Enduring Love by Ian McEwan: A Book Review

IanI am not a great fan of Ian McEwan,but I always feel like reading his novels because I am mesmerized by his allegorical sentences as well as his labyrinthine plots and settings just the like of his Booker Prize winning Amsterdam which I first ever read. In fact, he is always one of the favorite themes in literary articles.No wonder he is widely acclaimed by famous writers,heralded as one of the greatest British writers since 1945 by THE TIME. And I won’t be cynical about it.

I had wanted to rate it with 2 stars,but there are two reasons I took into account for giving it 3 stars. First,aside from its obvious theme on religion  and science  -this book may reflect in McEwan’s views on religion,for he is said to be an atheist- I got a “hard-on” with the queer condition of one of the characters, said to be diagnosed with Le Clerambault Syndrome which brought about the ENDURING LOVE between Joe and Clarissa.Uh-oh! it would be a page-turner if the man were not sick. (laughs) Instead, I had assumed that Joe may be sick,sick,sick. But,at the end,I turned out to be the cynical one.Gee! Ian McEwan trapped me with his “literary decoy”.

In addition,the epilogue exhausted my imagination. I was one of the spectators among the characters. I was shaken and in panic, I was about to pass out since I was faint-hearted. My neck was stiffened by constant craning up in the sky. I screamed. I waved my arms. I ran up among the farmers,making Richard Dawkins’s proponents on selfish genes wrong.I wanted to help. I wanted to hold the loops,but I fell unbreakably as the others who did likewise except the hero-to-be. Whoa! I was like as though traumatized by the tragic fall. Then,having taken a deep breath, I was all set for the next page.

On the other hand,the more I was reading its climax, the more I was getting bored. To put it mindly, it is harrowing. I was sick and tired of the same description and narration. It may be Ian McEwan’s intention. ^^

Furthermore,its ending is banal. I am almost familiar with it. It reminded me of all the movies’,dramas’,and simple stories’ I have watched.

All in all, I LIKED it. I would love to buy his other novels if I luck out of  them in a bookstore.

To understand it more, it might be more thrilling if I watched its movie adaptation in 2008. ^^

Rating: 3/ 5 stars 

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Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris: A Book Review

harrisWOW! It’s a tour de force- a perfect apologia. Sam Harris is so brilliant that he has an acute analysis of the issue. So , atheists, particularly agnostics, should read it to become more enlightened and completely free from fear of going to “hell” and religious intolerance.

The first book that gave me an idea about apologetics was WHAT IS SO GREAT ABOUT CHRISTIANITY ? by Dinesh D’Souza ( 5 stars ). In fact, the book introduced me to the said Four Horsemen of the Non-Apocalypse such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennet. Thereafter, I wanted to read their works on account of my agnostic itch of curiosity then. So, I have read Dawkins’ GOD DELUSION ( 5 stars ) twice, Hitchens’ s GOD IS NOT GREAT ( 3 stars ). Now it’s my first Sam Harris apologia.

Harris intended to write this book in response to the hate letters sent by religious and political  people  and out of his criticisms against major religions of the world in his book THE END OF FAITH. I enjoyed reading it because of his straight-to-the-point arguments- concise but clear and logically convincing.

Upon reading it, I had four intellectual epiphanies :

There is no such morality.
There are many truths.
The bible appears to be inconsistent.
Therefore, for an atheist, and in general, God does not exist.

On the other hand, the underlying cause on which I cast shed why deeply religious people tend to deny the fact that God does not exist is “IGNORANCE”. We are living in a civilization of ignorance as Harris put it. Or I would opine that we are all still ignorant although we are all civilized. We have been the archetypes of wrong education since time immemorial. So life has been complicated. See, pardon me if you may be feeling like blowing your top now, out of your devotion as if you want to engage in a heated debate with me. It is some kinda foolishness, isn’t it? But still I dare to uphold Sam Harris’s and other prominent atheists’ arguments. ^^

Rating: 5/5 stars

Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore : A Book Review

Tagore

This is about devotion to God. It could be a perfect inspirational book for religious people who believe in their callings. On the contrary, atheists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins might adduce that there was no divine intervention in writing these songs ; it was a matter of Tagore’s motivation brought about by his past experiences.

I only learned from high school social studies that Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. But I never attempted to read his works which made him win one of the prestigious literary prizes in the world as long as the heart of the western writers. I was just aware of the fact that I would take a look at his pictures in awe, for he has this Jesus-like aura. For me then, I had just an impression that he was such an enlightened literary figure. As a matter of fact,he took my fancy more when I had a nun student who recommended this book since it is her most favorite book. After getting around to it, I have come to understand why she, I guess even other religious people, likes this book.

Gitanjali means song offerings. Tagore wanted to show his strong devotion to God by singing Him beautiful songs he drew from the deepest part of his heart. No wonder the sentences are so beautifully mesmerizing. Each line can penetrate through your heart as well as might have a profound impact upon people , astray from their religious faith.

If you are the same with Tagore, you would opine that the God to whom Tagore is devoted is the same God you are devoted to. But if you are an avowed atheist, you could say that the God to whom Tagore is devoted could be in a pantheistic form, for the contents of Tagore’s songs have something to do with all the natural environment. Therefore, offering songs do not directly and clearly refer to whoever or whatever God Tagore may have believed in. No doubt these song offerings could be subject to hermeneutic principle.

I may be wrong since I have not read Tagore’s autobiographies nor his other works yet. Nevertheless, I was impressed by the fact that Tagore’s writing styles are the product of a deep, deep impression.

Rating: 3/ 5 stars

Tolstoy Marathon # 3: The Coffee House of Surat

coffeehouseIt is now my third Tolstoy’s short story, I have noticed that most of the themes of his stories  mainly deal with  religion. In fact, atheists and religious apologists have still been debating whether Leo Tolstoy is considered theistic or agnostic, or probably atheistic. Perhaps they deduce their standpoints from Tolstoy’s ‘literary writings.   In this short story, although abstract, it could be interpreted that he was agnostic.

A learned Persian theologian ended up perplexed about his religious conviction that there was no higher Reason controlling the universe after a long period of studies about the nature of  Deity  and reading and writing books.  Subsequently, he was banished from Persia when The Shah heard of this.

 The  central story began in a coffee shop when the theologian asked his slave whether there is God, which provoked  passionately heated  arguments at a time of some guests  with different religions in the same coffee house upon hearing the theologian’s opinion. But all the rage in the story is the tale of a Confucius student.

When you read it, perhaps, what Tolstoy wanted to imply in this story is that whenever a person comes to the point that he questions about the hypothetical question whether God exists or not  by virtue of idle curiosity brought about by extensive studies, reading and writing, he is bound up in agnostic views. In addition, the story simply puts that when it comes to religion, people with different religious convictions have different tongues . In other words,   there   could be many truths.

In harmony with  the story,   Richard Dawkins, the author of the best selling non-fiction,  God Delusion,   put it  bluntly, that the world is deluded with  diverse religions, here  are the excerpts from the  story above   pictures how people with completely different  convictions  tend to be at sword’s points :

A  Brahmin, on hearing the words spoken by the slave who believed that he feels the presence of God in his girdle , turned to him and said:

“Miserable fool! Is it possible you believe that God can be carried under a man’s girdle? There is one God–Brahma, and he is greater than the whole world, for he created it. Brahma is the One, the mighty God, and in His honour are built the temples on the Ganges’ banks, where his true priests, the Brahmins, worship him. They know the true God, and none but they. A thousand score of years have passed, and yet through revolution after revolution these priests have held their sway, because Brahma, the one true God, has protected them.”

So spoke the Brahmin, thinking to convince everyone; but a Jewish broker who was present replied to him, and said:

“No! the temple of the true God is not in India. Neither does God protect the Brahmin caste. The true God is not the God of the Brahmins, but of Abraham,

Isaac, and Jacob. None does He protect but His chosen people, the Israelites. From the commencement of the world, our nation has been beloved of Him, and ours

alone. If we are now scattered over the whole earth, it is but to try us; for God has promised that He will one day gather His people together in Jerusalem. Then, with the

Temple of Jerusalem–the wonder of the ancient world- -restored to its splendor, shall Israel be established a ruler over all nations.”

So spoke the Jew, and burst into tears. He wished to say more, but an Italian missionary who was there interrupted him.

“What you are saying is untrue,” said he to the Jew.

 

 “You attribute injustice to God. He cannot love your nation above the rest. Nay rather, even if it be true that of old He favored the Israelites, it is now nineteen

hundred years since they angered Him, and caused Him to destroy their nation and scatter them over the earth, so that their faith makes no converts and has died out

except here and there. God shows preference to no nation, but calls all who wish to be saved to the bosom of the Catholic Church of Rome, the one outside whose

borders no salvation can be found.”

So spoke the Italian. But a Protestant minister, who happened to be present, growing pale, turned to the Catholic missionary and exclaimed:

“How can you say that salvation belongs to your religion? Those only will be saved, who serve God according to the Gospel, in spirit and in truth, as bidden by the word of Christ.”

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Such  discourse showing  one’s zealous devotion reminded me of the other novels  which  such indelible scenarios  I have read such as in Life of Pi by Yann Martel:bookcover lifeofpi

The priest broke it when he said , with pride in his voice, “ Piscine is a good Christian boy. I hope to see him join our choir soon.”

His parents , the pandit and the imam looked surprised.

“ You must be mistaken . He’s a god Muslim boy. He comes without fail to Friday prayer, and his knowledge of the Holy Qu’ran is coming along nicely.” So said  the imam.

His parents , the priest and the pandit looked incredulous.

The pandit spoke. “You’re both wrong. He ‘s a good Hindu boy. I see him all the time at the temple coming for darsham and performing puja.”

My  parents, the imam and the priests looked astounded.

“ There is no mistake ,  “ said the priest. “ I know this boy. He is Priscine Molitor Patel and he’s a Christian.”

“ I know him too and I tell you he’s a Muslim. “ asserted the imam.

“ Nonsense! “cried the pandit. “ Piscine was born a Hindu, lives a Hindu and will die a Hindu!

The three wise men stared at each other, breathless and disbelieving.

—————————————————————————————————–

And this is how each brainwashed  perplexed Piscine:

Piscine, can this be true?” asked the imam earnestly. “ Hindus and Christians are idolaters . They have many gods.””

And Muslims have many wives, “ responded the pandit.

The priest looked askance at both of them.

“ Piscine, “ he nearly whispered , “ there is salvation only  in Jesus.”

“ Balderdash! Christians know nothing about religion, “ sad the pandit.

“ They strayed long ago from God’ path, “ said the imam.

“ Where ‘s God in your religion?” snapped  he priest. “ You don’t have a single mirace to show for it.  What kind of  religion I sthat, without miracles?” 

“ It isn’t a circus wth dead people juping out og tombs all the time, that’s what! We muslims stick to he essential miracle of existence. Birds flyin, rain falling, crops growing- these are miracles enough for us.”

“ Feathers aan drain are all very nice,  but w elike to know that God I strully with us.”

“ Is that so ? Well, a whole lot of good it did God to be with you- you tried to kill him! You bagged  him to a cross with great big nails. Is that a civilized way to treat a prophet? The prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him- brought us the word of God without any undignifies nonsense and died at a ripe old age.”

——————————————————————————————————-

And in this part on how each  slandered one another”

“ God is universal,” spluttered the priest.

The imam nodded strong approval. “ There is only one God .”

“ And with their one god Muslim are always causing troubles an provoking riots. The proof of how bad Islam is, is how uncivilized Muslims are, “  pronounced the pandit.

“ Says the slave-driver of the  calf lovers. They kneel before cows, “ the priest chimed in.

“ While Christians kneel before a Whiteman! They are the flunkies of a foreign god. They are the night mare of all non-white people.”

“ And they eat pigs and are cannibals. “ added the imam for good measure.

What it comes down to, “ the priest put out with cool rage , “ is where Piscine wants real religion- or myths from a cartoon strip.”

“ God – or idols, “ intoned the imam gravely.

“ Our gods- or colonial gods, “ hissed the pandit.

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Admit it , the two scenarios  above usually occur in a place and among people  with different religious convictions.

Since it is now my third Tolstoy marathon, the longer I read his other short stories, the more it comes to me that Leo Tolstoy’s religious viewpoints, probably suppressed by his restricted atmosphere then, were sublimated through writing novels, novellas, or short stories. Thus, I may infer ,  in my humble opinion, that probably Tolstoy was an agnostic.

Rating: 3/  5 stars

A Confession by Leo Tolstoy: A Book Review

tolstoy

I have been an avowed atheist   for two years. I  had mustered up enough courage to abandon the Christian life after a long battle  of shattering the  doubts. I was not able to do so because of the fear instilled in me that I would go to hell or not be saved from the Judgment Day. At that time, I was still  an utter simpleton believing in something beyond logic. After reading some said  heretical books such as of Richard Dawkins’ God Delusion , Sam Harris’ A Letter to a Nation  and An Atheist Manifesto ,  Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great , and George H. Smith’s  Atheism: The Case Against God ,  I have been awoken to the reality as though the experience  was a rude  awakening. So, do  not dare lecture me that I must be veering  off my faith because faith is another argument of foolish illusion. By the same token, I have  read  one apologetic  book to defend  the sides of  the Christianity  . Still, the side of the atheists  stands for me. For sure, I would be the subject to the brick brat here on Goodreads. Like  or unlike this , it is  neither here nor there.

This book deals with  Leo Tolstoy’s  midlife crisis in his spirituality and existentialism. Like  what the atheists above experienced , Tolstoy came to the point that he questioned the religious teachings foisted upon him since he was still young. To find the answer, he went on a pilgrimage until he thought he had  found the answer to his questions: He concluded that God does not exist.  Still, not completely  convinced , he  had the persistent and obtrusive  realization that there may be Supernatural unknown which can be called God. His experience was like backsliding to his delusion. In other words, Tolstoy ended up as agnostic- a question which has been a debate among religion and atheism apologists.

If Tolstoy  had existential crisis  in his 50’s ,  it may be ridiculous  for others if I say that I have had come to it  in my 20’s .Perhaps, information  in the internet is now accessible to everyone.

Tolstoy, as a rule,  is considered as  the world’ best novelist . His writing for others is considered  flawless. No doubt in this book, every sentence is beautifully written-  the  aftereffect of his emotional impact, an experience  bears  half resemblance to  Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore and AntiChrist by Nitzsche. Probably   the big credit is to its English translator.

As a bright philosopher put it that there are many kinds of truth  since there are many kinds of beholders, you might misunderstand that Tolstoy’s’ intellectual  hubris is conveyed in the sentences. In this book, Tolstoy said that people who believe in something beyond logic are not intellectual. Come to think of it. Do not be  carried out by your deep-seated beliefs.

Rating : 4/ 5 stars for  Leo Tolstoy’s beautiful sentences.