Sunday, August 31, 2014

    The September 2014 Bookworm Report

    This is the first of what we expect to be a regular feature:  The Bookworm Report by HSGP member Russell Pizer.  The series will explore books not just on topics such as Humanism and religion but other related topics such as the history of American religious ideas including the Founding Fathers and their relationship, or lack thereof, with religion.  

    The Bookworm Report

    In 1999, I finally found a belief system with which I was – I think I should say – "the most
    comfortable." It was with the Palm Coast, Florida, Freethinkers. I really didn’t know
    what a "Freethinker" was but the meetings of that organization appealed to me.

    After talking with the chairperson, Mimi Cerniglia, individually on a number of
    occasions over the next few months, she suggested I read a book by Bertrand Russell
    titled: Why I Am Not a Christian. It was a book that greatly helped solidify many of my
    thoughts regarding questions I had been asking myself – directly and indirectly –
    since the mid 1950's.  However, I was then confronted with that ugly demon of truth that
    Carl Sagan has identified as the "Bamboozle Factor."

    Carl Sagan has describes this ugly factor in his book, The Demon Haunted
    World. On page 241 this is found: "One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve
    been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re
    no longer interested in finding the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too
    painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken . . . "

    This book by Bertrand Russell – Why I am not a Christian – enabled me to ask the
    questions – if only of myself – that I previously had not even considered. For me,
    the facts pointed a way to easily surmount the "Bamboozle Factor."
    For this "Bookworm Report," I will simply lift the description of this book from
    the back cover of the paperback edition that is dated 1957.

    "Dedicated as few men have been to the life of reason, Bertrand Russell has
    always been concerned with the basic questions to which religion also addresses
    itself–questions about man’s place in the universe and the nature of the good life,
    questions that involve life after death, morality, freedom, education and sexual
    ethics. He brings to his treatment of these questions the same courage, scrupulous
    logic and lofty wisdom for which his other work as philosopher, writer and teacher has
    been famous. These qualities make the essays included in this book perhaps the
    most graceful and moving presentation of the freethinker’s position since the days of Hume
    and Voltaire.

    "‘I am as firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are
    untrue,’ Russell declares in his Preface and his reasoned opposition to any system or
    dogma which he feels may shackle man’s mind runs through all these essays in this
    book, whether they were written as early as 1899 or as late as 1954.

    "The book has been edited, with Lord Russell’s full approval and cooperation,
    by Professor Paul Edwards of the Philosophy Department of New York University. In an
    Appendix, Professor Edwards contributes a full account of the highly controversial
    ‘Bertrand Russell Case’ of 1940, in which Russell was judicially declared ‘unfit’ to teach
    philosophy at the College of the City of New York.

    "Whether the reader shares or rejects Bertrand Russell’s views, he will find
    this book an invigorating challenge to set notions, a masterly statement of a
    philosophical position, and a pure joy to read." 

    Russell Pizer


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