Books

Don't worry. Be happy. Be very happy.

 | 

GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS: WHY HAPPINESS MATTERS FOR AMERICA -- AND HOW WE CAN GET MORE OF IT
By Arthur C. Brooks
Basic Books, 288 pages, $26.95

I opened the cover of Arthur C. Brooks’ book to find talking points for how readers can contribute to America’s gross national happiness, the first two being to vote Republican and get religion. This startling religio-political pronouncement is derived from surveys on happiness that ask people to rate themselves as “very happy,” “pretty happy,” or “not too happy.” People who regularly attend religious services respond that they are “very happy” consistently more frequently than those who do not, as do political conservatives in contrast to political liberals. Do higher scores of “very happy” mean the same as happiness?

Authors criticize shallowness of contemporary atheism

 | 

GOD AND THE NEW ATHEISM: A CRITICAL RESPONSE TO DAWKINS, HARRIS, AND HITCHENS
By John Haught
Westminster John Knox Press, 124 pages, $16.95

I DON’T BELIEVE IN ATHEISTS
By Chris Hedges
Free Press, 224 pages, $16.99

A number of prominent authors and scientists have published books in the last two years advocating a “new atheism.” The books, which include philosopher of science Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, Sam Harris’ The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, and Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, have sparked controversy as they present a case for atheism while disparaging religion as being the cause for many of the world’s problems.

Tales from around the world show goodness can provide a fun read

 | 

Reviewed by Graham Yearley
Catholic News Service







SOLIDARITY WILL TRANSFORM THE WORLD:
STORIES OF HOPE FROM
CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES
by Jeffry O'Dell Korgen
Orbis Books, 176 pages, $16.

There is a widely held belief that evil makes more interesting reading than goodness. These two slim books show what a preposterous fallacy that belief is as they both entertain and show the workings of goodness in our world.

In Solidarity Will Transform the World, author Jeffry O'Dell Korgen takes the reader on a tour of five countries where Catholic Relief Services is transforming the way the First World relates to the Third World. CRS is the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency.

We, the advantaged, traditionally think of charity as moving in one direction, from the privileged to the unprivileged; we feed, they eat. CRS projects work with one priority: to assist the poor in making their contribution to the common good.

Diaries shed light on unlikely would-be U.S. saint

THE DUTY OF DELIGHT:

THE DIARIES OF DOROTHY DAY

Edited by Robert Ellsberg

Marquette University Press

669 pages, $42



It's a sunny Sunday in 1938, and Dorothy Day is feeling less than saintly. Flies swarm around piles of garbage as "hopeless human beings" -- the drunks and the insane who visit the Catholic Worker house in Pittsburgh for food and shelter -- surround and oppress her.

In her diary, Day laments her "great depression of spirits."

"Job is to hide it from others," Day writes, "to accept it as penance, reparation, and to pray constantly for an increase in my heart of the love of God and man."

Over the course of the 20th Century, few people practiced a love of the divine, and the divine in others, as assiduously as Day. The Catholic convert, who co-founded the Catholic Worker movement 75 years ago on May 1, 1933, made "works of mercy" -- feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and comforting the sick -- the center of her life.

Making the world safe for conversation

 | 

THE CASE FOR CIVILITY:

AND WHY OUR FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT

By Os Guinness

HarperCollins, 214 pages, $23.95


In the current international climate, it is easy to point to Muslim extremists as agents of death and destruction. But is such carnage unique to the Muslim religion? And is it the religion itself or its extremism that is the cause?

Scholar and prolific author Os Guinness (Dining With the Devil, Time for Truth) answers these and other provocative questions about religion and secularism and offers a prescription for fostering a world safe for diversity in his new book, The Case forCivility: And Why Our Future Depends on It. The book is long on both organization and on evidence, unfolding like a debate proposition. Nearly every building block in his argument is broken into numbered sub-points. The larger question is whether these blocks form a coherent polemical structure.

Why do people think differently from you about religion?

 | 


Faith at the Edge:
A New Generation of Catholic Writers
Reflects on Life, Love, Sex and Other Mysteries
Edited by Angelo Matera
Ave Maria Press, 2008
193 pages. $15.95.


Why do people think differently from you about religion?


Why do some who call themselves believers not seem to believe things you believe?


Cradle Catholics who have never had a crisis of faith, never gone through a time when they didn’t go to church wouldn’t seem to have any use for a book like Faith at the Edge, edited by Angelo Matera.


This collection of commentaries is targeted for those seeking something to believe in or perhaps a spiritual home in which to land.


It contains nuggets of wisdom, insights into the mystery of God that will nurture the faith of those looking for a place to call home as well as those who long ago found a faith where they belong.

Australian bishops find 'difficulties' in retired bishop's book on church reform

 | 


CONFRONTING POWER AND SEX

IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH:

Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus

By Bishop Geoffrey Robinson
Foreword by Donald Cozzens
Liturgical Press
320 pages, $24.95

Days before Australian Bishop Geoffery Robinson was to begin a U.S. tour promoting his book about church reform, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus, the Australian bishops’ conference released a statement saying they had found “doctrinal difficulties” with the book.

Here’s a Catholic News Service story:

* * *

By Dan McAloon, Catholic News Service

SYDNEY, Australia -- The Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference has listed its concerns with a retired bishop's book that critiques sexual and authoritarian abuses in the church.


The 2007 book, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus, was written by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney and former head of the church's abuse panel.

The bishops said that "after correspondence and conversation" with Bishop Robinson, "it is clear that doctrinal difficulties remain." Central to these, they said, is Bishop Robinson's "questioning of the authority of the Catholic Church to teach the truth definitively."

Personal stories of World War II Europe make the horrors more real


DIARY OF A WITNESS, 1940-1943
By Raymond-Raoul Lambert
Translated by Isabel Best
Ivan R. Dee
Copyright (2007)
288 pages $27.50

To understand a period as complex as World War II and the Holocaust we need to read both trained historians and ordinary men and women. Historians provide a broad overview and an understanding of context but it is only individuals who can communicate the intimate details of what it is like to endure the suffering of mind, body and soul that is the reality of war.

Personal narratives can elicit the empathy and identification that move the reader to compassion and insight. The two books under consideration, while not among the central Holocaust narratives, are important in fleshing out our knowledge of those terrible years.

The conversion of a president

 | 

JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters
by James W. Douglass
Orbis Books, 544 pages, $30

This week, Orbis Books publishes one of its most significant books in years, a labor of some 15 years work by Jim Douglass. JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters tells the painful, hopeful story of John F. Kennedy's efforts to save us from nuclear war, his decision to pull out troops from Vietnam, and his call for nuclear disarmament, a vision that animated shadowy forces in the U.S. government to do away with him and his vision.

I consider Jim one of the world's leading theologians of Christian nonviolence. His brilliance is reflected in his powerful books, The Nonviolent Cross, Lightning East to West, Resistance and Contemplation and The Nonviolent Coming of God (all recently republished by Wipf and Stock).

Changing a feudal church

 | 

AS IT WAS IN THE BEGINNING: THE COMING DEMOCRATIZATION OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
By Robert McClory
Crossroad, 240 pages, $19.95

In the tradition of Hebrew prophets who protested the present more than foretold the future, Robert McClory’s As It Was in the Beginning is a prophetic work. The author is hopeful, present evidence to the contrary, that the democratization of the Catholic church must surely come, like the triumph of truth, no matter how delayed.

Mr. McClory is certainly not naive about the challenges. He sees the Catholic church as “the last deeply rooted feudal system in the Western world.” And yet he is fully confident that the original vision of an inclusive and participative community of all the baptized “presses on to fulfillment.” He is consoled that “fierce resistance to change is often the last hurrah of a faltering regime.”

Pages

300x80-lighthope-web-ad.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

April 21-May 4, 2017

NCR_4-21.jpg