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  • gilwilson 6:43 PM on June 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: agnosticism, atheism, religion,   

    Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto By Lesley Hazelton 

    25894086 (1)Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto
    By Lesley Hazelton
    Narrated by Lesley Hazleton
    Length: 4 hrs and 6 mins
    Release date: 04-05-16
    Publisher: Penguin Audio

    Being a full-fledged ordained atheist, I was very intrigued by this book.  Growing up I was forced to attend either a Baptist Church or a Presbyterian Church.  I had no say in the matter and I’m not so sure that the Presbyterian church attendance served as my punishment for staying out too late on Saturdays.  So what did I learn?  Well, hard to say other than If you party to hard god will force you to sit in a creaky old building where women in their 90s will sing loudly and out of key to force you to stop sinning.

    So before I became an atheist, I had declared myself an Agnostic.  I thought there could have been an intelligence but that intelligence had yet to show his/herself in any form of organized religion in the United States.  I also felt that well, if Jesus died for my sins, then I’d better get to sinning or else he would have died in vain.    That’s what forced religion taught me.

    Later in life I determined no divine deity could ever be in control because if so he/she were some cruel deity and enjoyed watching his/her creation suffer.  Look what they did to their own son in Christianity.  Look what was allowed to happen to the Jews through the ages.  How the African brought over to serve the white man followed the white man’s god is beyond me.  How can god let little children suffer and die?  Yeah my ranting could go on, but this is about Lesley Hazleton’s book.

    Hazelton is able to explain why agnostics, and even atheists, can be proud of who they are.  So what is it to be agnostic.  Simply put,  just to be able to admit you have no idea what the answers to life’s great mysteries are, but to always be seeking those same answers.  Hazelton presents her case by bringing in science, psychology, philosophy and of course, theology.

    If you are looking for an intriguing philosophical discussion on life, the universe, and everything, you could definitely give this book a place in your time on this earth.


    Publisher’s Summary

    A widely admired writer on religion celebrates agnosticism as the most vibrant and engaging – and, ultimately, the most honest – stance toward the mysteries of existence.

    One in four Americans rejects any affiliation with organized religion, and nearly half of those under 30 describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious”. But as the airwaves resound with the haranguing of preachers and pundits, who speaks for the millions who find no joy in whittling the wonder of existence to a simple yes/no choice?

    Lesley Hazleton does. In this provocative, brilliant book, she gives voice to the case for agnosticism, breaks it free of its stereotypes as watered-down atheism or amorphous “seeking”, and celebrates it as a reasoned, revealing, and sustaining stance toward life. Stepping over the lines imposed by rigid conviction, she draws on philosophy, theology, psychology, science, and more to explore, with curiosity and passion, the vital role of mystery in a deceptively information-rich world; to ask what we mean by the search for meaning; to invoke the humbling yet elating perspective of infinity; to challenge received ideas about death; and to reconsider what “the soul” might be.

    Inspired and inspiring, Agnostic recasts the question of belief not as a problem to be solved but as an invitation to an ongoing, open-ended adventure of the mind.

    ©2016 Lesley Hazelton (P)2016 Penguin Audio
  • gilwilson 5:42 PM on March 22, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , heresy, , religion, theology   

    City of God: A Novel By: E. L. Doctorow 

    City of God: A Novel516Sn666p5L._SL500_
    By: E. L. Doctorow
    Narrated by: John Rubinstein
    Length: 12 hrs and 19 mins
    Release date: 03-04-14
    Publisher: Random House Audio

    Having just read “Billy Bathgate” by E.L. Doctorow, I was curious to hear what some of his other books would sound like. For some reason I was under the impression that Doctorow only wrote gangster like stories. This book was the first to prove me wrong. I had also considered listening to “World’s Fair” but went with this one. Maybe later.

    First let’s talk about what makes this audiobook unique. The narrator, John Rubinstein, delivers the story with perfect voice and emphasis. The problem is the story is just so disjointed it get’s boring and tedious. Actually Rubinstein’s voice saved me from stopping after the first few chapters. He kept it interesting and pleasant to hear.

    Not only is the subject matter (religion) difficult to approach but going back and forth between Catholic and Jewish characters, there are times where I just got lost. At first I thought it was going to be one of those who-is-better types of approaches to religion, but that was not the case. Then I thought it was how faiths can get along, but that was not fully right either. To me this book seemed like Doctorow had a few ideas for novels but never finished each and just slapped them together here. There were some nice moments, mainly with the dialogue, but not enough to make me like it.

    “Billy Bathgate” was way better, maybe I should have gone with “World’s Fair.”

    Publisher’s Summary

    In his workbook, a New York City novelist records the contents of his teeming brain – sketches for stories, accounts of his love affairs, riffs on the meanings of popular songs, ideas for movies, obsessions with cosmic processes. He is a virtual repository of the predominant ideas and historical disasters of the age. But now he has found a story he thinks may become his next novel: The large brass cross that hung behind the altar of St. Timothy’s, a run-down Episcopal church in lower Manhattan, has disappeared…and even more mysteriously reappeared on the roof of the Synagogue for Evolutionary Judaism, on the Upper West Side. The church’s maverick rector and the young woman rabbi who leads the synagogue are trying to learn who committed this strange double act of desecration and why. Befriending them, the novelist finds that their struggles with their respective traditions are relevant to the case. Into his workbook go his taped interviews, insights, preliminary drafts…and as he joins the clerics in pursuit of the mystery, it broadens to implicate a large cast of vividly drawn characters – including scientists, war veterans, prelates, Holocaust survivors, cabinet members, theologians, New York Times reporters, filmmakers, and crooners – in what proves to be a quest for an authentic spirituality at the end of this tortured century.

    Daringly poised at the junction of the sacred and the profane, and filled with the sights and sounds of New York, this dazzlingly inventive masterwork emerges as the American novel listeners have been thirsting for: a defining document of our times, a narrative of the 20th century written for the 21st.

    ©2001 E. L. Doctorow (P)2014 Random House Audio

  • gilwilson 5:30 PM on March 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , religion, smuggling,   

    Storm Front (Virgil Flowers, Book 7) By: John Sandford 

    Storm Front (Virgil Flowers, Book 7)51zfwgxB1TL._SL500_
    By: John Sandford
    Narrated by: Eric Conger
    Length: 9 hrs and 21 mins
    Release date: 10-08-13
    Publisher: Penguin Audio

    It’s amazing how many fun stories you can read when you branch out from your norm. For the longest time I was a pure Horror/SciFi only reader. Those two genres pack the punch needed to escape the real world, and that’s what I do when I read. Sure there are some classics that I’ve read but only until recently have I been branching out. It’s funny, it all started with the L. Ron Hubbard pulp fiction re-releases by Galaxy Press that started me on this road.

    Back in 2013 I received on of John Sandford’s novels from Penguin Audio, and for the longest time it sat on my “not-sure-whether-or-not-it-is-my-cup-of-tea” shelf. This is a shelf of audiobooks that sound intriguing but I’m not yet familiar with the author or whether I will like the story. I go to this shelf when I’m not sure what I want to hear. Many times I have started a book from this shelf and have been let down and not able to finish the book. Since then all Sandford novels are in my to be read shelf.

    Sandford first intrigued me with his Lucas Davenport series “_____ Prey” all the books are 2 word titles and the second word is Prey. Lucas Davenport is an investigator with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. So basically, he catches criminals. After Sandford’s Prey novels became hugely popular, he launched these Virgil Flowers stories back in 2007. Virgil helped Lucas on a few of his criminal pursuits and became a fun character.

    Before I get into a summary of the book, I have to send out all the adulations to the narrator, Eric Conger. Conger narrates all of the Sandford audiobooks I’ve listened to and he has me hooked. Conger seems to take on the persona of either Virgil Flowers or Lucas Davenport. His voice is a perfect match and whenever I pick up a hard copy of the book to read, in my head I hear Conger’s voice. I’m hoping to discover some other readings by Conger soon.

    In this book Minnesota state investigator Virgil Flowers is working on a case involving Florence ‘Ma’ Nobles and her sons selling counterfeit antique lumber. Part of the reason that Virgil is working so hard is that Ma is very attractive and flirting with him. Sure enough, just before the fun happens Lucas Davenport calls with a new case.

    A Lutheran minister named Elijah Jones who is dying of cancer stole an ancient inscribed stone called a stele from an archaeological dig in Israel and smuggled it home to Minnesota. The Israelis want it back and have dispatched an antiquities expert to bring it back. Simple all Virgil has to do is be the tour guide, pick up the terminally ill minister, and locate the stele. Davenport assures Flowers that he’ll back on his counterfeit lumber case in to time at all. In cop stories no time at all usually means after a couple of weeks of investigation and a few hours of risking your life.

    The plan is to auction the stele off to the highest bidder to get the money needed to care for Jones’ wife suffering from Alzheimer’s after he dies. The stele’s inscription has historic implications that could be very damaging to Israel so Hezbollah has sent a representative to try and obtain it for propaganda purposes. Also coming into the hunt are a couple of Turks that would kill you just as soon as look at you.

    After lots of double crossing and misleading clues and some public media spotlight Virgil solves the case, but not easily.

    Publisher’s Summary

    The thrilling new novel in the number one New York Times – bestselling series.

    In Israel, a man clutching a backpack searches desperately for a boat. In Minnesota, Virgil Flowers gets a message from Lucas Davenport: You’re about to get a visitor. It’s an Israeli cop, and she’s tailing a man who’s smuggled out an extraordinary relic – a copper scroll revealing startling details about the man known as King Solomon.

    Wait a minute, laughs Virgil. Is this one of those Da Vinci Code deals? The secret scroll, the blockbuster revelation, the teams of murderous bad guys? Should I be boning up on my Bible verses?

    He looks at the cop. She’s not laughing. As it turns out, there are very bad men chasing the relic, and they don’t care who’s in the way or what they have to do to get it. Maybe Virgil should start praying.

    ©2013 John Sandford (P)2013 Penguin Audio

  • gilwilson 5:19 PM on January 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , chicanos, , folk healer, hispanic, mexican-americans, religion,   

    Bless Me, Ultima By: Rudolfo Anaya 

    Narrated by: Robert Ramirez
    Length: 11 hrs and 16 mins
    Release date: 09-17-07
    Publisher: Recorded Books

    Sometimes a book comes your way and just sits there waiting to be read, and then when the time is right you read it when you need it. That’s pretty much what happened here with “Bless Me, Ultima.” I had downloaded the audiobook from the SYNC YA summer reading program and just kept it on my computer for a while. Then while looking for what I thought would be some light fare I decided to listen to this Young Adult novel. I have to say it was interesting to read about someone else trying to determine what is good and what is evil and how to cope with what you know to be true.

    The book follows a young Antonio as he is about to begin school and be separated from his mother for the first time. While worrying about school, Ultima, a sort of folk healer, comes to live with his family. Antonio is expected to become a priest, by his mother. In a community of farmers this will be a difficult road to travel. While he is preparing for his first communion and learning about God and good and evil, his religious background is enhanced by the folktales and teachings of Ultima about his ancestors.

    As Antonio begins to question good and evil things happen in the village that lead Antonio to become concerned for the soul of his father. Ultima also shows him how to break a curse from the town’s witches and learns to save his Uncle. Antonio’s education becomes a pathway that shapes not only his future but his family’s future and his standing in it.

    This book not only tells the coming of age of Antonio, but also gives the reader/listener a look into the society of the vaqueros (farmers) and Mexican-Americans / Chicanos and the blending with European religion and attitudes.

    Robert Ramirez delivers the narration of the book with the perfect subtlety and accent to keep the book interesting throughout.

    Publisher’s Summary

    With hundreds of thousands of copies in print, Bless Me, Ultima has been called the most widely read Mexican-American novel in the English language. Richly evocative, it has earned its place among the classics of modern literature, even drawing favorable comparisons to Herman Melville’s legendary Moby Dick.

    ©1973, 1994 Rodolfo Anaya; (P)2004 Recorded Books LLC

  • gilwilson 3:42 PM on August 6, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: age of x, , , , emily shaffer, , gameboard of the gods, mythology, , religion, richelle mead,   

    Audiobook Review: “Gameboard of the Gods” By Richelle Mead 


    Audiobook Review: “Gameboard of the Gods”

    By Richelle Mead

    Read by Emily Shaffer

    Published by Penguin Audio

    Total Playing Time: Approx 16 hours



    When I became aware of this book as a potential read, the first thing I noticed was that it hit me with a triple whammy of my interests, thus making it a must read to find out what it was about.  The first thing that grabbed me was that the book is a sci-fi and I love sci-fi.  Next is that the book is a dystopian story, and I have always enjoyed a good dystopian to find out what different authors see as a possible bleak future.  The third aspect that grabbed me was that the book is the first in a series, “The Age of X” series from Richelle Mead.  If the characters are strong enough I enjoy a good fictional series because I know that I will have more stories to continue my reading enjoyment.


    Those were the three aspects that grabbed me enough to start listening to the book but were they good enough to keep me listening?  The fact that I’m writing this review is a sure sign that they were, If a book is not good enough to keep my attention then I just don’t finish the book and don’t write a review.  (This explains why sometimes there are long gaps of time between my reviews,  I get through parts of books only to put them down and try another.)  Richelle Mead did create a very interesting tri-fecta of features that kept me interested in this book and eager to hear/read any future books in this series.


    In the sci-fi aspect of this story Mead has created a future for planet Earth where we all have Egos.  In this case the Ego is really more of a smart phone that’s even smarter.
    The Ego controls communications and is synced to the media stream (internet), as well as the owner’s identity chip. Everyone is chipped in the future.  The chip is keyed to the person’s DNA and an entry in the National Registry, which contains all of their basic information. Chip readers scattered throughout the country regulate who enters secure areas and also help locate criminals and outsiders.


    The Dystopian aspect sneaks it’s way into the story as the characters work through the solving of a series of murders.  There is first the disease called Mephistopheles which killed off billions on the planet.  The survival of humans from this diseases is helped by genetic blending.  In other words different races are forced to interbreed.  Those that stay pure are part of the elite but they also bear the scars of the disease, which leads to the elite having to rely on plastic surgery.


    On top of this there is only one religion; The Secular Church of Humanity, which is basically just a voice for the government.  All other religions must be registered and prove on a regular basis that they have a purpose and admit they worship a fictional entity.


    Justin March is a servitor, an investigator of sorts employed by the government to investigate religious groups and supernatural claims.  Something happened to Justin that caused him to be exiled to the provinces away from the civilized RUNA (Republic of United North America).  He is called back to the RUNA to investigate a series of religious based murders.  His escort, Mae Koskinen is a Praetorian guard (the elite of the elite in world military).  After a one night stand with each other they find out their true identities and their mission together, which makes matters uncomfortable.


    The two find out that there is a fine line between mythology and reality and that line is encroaching on reality threatening Justin’s and Mae’s careers and lives.  Mixing space age sci-fi with mythos and fantasy, Mead has started a series that will keep you going and helping to solve the murder mystery along with revealing the forgotten gods seeking to reclaim the planet.


    Emily Shaffer does a superb job of performing the book.  She is able to differentiate between voices during dialog and perform the various emotions through here vocal talents, making this audiobook a very easy listen.

  • gilwilson 10:52 PM on May 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , carol kane, , , , mccarthyism, , religion, , salem witch hunt, salem witches, , , ,   

    “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller from the “Arthur Miller Collection” from L.A. Theatre Works 

    “The Crucible”
    by Arthur Miller
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
    Included in “The Arthur Miller Collection”
    Starring: Irene Aranga, Rene Auberjonois, Ed Begley Jr, Georgia Brown, Jack Coleman, Bud Cort, Richard Dreyfuss, Judyann Elder, Hector Elizondo, Fionnula Flanagan, Ann Hearne, Carol Kane, Stacy Keach, Anna Sophie Loewenberg, Marian Mercer, Franklyn Seales, Madolyn Smith, Joe Spano and Michael York
    118 minutes

    Continuing on in this collection of 10 plays from L.A. Theatre Works’ “The Arthur Miller Collection,” I’ve just finished with a very cool play that has a bit of a double meaning. “The Crucible” was Arthur Miller’s answer to the Communism accusations from McCarthyism and the blacklisting of accused communists. During the days when Senator McCarthy was finding Communists hiding behind every doorway, Arthur Miller was questioned by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956 and convicted of “contempt of Congress” for refusing to identify others present at meetings he had attended. So what seemed like a witch hunt Arthur was spurred to write “The Crucible.” While “The Crucible” may not be entirely historically accurate it does represent the scare tactics and deplorable actions during the Salem Witch trials and the Committee on Un-American Activities.

    L. A. Theatre works has produced a great version of this play with some of the greatest actors ever. Each one brings to audio life this play that portrays a dark time in history and serves as an allegory for another dark time centuries later. The cast alone is enough to move the play along in this production, but there is one other “actor” that is not credited that really allowed me as a listener to feel the burdens of the convicted Satanists, that “actor” was the special effects, especially those of the chains used to hold the prisoners. The sound effects of the chains was so real and yet surreal in that their audio level was promoted to the point where I could feel the weight of the chains myself. This really made the experience more life-like.

    When a girl of the village of Salem, Massachusetts is found unconscious, and is suspected because of dabbling in witchcraft accusations begin to fly. What soon happens is that one of the local farmers’ wife is accused by a girl who once had an affair with the farmer and wants the wife out of the way. Soon many of the women and even some men are bound in chains and thrown in jail. With the threat of unChristian activities set to destroy the very fabric of the town and government, the accused are threatened to either confess their dealings with Satan or be hanged. Even if they have nothing to confess if they don’t confess they get hanged.

    In a play that presents the choice of lying to live and destroy your reputation or tell the truth and be killed and thus destroying the reputation of your family, the drama and suspense abounds. The language written in the play pulls from the sound of the language of the Bible and each actor makes the words sound so natural that it adds more depth to the play. Top it off with this excellent cast and production and this is one version of “The Crucible” you won’t want to miss.

  • gilwilson 1:30 AM on September 30, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: amber spyglass, , , , golden compass, his dark materials, philip pullman, religion, , subtle knife   

    The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, Book 3) by Philip Pullman 

    519Z9B31W7L._SL500_AA240_The Amber Spyglass
    (His Dark Materials, Book 3)
    by Philip Pullman
    narrated by Philip Pullman
    Multicast performance
    Produced by Listening Library
    Approx 12 hours

    I have finally finished the series of “His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman.  I set out on this reading adventure intrigued by the protestations from organized religion when the movie came out.  I saw the movie and didn’t see what the hubbub was about.  So then I thought well maybe it was in the book and they left out parts from the movie to keep the religious right from protesting.  After reading the first two books I still didn’t see what the big deal was.  Basically the series was just another fantasy young adult series that borrowed from many mythologies to create a very creative well told story.  With this third book in the series I still wonder why all the fuss, but can see where closed minded individuals who believe “their truth” to be the only truth worry that the series may instigate the young masses to form thoughts on their own.  Okay, that was a bit harsh, but I still just don’t get it.  Yes the third book does see the death of a deity known as “The Authority,” but it also sees the death of a fallen angel by the name of Metatron, and yes, this book is Philip Pullman’s way of writing a book that promotes an alternative to organized religion, but, the general idea of good triumphing over evil and everyone can make a difference and we must fight for our freewill doesn’t make people become evil.

    I was very pleased to find the books available in audio book form and especially once I found that the audio book featured a multi-cast as well as being narrated by the author himself.  There are many characters in the book and the multi-cast helps to move the story along for the audio book with out the listener having to try to battle with trying to figure who is talking or thinking at the moment.  The added bonus of having the author narrate the books helps to uncover intentions of the author himself.

    This book may be a bit difficult to summarize because of the many events happening to close out this trilogy so I will touch a bit on the main events, but I will not give up the surprise ending.

    Book two, “The Subtle Knife,” left the listener with a cliffhanger. Lyra’s mom, Marisa Coulter, captured Lyra and Will had just learned he had a task to help Lyra’s father, Lord Asriel.  Before he goes to the battle of the worlds with Lord Asriel, Will insists on finding and rescuing Lyra.  Mrs. Coulter has Lyra in a cave to protect her from the Magisterum, the church/government that rules in Lyra’s world.  The Magisterum has sent out an assassin to kill Lyra before she can yeild to original sin.

    Will has used his knife to escape an attack from the archangel Metatron.  He is escorted by 2 angels one flies ahead to tell Lord Asriel of Will’s plan while the other stays behind to assist Will.  Upon hearing the news, Lord Asriel dispatches a small army to the cave where Lyra is being forced drugs to stay sleeping so she will be undetected, to counteract the zeppelins from the Consistorial Court. He also sends two Gallivespian spies, the Chevalier Tialys and the Lady Salmakia, to protect Lyra. Gallivespians resemble humans, but are approximately four inches tall and they ride dragonflies.

    During this time Will runs into Iorek Byrnison, the bear king of the armoured Panserbjørne, who are migrating south to avoid the Arctic melt caused by the effects of Lord Asriel’s bridge. Three forces — Will, Iorek, and Balthamos; Lord Asriel’s army; and the army of the Magisterium — converge on Mrs. Coulter’s cave, where Will is able to wake Lyra with a special powder that he sprays up her nostrils. He is cutting a window into another world when Mrs. Coulter turns and looks directly at him. For a moment, Will is reminded of his own mother; as a result, his concentration falters, and the knife shatters, having been unable to sever his affection. Because the window he has cut is open, Will, Lyra, and the Gallivespian spies manage to escape to another world.

    Will and Lyra delay even further their trip to Lord Asriel’s by going to the world of the dead.  Will and Lyra mean to keep promises to Will’s father and Lyra’s friend Roger.  In the world of the dead Lyra must leave her Daemon on the shore and is separated from her daemon.  They soon discover the dead must be released from the abyss and Will uses the Subtle Knife to cut an opening and release the ghosts into the world.  Once in the world the ghosts are freed and their atoms are free to mix back into nature.

    The major battle begins between Lord Asriel’s army and the army of Metatron.  Ending with Lyra and Will reuniting with their daemons and Lyra’s parents sacrificing themselves to destroy Metatron.

    While all this is going on Dr. Mary Malone has stepped through a window from her own world (assumed to be the readers’ world/Will’s world) into another window into a stranger world. There she meets elephantine creatures who call themselves Mulefa and use large seedpods attached to their feet as wheels. These creatures have a complex culture, intricate language, and an infectious laugh. Although from completely different worlds, Mary and the Mulefa establish a rapport which results in Mary’s acceptance into Mulefa community, where she learns that the trees from which the seedpods are gathered have gradually been going extinct for about 300 years. Mary uses the tree sap lacquer and accidentally constructs a telescope (the ‘amber spyglass’ of the title) that allows her to see the elementary particles known as Dust. Dust adheres to all life-forms that have attained a level of intelligence associated with building civilizations. She sees that Dust is flying away in large streams rather than falling on and nourishing the trees on which the Mulefa mutually depend.

    After the battle Will and Lyra are reunited with Dr. Malone and soon learn their ultimate fate as well as the fate of all the worlds.    Here is where I’ll stop because the end of the book is a bit of a surprise, but I will tell you it is a very beautiful to end this magical tale.  Spread the word to all your friends, “This series is a fun romp through fantasy and mythology with a lesson to learn.”

    • JimmyBean 10:55 AM on October 1, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t know If I said it already but …Cool site, love the info. I do a lot of research online on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

      A definite great read..Jim Bean


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