nothing to find fault with her more; it’s crystal clear that she is an extraordinary writer. Roll down the red carpet and pay homage to Her Majesty.

Now, I freely  acknowledge that reading another Atwood’s books could be challenging since I have now the clearest idea of her writing style. Sometime in the future, if I have a great deal of time, perhaps when I reach my mid-life , no longer preoccupied with how to embellish my life with youthful experiences, hers would be one of those books I want to read again and again.As American musician and filmmaker, Frank Zappa put it , so many books, so little time to read.There are still thousands of  books in the world I haven’t read yet.

Also, the best course of technique I should use when I happen to read Atwood’s other books  and others books which have little resemblance to her style  would be a matter of full concentration ( regardless of  how poor my reading comprehension skill is .) Then, I will seat myself at a coffee table with a voluminous dictionary and colorful highlighters scattered around , par for the course in my reading repose. Ho-ho!

P.S . It is now being adapted for a TV series  broadcast live on  Hulu.

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it. )

My Top Ten Favorite Books in 2015

2015 was the year when I took an active part in Goodreads. I set my reading goal as many as 200 books; however, I failed to do so due to my hectic job schedules. In the end, I decided to read as many as 160.

I enjoyed many books last year. At the same time, I discovered new genres and met new authors I had turned back on before. I enjoyed reading some  Sam Harris’s books  which sharpened my critical analysis. Finally, I read some books I had not been able to read on account of their exorbitant prices. Then, somehow, I was able to keep up with a few  best-sellers.

For local books, I buried myself in some Danton Remoto’s and  Carlos Bulosan’s books. In fact, it was a revelation to me that Isagani Cruz turns out to be a critically acclaimed writer in the Philippines. So, I will read his other works. ^_^

Among the books, here are my top ten favorites that had significant  impact on me:

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  1. The Martian by Andy Weir.  I love a Sci-Fi dealing with astronomy and NASA.

dahl9. Boys Tales Children by Roald Dahl. I am fond of reading books about someone’s memoir or semi-autobiography, especially if the theme is more on education

This one by Roald Dahl is said to be his childhood experiences. I liked the book because it deals with the rotten educational system Dahl experienced when he was young.

invisible man8. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. I had put it aside for a few months before I found out why it is included on TIMES’ best novels of all time since 1923. When you read it, it will make you go mad at the Whites  the time  they discriminated against Blacks. Besides, I liked the fact that there is a psychological tactics behind it.

albert7. The Stranger by Albert Camus. A deep book which can lead to different perspectives. In my case, I cried over it because I saw myself in the main character. Besides, I like the philosophy bespoken in the story which might shatter the “in-the-know” readers .

secret6. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  It is one of my most favorite children books. I like and miss gardening, so I am riveted on how the secret garden centers around the story.

malala5. I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai. This is an inspiring story which provoked my desire to stand up to injustice.

4.Atheism : The Case Against God by George H. Smith. If you are a militant atheist like Richard Dawkins, read it. This is a perfect guide how you can debate well with an apologist 

3. Si Janus Silang #1 and 2 by Edgar Calabia Samar. This is definitely one of the reasons why I love to read Philippine literature more. A book series I will follow up with as what happened to those Harry Potter and Twilight fans. Hooray, I can’t wait for its book 3 in September! ^_^

2.God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I have read this twice;one time in 2014 , my second time last year. I really love this book because I look up to Richard Dawkins, along with Sam Harris  and Christopher Hitchens , some of whose  books were also on my read-list last year. He is a very candid and audacious atheist who has never been dauntless in expressing his opinions and thoughts.

This book can change someone’s perspectives on religion- a perfect manifesto to break distorted religions anyone may not be aware of .

This year, I will  include it on my to-read list  again.

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1.My Antonia by Willa Cather . I will never forget this book. I will even recommend it to anyone. In fact, this is the novel why I decided to watch its musty movie adaptation which main roles were played by young  Patrick Nick Harris as Jimmy Burden  and by Elina Löwensohn as Antonia Shimerda.

The book is so beautifully and purely written that I did not even hold it down until I got dismayed at the climax. Besides,this reminds  us  of the grim lesson that life is a matter of moral consequence.

This year, I took the challenge to read as many as 150 books. Originally, I wanted to make it to 200 books again. However, I am worried that my teaching job might be the big impediment to this goal. Jeez, Good luck to me!

Happy Reading, buddies!

The Stranger by Albert Camus:A Book Review

albertThis novel  is subject to differently  literary  perspectives and interpretations.  One of the perspectives  that  made  my toes curl  is the interpretation that this story is on  the importance of believing in God as the  “one” who  gives  right direction in your life.  When I read  this opinion as in opinion with a  capital O , my hair stood on end as if those who claim so are holier -than –thou. Now , why do those people think so? What parts of the story that make them draw the conclusion?

Meursault is  an enigmatic character in the story. You may describe him weird or idiosyncratic because he tends to be apathetic   toward society.  Perhaps, the holier-than-thou understood him  based on their religious beliefs and teachings. For examples:  first, he showed no interest in the funeral. He did not cry over her mother’s death. Rather, he was found   insincere ; he was  found  impolite , for  he slept through the funeral  vigil. In fact, in the story, you might as well revolt at what he responded to his employer upon his  request for leave of absence, “Sorry, sir, but it’s not my fault, you know.”  Second, he does  not care much about the people around. For him, they are merely observers.  Fourth, he is not sure of his marriage or relationship. Fifth, he is content with his life.  Finally, he is an agnostic.

I hate to say this   but those arguments above, notably the last one, are arguments of stupidity. They have nothing to do with God. We can just conclude that  Meusault, the protagonist, is just a subject of scientific and philosophical studies. Scientifically, we  can jump to the conclusion that the  arguments from one to 5 are psychological. Turn to a behavioral psychologist and psychiatrist or more than a scientist  if you want to get at what I am driving  at here. On the other hand, philosophically, the concept of the story, particularly signifying  Meusault’s life crisis  is an example of absurdism. Review your philosophy.

To remonstrate  aginst the holier-than-thou’s opinion  that this story is on  the importance of believing in God as the  “one” who  gives right  direction in your life, atheists along with their other word  families have been living in the right direction without the teachings or  the ridiculously so-called “divine guidance or intervention” .  To confirm my point, I suggest that you read the anthropological life of  some countries in the world.  A library of information is accessible in the internet. If you are a Luddite, enter the   huge libraries  in your place and be a scholar in an Ivory Tower.  Besides, don’t dare that I have no any   ideas of what atheist life is like because I bear witness to that.

How about you, fellas? What are your perspectives on it?

My Review

Ideally, I wanted to give it 1 star for the inconsistencies of the story. I believe that convicting someone on the grounds  for the six arguments above  is misleading and jurisprudentially illogical  in order to make the story a hit among readers. Furthermore, among the people the main character, Meursault, got along with, only  his employee was not included  in standing as a witness  in the court. I wonder why?   Nevertheless,  there is no difference if I still gave it 4 or 5 stars  on the grounds  that Albert  Camus intended to write such a novel to apply  his philosophy on Absurdism  drawing from the criminal incident he may have known of. In other perspective, since writing is an art, the other significant parts such as when Meusault   was asked to ask forgiveness   from God for all the sins he had committed, particularly his unusual agnosticism , and when he was  prejudiced against his unconventional attitude  could have been how hegemonic the religious atmosphere  in his generation  to minor groups was .  In other words, as a result, Camus’s trick did the justice to this novel; it is a beautiful story. I felt what Camus must have intended to trickle  off- feeling of emptiness. Besides, I liked the fact that he used the first person since it signifies  the reader himself/herself.  Also, the prose and the structure of the sentences, I believe,  are well –translated. So , I would say that the translator is competent. I wish I could understand French so I could know the real feelings in Camus’ books.

I want to consider this novel as one of my  favorite books as well as Albert Camus as one of my favorite writers. I was moved. I was bothered until I was reduced to tears. I guess I have found someone who could possibly penetrate through my   uncharted   universe. And please, do not invoke God, for I am done with this theological business. So far, his other books are now on my list  like and I hope to read them some time. ^^

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it. )

 

 

Sa Puso ng Himala by Ricky Lee: A Book Review

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If you are a non-Pinoy movie snob , or  just a movie snob who has interest in watching international films,  I’d rather recommend you watch the  movie  than  read this book.  It is considered one of the best Filipino films of all time.  In fact, it won the Viewer’s Choice Award for the Best Film of All Time from the Asia –Pacific region in the 2008 CNN Asia Pacific Screen Awards beating out nine other films voted by thousands of film fans around the world. *

The movie may be falling out of fashion, but it is still immortal among   Filipinos, particularly among the generation of  my parents . I do not know if the young   Filipinos in this generation are familiar with this. When I was young , it was one of the common old movies shown on TV every Lenten Season here in the Philippines.

One of the unforgettable lines that marked us  and  are even parodied by comedians until now is:

 “Ipinatawag ko kayong lahat  dahil may gusto akong ikumpisal.

 Nitong mga nakaraang araw, sa loob lamang ng napakaikiing panahon, parang naranasan natin ang pinaghalong langit at impiyerno. Maraming sakit ang gumaling, maraming tao ang bumuti at nagkaroon ng pananampalataya.Pero nakakita rin tayo ng kamatayan, ng epidemya, ng pagpuputa, ng krimen at panloloko.

Kapag may masamang nangyayari’y sinisisi natin ang sumpa. Isinumpa ang Cupang. Itinaboy kasi natin ang maysakit noon. Kaya ganoon. Kapag may mabuti namang nangyayari, sinasabi nating ito’y gawa ng langit. Gawa ng Birhen. Gawa ng himala.”

( I summoned you because there is something that I want  to confess to.

These past few days, within just short period of time, we have experienced heaven and hell alike. Many sick have been healed, many people have been changed for the better and had faith. But we have also seen death , epidemic, prostitution, crime,  and hoax.

When there is something bad happens, we put the blame on curse. The Cupang was put on curse because we drove the sick man away before. On the other hand, when there is something good happens, we claim that it is created by Heaven. an act of the  Virgin, a miraculous act.)

And the last part of Elsa’s script which moved me to the bone:

“May ipagtatapat ako sa inyo.

Walang himala! Ang himala ay nasa puso ng tao! Nasa puso nating lahat’ Tayo ang gumagawa ng himala! Tayo ang gumagawa ng mga sumpa at ng mga DIyos!

Hindi totoong buntis ako dahil sa himala! Hindi totoong nagpakita sa akin ang Mahal na Birhen! Walang himala! Hindi totoong may himala! Tayo ang gumagawa ng himala! Tayo ang gumagawa ng mga sumpa at ng mga Diyos! Walang himala!”

( “There is something I  want to confess to.

There is no miracle! Miracles are in people’s hearts, in all our hearts!It is not true that  Virgin Mary appeared to me! There is  no miracle! It is not true that there is miracle! We are the one who make   miracle! We are the one who creates curses and gods! There is no miracle!”)

The woman in the book cover is the Philippines’ Super Star , Nora Aunor. She played in the movie as Elsa. This role is said to have redounded her to fame prior to her movie Minsa’y isang gamu-gamo, Once a Moth, which has another winning lines:

“My brother is not a pig! My brother is not a pig!  Hindi baboy ramo ang kapatid ko, kundi tao!tao!”

I found the movie   impressive and interesting. First, it can be understood in the context of religion and science. For instance, Elsa ( Nora Aunor ) admitted at the end of the story that she had lied all along , that there is  no miracle. She just made up the things people in the barrio thought of as the effects of heavenly providence. She disabused the mind of the people that miracle does not come from heaven.   Second, the settings, the locations,  are matched with the theme. It was taped in a desert somewhere in Ilocos Norte. It was  remote from the civilization. It was just a backward barrio located near a widely stretched sand dune, where superstitions were still observed. Therefore, the movie must illustrate that religion is   illogical, influenced by mysticism. Third, it also paints a portrait of faith-healing,capitalism, morality, and poverty.

The story was written by Ricky Lee, considered as one of the best writers in the Philippines.

The movie was   directed by Ishmael Bernal who was heralded as  National Artist of the Philippines in 2001.

The book is a compilation of the   behind-the –scene pictures- pictures of the cast and other  people  behind the movie, some trivia , how the idea of the movie was brought up. It also has the original scenes and scripts that were edited , particularly Elsa’s lines.

The things I did not know about the movie:

  1. It has been a 64 dollar question who killed Elsa? You can find out in the book that the hand holding a gun has a symbolic meaning.
  2. Some producers hung back from more than 3 million pesos budget. At that time, it was a big money.
  3. Charo Santos, the President of the TV network , ABS-CBN Corporation,  was  the executive producer of the movie . Indeed, she is one of  richest women in the Philippines.
  4. This is the first Filipino film to be nominated in the 1982 Berlin Film Festival.
  5. I confirmed  that Nora Aunor   was in the habit of  smoking when she was still a  super star. (Just saying)

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it. )

Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himala

Hitchhiking to Heaven: An Autobiography. Lionel Blue by Lionel Blue: A Book Review

blueThe story is about Lionel Blue’s life as a gay Jewish rabbi, how he managed his desires to know God in various religions, specifically in Judaism regardless of his struggle for coming out in the open. To find himself, he hitchhiked to “heaven” in some European cities, particularly in Amsterdam- not in a literal meaning of the geographical place. I guess you would understand what heaven Lionel Blue meant when you have read its last two chapters.

Despite his inspiring story, admittedly, I did not enjoy it much. Ridiculously because I had expected that I would read something to do with his gay life, which was somehow he gave emphasis as well as how he managed to lead his religious life as a gay rabbi. Besides, I may not be as religious as other readers to be impressed. If I were so, I would not be hypocrite to give it 3 or 4 stars. ^^ Furthermore, I must be used to reading autobiographies / biographies or memoirs that are beautifully written and compelling just the like of the critically acclaimed ones I have read. Nevertheless, I felt in his writing styles how a gay he is indeed- full of hilarious prose.

On the other hand, I admired his humble audacity how he proved that homosexual life is not a big drawback to exercising one’s religious belief. In his autobiography, it was an abject misery that in 1960’s, homosexuality was considered a mental disease like the plague. Prejudice was borne down upon them and eventually led some to committing suicide. Fortunately, he survived this thought.

Exposed to some kinds of religions, Lionel Blue emphasized his favorite quote by the agnostic emperor Marcus Aurelius:

 “If you think there is God, then follow Him, if you think there is no God, become godlike yourself.”

The message is VERY simple. ^^

Rating: 1/ 5 stars ( I wish I liked it.)

By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho: A Book Review

by-the-river-piedra-i-sat-down-and-wept-book-cover“All love stories are the same.”
Paulo Coelho, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

If I were an idyllic reader, I would give it 5 stars. Paulo Coelho wrote something unique about the twists and turns of the common story.

If I were a dreamer, I would give it 5 stars. I would dream and work. ^^
If I were a deeply religious reader, I would give it 5 stars. Paulo Coelho inspired people to be more faithful.

If I were a Creative Writing and World Literature teacher, I might give it 5 stars. Paulo Coelho is such a genius; he writes a book peppered with beautifully and poetically written passages. But if I were an absolute atheist reader, I would give it 2 stars. Luckily, to some extent, Paulo Coelho put some emphasis on the traditional customs of Christendom beyond human logic and reason.

Also, if I were some kind of bookworm with taste for horrors, thrillers, or cliffhangers, I would give it 1 star. I would find it boring.

The story is about a woman who has “forbidden love” for her childhood friend who later on sought his life by leading a monastic life. A story that is very common in TV dramas and films. Thanks to Paulo Coelho’s writing skills. He is indeed a wizard; he can make readers fix their eyes on it IN TRANCE. No doubt he is one of the most beloved writers of our time.

Writer wannabes have difficulties in putting their ideas in a sentence, particularly how they begin with their first draft, so in doing so takes a lot of time. One needs to draw a deep inspiration from one’s experiences. So you might wonder how the writer of this book forms such inspirational passages, enough to convert a wisdom of atheists to a mosque of Muslims, to a church of Catholics, to a temple of Buddhists, or to a mandir of Hinduists.

The remarkable thing is that Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian. Kudos to the translator.

The book, on the other hand, might cause the skeptical to raise some questions:

(a) Does love originate in religion?
(b) God is found in everything since one can never find God in any books of religions. Therefore, this kind of ideology is an example of New Age.

For the satisfaction rating, I found this book pretty good. I want to try his other books more, especially the Alchemist

Rating : 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it. )