Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Book #23 "Is Reality Secular?" by Mary Poplin

This book basically held me hostage.  My mom made me read it.  She mailed it to me with a note along the lines of "this is so good that I bothered to mail it to you so you'd better read it" except less threatening because my mom is actually really nice.

So then I read about 1/4 of it and it was horrendously tedious and complicated and I really really hated it.  And earlier this year I decided that I would stop reading books that I didn't like once I knew that I really for sure didn't like them and so I decided to stop reading it.  And I was prepared to stick it back in an envelope and send it back to my mom with a note that said "this book is awful and you can't make me read it because I'm a grownup and you're not the boss of me."  I flipped through it a little bit in preparation for permanently rejecting it and then a phrase caught my eye and I read a little bit and it was really interesting.  So I skipped through a couple of chapters just reading the interesting bits and then I started reading everything again and then I finished it and I really enjoyed it.

Poplin discusses four major worldviews and identifies how they exist in our current world.  They are secular humanism, material naturalism, pantheism, and judeo-christianity.  What's interesting is that I think most of us are fairly familiar with all of these worldviews because they are all present in our world and different people we know believe different mixes of them (but primarily fall under one of the four).  It was very helpful for my understanding of the world to clarify the different worldviews and to identify them as such.  It's a simpler way of looking at the world, rather than the complicated mess of differing beliefs that are actually present.  Pantheism was the one that I found most interesting, as I had never realized how much of current spirituality comes from that worldview.  I had always associated it with watered-down Christianity, and though it may include a bit of that, it is primarily Eastern in origin.

This is one of those books that has changed the way I interpret the world to such an extent that I can't even remember what I thought before I read it.  I can't help identifying the different worldviews when I come across them in books or movies or daily life.  Part of me resents that, but overall I think it's helpful.

I did have a problem with the organization of the book.  Once I got to the end I felt like Poplin's theory was clear and the rest of the book made sense.  But I don't think she did a good enough job of setting that up in the beginning which made the first part of the book very confusing.  I think it might be better if her opening and closing sections were switched.  It also felt like she was trying to trick people by pretending to be presenting an unbiased view of the four worldviews when she was really promoting Christianity, and that seems dishonest.

This is a very good, but very academic book.  It takes a while to get through but is very worth it.

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