Archive for December 31, 2008
So, the year is at an end. Before the rush of the new one starts, let me take a few minutes to look back.
When I think of last New Years, no time at all seems to have passed. That is because I am in the same location as last year and, well, I don’t feel so very different from then.
In contrast, if I think of some specific books I’ve read or places I’ve been to during the year, many of them seem much further in the past than last New Years. That is because a sense of time is not created in the brain merely by the passing of time, but by the way you fill that time. That’s at least how I experience is, and rumor has it that I’m not the only one.
What, then, were some of the things that filled the year for me?
Well, my wife and I had our third child. That was definitely a biggie. I have also been to three places in the world that I’ve been wanting to go to for a long time: Rome, Paris, and my last contintent to conquer, Australia (not inspired by the current movie of the same title).
Then, as usual, there were books. Not only did I publish three books this year, I also (unlike some authors) read a few I didn’t write. Here are some of the highlights that come to my mind:
I started out the year with Ken Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God, which I would still rank as the most interesting work of “science with theological implications” that I have read this year. The most interesting work on science itself, or rather on the many human, all-to human stories behind science, was A Short History of Nearly Everything.
Staying somewhat on the topic of science and religion, the two funniest books were definitely The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a parody religion, and The Year of Living Biblically.
The least funny book, I can definitely say as well: Ulysses by James Joyce, that frustrating monster of a work that I never finished but suspect I might actually grow fond of one day.
And speaking of monster: My longest novel this year was Atlas Shrugged, which I would also rank as the most – how can I say it? – forceful philosophical work this year. It forced me to make up my mind about Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, and I’m still busy processing it.
Philosophy – that reminds me of one of the books that have been on my reading list for several years but I only got around to this year: The Nichomachean Ethics by Aristotle, that cornerstone of Western ethics. Other oldies on my reading list were More’s Utopia, Mill’s Utilitarianism, and Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles.
The most interesting re-readings of this year were Homer’s two epic poems and C. S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain – which, to be honest, I did not find as convincing as the first time I read it.
What else? Oh yeah, there were a few German books that I really liked as well. One of them could be translated as Who Am I? And If So, How Many?, which applied modern discoveries in neurology to philosophical issues. Very worthwhile. I don’t think it’s available in English, though, but I haven’t checked yet.
Probably the most interesting work on historical theology was …
But I gotta go now. More next year.
I finally got a chance to see Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous. Its high entertainment value made the time fly buy, leaving me with the desire for more. Thumbs up for that.
It also made some important points, such as the fact that Christians often engage in the same kind of strained re-interpretation effort of the Bible as some Moslems do with the Qu’ran. Or that we don’t need the Ten Commandments to know that we shouldn’t go around murdering each other.
On the negative side: For a documentary, the movie has an amazingly low degree of accuracy. It starts with little things like Maher not getting the name of the last book of the Bible right (calling it “Revelations” instead of “Revelation”) and progresses to much bigger issues such as the alleged link between the Egyptian god Horus and Jesus Christ. If Religulous were to be believed, the writers of the Gospels copied all the essentials of their (fictional) Jesus from earlier Egyptian sources.
But is that true? Here is what Wikipedia says about it:
As one of Ancient Egypt’s oldest gods, Horus was worshipped at least as early as the Early Dynastic Period, thousands of years before the first century CE, when Jesus was in Palestine. However, there have been many parallels drawn between the life of Jesus and the stories of Horus’ life.
Theologian Tom Harpur studied the works of authors who wrote about ancient Egyptian religion: Godfrey Higgins, Gerald Massey and Alvin Boyd Kuhn. In his book Pagan Christ, Harpur argued that all of the essential ideas of both Judaism and Christianity came primarily from Egyptian religion. Harpur noted that Massey uncovered almost two hundred instances of “immediate correspondence between the mythical Egyptian material and the allegedly historical Christian writings about Jesus”.
The 2008 documentary Religulous reiterates the alleged link between Jesus and Horus, claiming that both were born of virgins, fought the devil in the desert and healed the sick and blind. W. Ward Gasque has written that Egyptologists have rejected many of the specific claims made by Harpur and Massey as fallacious, pointing out that there is no evidence of a virgin birth for Horus, and that Harpur’s main source, Alvin Boyd Kuhn, was a Theosophist whose books are mainly self-published and that his other sources are in the main not ancient Egyptian texts but out-of-date authors.