Thursday, May 19, 2016

I couldn't help it - I just had to Rave!

And I did so on two new venues: Amazon Books evaluation and Reddit's religion page on the Internet. I felt so strongly about Corinna Nicolaou's book, "A None's Story: Searching for Meaning Inside Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, & Islam" that I wanted to do everything I could to stir up interest, and, hopefully conversation. I'm only publicizing this through family and Facebook, so I am counting on you to spread the word. This is what I said:

As she approaches middle-age, Corinna Nicolaou, who has NEVER been exposed to ANY religious doctrine, wonders if she has missed anything in life by never being a part of a faith community . The reader accompanies her on her four-year odyssey from coast-to-coast exploring Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam both as an academic exercise and as a participant as a sincere neophyte. With humor and sympathy, she participates in the practices of a variety of sects of each religion not only at formal services but with nascent friends. As a nonagenarian who has also taken a rather unique course in assessing religion myself, I highly recommend it for any young person who seriously contemplates religion, spirituality and the questions of existentialism. The chapter on Islam alone – particularly as she practices that faith in an unusual setting – is particularly poignant. And her conclusion provides a thoughtful coda to her study.
I personally chanced upon her presentation at a local bookstore and HAD to buy the book! I found the book as compelling as her delightful presentation.  How remarkable that Columbia University Press saw fit to publish a "first book" by an unknown author.who gives such thoughtful consideration to one of the most important topics of the day.

But in addition to the review, I want to add for my personal viewers:

I do think her "assessment of religion" lacks one thing, what the WORLD misses by HER not being a part of a faith community.  I truly believe that this is one of the Hallmarks of our American democracy, the citizen groups, agencies, etc. that work voluntarily for progress in our society.  Alexis de Tocqueville cited this in the early days of our republic and it has been a strength throughout the years,  Yet most all such agencies are in serious decline today - and I think it is clear that faith groups have played a major role in bringing social progress.  Thus the two books of Robert Putnam, "Bowling Alone" and "Our Kids" would be companion reads for anyone seriously looking to help our country overcome the problems and division we face today.

And now it is off to NYC, Santa Fe and Michigan during the next four weeks.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Two interesting religious views - and plans for my summer sabbatical

It's been my great fortune to learn so much in the past twenty years or so that I have been retired in Washington, D. C,   Most of it has been a result of being able to afford the FREE cultural events in the city.  From the privilege of attending the birthday parties of notables like Stephen Sondheim at the Library of Congress to George McGovern's at the National Archives to a front row seat for Stevie Wonder's performance on the mall, I've been entertained and heard from outstanding speakers.

But I've also had the great opportunity to explore provocative and timely topics on Reddit and a variety of other internet sources.  For the rest of my two year celebration of my 90th birthday, I want to explore some topics in more depth.  Thus until the fall I'm ending my weekly blogs.  I hope you will tune in occasionally to see if I've Ranted or Raved (as the "spirit moves me") about topics I find interesting.

I've been challenged recently by two activities (that have been on my culture blog):  And not surprisingly they have related to a topic of great  interest to me - Religion.  In these perilous times (and I feel in many ways they equal that of WWII) I believe that while religion has caused hostility and war, I also believe that it MUST play a significant role in bringing harmony and peace.

First, my first attendance at a book review at Kramers and Afterwords Bookstore enabled me to hear Corinna Niolaou review her new book, A None's Story: Searching for Meaning Inside Christianity , Judaism, Buddhism & Islam.  As someone approaching middle age without any religious exposure, she devotes four years to both a study and first hand participatory experience to see if she has "been missing anything".  Her skillful, humorous writing approach (accentuated for me by her presentation) accompanies her scholastic portrayals (why else would Columbia University Press see fit to publish it).   I'll soon finish my review of it for Amazon and share information about it on some future blog.

And how fortunate I felt last week during DC's Embassy Open House to learn about several Asian and African and African nations I have never visited and have a "fellow traveler" hand me a booklet on Islam.  Certainly I've regretted and been embarrassed as devout folks of Islam have faced the scorn of some of our prospective leaders.  I've tried to show a personal friendship to Muslims who use my church for their prayers, but I feel I have so much to learn.  This brochure has presented me with material to study further.,

Indeed I was skeptical at first because I've seen too many handouts from religious extremists imploring me to "follow THEIR way as the only way .. And this one is entitled

"Join us in reviving True Islam

True Islam is a religion that….
holy rejects all form of terrorism
believes in nonviolent jihad of the self and of the pen
believes in the quality education and empowerment of women
advocates freedom of conscious, religion and speech
advocates for the separation of mosque and state
believes in loyalty to your country of residence
encompasses the universal declaration of human rights
believes in all verses of the Quran and forbids lying
recognizes no religion can monopolize salvation
believes in the need for unified Muslim leadership
holy rejects the concept of a bloodied Messiah."

 "If you agree with these eleven points, you can join us by endorsing them at

I'm looking forward to my "summer sabbatical" to study this topic further and another on a jazz project .  As usual I'll welcome comments and suggestions.