World Audience Publishers
303 Park Avenue South, #1440, New York, NY 10010
9781935444848, $27.30, www.amazon.com
G. Richard Bozarth
A book by William Harwood is always welcomed by me. Even if I finish it without being persuaded to agree with one or more of the book's major theses, there is always a wealth of interesting content that fully rewards reading it. This is what happened when I read "God, Jesus, And The Bible: The Origin And Evolution Of Religion". The wealth of interesting content ascends beyond interesting by being valuable to any person interested in the book's major theses.
Here are some examples:
P. 142: "Joseph had a coat with long sleeves. The inaccuracy of the 'many colors' translation has been known for decades, and no longer appears in RC bibles or in Protestant bibles not based on the Authorized Version. Nonetheless, there are still more people who believe that the Yahwist credited Joseph with a multicolored coat than are familiar with the fable as actually written."
P. 143: "David and Yahuwnathan [usually translated as 'Jonathan'] were lovers. Yahweh did not disapprove, because his retroactive disapproval would not be invented by the Priestly author for a further three hundred years. David was an equal opportunity lover, as were every man and woman on earth prior to about 650 BCE. A sizeable minority never engaged in any homosexual recreation; but they were observing a preference, not a taboo." Harwood provides numerous book/chapter/verse references that support David and Yahuwnathan being lovers.
P. 241-247: Harwood convincingly charts the evolution of Christianity from the Judaist eschatological cult that emerged out of the Pharisees to the pagan-friendly, quasi-Judaist eschatological cult founded by Paul. The paganization Paul started continued to evolve until eventually Christianity ceased being a Judaist cult and turned into an entirely different religion that only had roots in Judaism.
P. 293: "He [Jesus] was not nominated for godship until 130 CE, and was not officially voted god of the Christians until the convening of the Council of Nicea in 325 CE. He was de-deified and re-deified twice in the decades that followed, and pumkinified permanently in 380 CE. But from his death in 30 CE until the publication a century later of the unknown Greek author's Gospel of John, he had to be content with the role of a resurrected but mortal King of the Jews."
P. 355: "The Roman world was full of savior gods, of whom the most popular was Mithra. Mithra, however, restricted salvation to military-class males. The god Jesus offered admittance into Heaven to women and slaves. That single concession should have eliminated Mithraism as a serious competitor within a generation. In fact Mithra remained Jesus' main rival for three centuries, and the Christians found it necessary to borrow much from the other god." Following this are many examples of what Christians borrowed.
As the title suggests, GJB is much more about the Bible, Judaism, and Christianity than it is about the origin and evolution of religion. Harwood fully acknowledges that this was the book's purpose near the end of it in a paragraph that should have been in the preface or the introduction (p. 406): "Most of God, Jesus, and the Bible is based on my own analysis of the Judaeo-Christian Bible. Not surprisingly, few of the conclusions reached are new or unusual. Nonetheless, it seemed necessary that God, Jesus, and the Bible be written, partly to throw open to scholarly discussion such findings as are new; but mainly to bring together sufficient evidence of the fictional status of the bible to satisfy any objective reader that gods who have revealed their existence (I make no comment on any other kind of god) are indeed products of the human imagination. It was my purpose to make it unnecessary to read more than one book simply to obtain sufficient facts to prove the point, and this I have done." He has accomplished that mission.
GJB does have content about the origin and evolution of religion. His hypothesis is not convincing despite a lot of valuable content contained in the development of his hypothesis. His hypothesis is that (p. 30) "primeval religion was very much a woman's invention" because "from the analogy of modern mythologies we can safely conclude that all mythologies, including the first, were invented by their immediate beneficiaries; and the beneficiaries of the first religion were women." The origin of religion had to have been when human brains evolved enough intellectual creativity to analyze their objective and subjective experiences with a desire to understand them by explaining them. In other words, religion began when humans could accomplish the feats of complex imagination necessary to become persuaded the explanation was this: supernatural realms, entities, and forces objectively existed and interactions between them and humans were possible. Because their thinking was not disciplined by what is called today the scientific method (they were tens of thousands of years away from being culturally advanced enough to discover the methodology called science), they all too easily made the mistake of believing what they imagined was true was in fact objectively true. That women did not begin religion and control the first stages of its evolution is supported by the mythologies of the primitive tribes that survived to be scientifically studied. It seems to me Harwood's mistake was to limit his analysis to evidence provided by the Mediterranean cultural region.
His origin-of-religion hypothesis is entwined with a hypothesis of the evolution of human sexuality I've encountered in other books (p. 22):
At a very early stage in humankind's evolution the mutation occurred that led to the human male's acceptance of the role of protector and provider of individual females and their young. Women were born who, unlike their mothers, were capable of orgasm and desirous of copulation at all times rather than only during or near ovulation. ...... With the birth of the mutants, men were no longer obliged to seek new partners every couple of days. A woman who was able and willing to mate as often as a particular man wanted found herself possessed of an incentive that could attach a man to herself permanently. In exchange for the certainty of sexual gratification on demand, a man was willing to devote a portion of his time to finding food for more children than the woman could have supported alone. ...... A similar mutation occurred among gibbons. It is no coincidence that humans and gibbons, the only primates not subject to an estrus cycle, are also the only primates that practise monogamy.
The odds for this hypothesis being true are very low because it is the product of nuclear-family thinking. The nuclear-family is a late cultural development and for the longest time it rarely was truly nuclear; the large majority of families that would have appeared at first glance to be nuclear were in fact parts of the web of an extended family. The kind of isolated nuclear family that is so familiar in Western culture today is a very late development.
Hunter-gatherer tribes were communal, therefore a woman was never in danger of having to support and raise her kids alone, and she did not need to rely on a specific man to protect her and her children. Add to that the facts that women's gathering typically brought in more food than men's hunting, and that hunting was not an exclusively male chore in some primitive cultures (see Nisa by Marjorie Shostak, Vintage Books/Random House, Inc., 1981, and The Forest People by Colin M. Turnbull, Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1961). That means there could not have been any selection pressure that would have given an advantage to a mutation that would have caused human sexuality to evolve in the direction of heterosexual monogamy. Humans who are sufficiently motivated can successfully practice monogamy, but to assert that human sexuality is monogamous, or inclined to monogamy, is to ignore current events, history, sexology, and anthropology. The liberation of hominid female sexuality from the estrus cycle was most likely a result of the body-and-brain changes that were necessary for hominids to become fully bipedal.
It is a coincidence about gibbon and human sexuality. The two do not compare. For example, human sexuality is not restricted to the human species. Gibbons aren't like that - an assertion I make because in something like 45 years of reading a lot about human sexuality I haven't yet read about a researcher reporting gibbons enjoying sexual activities with other species. If a person tries to diminish the significance of this fact of human sexuality by arguing that only a small percentage of humans actually engage in interosexual behavior, the effectiveness of that rebuttal is undermined by the much larger percentage that enjoy pornographic fantasies about it. However, once again, even though his hypothesis is wrong, Harwood provides a lot of valuable content that will be appreciated by any person interested in studying human sexuality.
Another flaw in GJB is Harwood's belief in a large amount of historicity contained in the Bible's myths. He is not very convincing because he justified his belief with the assumption that smoke proves there is a fire somewhere. If he had been analyzing smoke, that would be acceptable. However, he was analyzing the products of human imagination and smoke without fire is very easy to imagine and write about. Any person who doesn't believe that needs to go to the science fiction/fantasy section of his or her favorite bookstore or electronic book provider and buy a dozen or so randomly selected novels. After reading them, imaginary fireless smoke will not be hard to comprehend. In the chapters dealing with the Judaist Testament he mentions The Bible Unearthed by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman to criticize it for rejecting his lots-ofhistoricity hypothesis. Well, I've read the book. Its authors made their case much more strongly and convincingly than Harwood made his. Harwood relied too much on "reasonable" interpretation and not enough on empirical evidence. This style of analysis carries over into the chapters dealing with the Christian Testament. He attempted to squeeze historicity out of the gospels without a reason more valid than his belief that it is unlikely the gospel writers would have invented the Jesus story. Yet, when some Christians began Mary's evolution into a mother-of -god goddess, there was no hesitation about creating or inability to create an entirely imaginary biography for her and her parents. What Bible scholar would risk his reputation by arguing that this particular cloud of smoke had to have a fire somewhere? Nevertheless, the rest of his analysis of the Bible that is not based on unreasonable assumptions of historicity is very, very good. Particularly valuable are his chapters on how the large story that begins with the creation of the universe and ends with the death of King Solomon was created by at least two redactors stitching together the works of at least four writers who had different theological ideas.
In one place GJB was so totally wrong that I was surprised. On p. 61 Harwood wrote, "Eventually all societies recognized that, with women dying in childbirth as a matter of course, live births were too rare to be wasted and infant sacrifice had to be abolished." There are two things wrong about this. One: if it is true, then secular infanticide would have been abolished as well, but legal and moral infanticide for no other purpose than to get rid of an unwanted child existed universally well past when humans began creating civilizations - and it is still practiced today all over Earth, including in nations that have made the practice illegal. Two: religiously sacrificing children continued all over Earth into Western culture's modern age and is still practiced in some cultures today (see Human Sacrifice In History And Today by Nigel Davies, William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1981).
God, Jesus, And The Bible has its flaws, but they do not outweigh all the content that makes a valuable contribution to a study of religion in general and Judaism and Christianity in particular. And all this information is delivered by an Atheist who has a satisfyingly militant Ecrasez l'infame! attitude about religion. Although Harwood failed to convince me about some of his hypotheses, he completely accomplished his primary missions of providing "sufficient evidence of the fictional status of the bible" and proving that gods "are indeed products of the human imagination." Because he did that, I highly recommend "God, Jesus, And The Bible: The Origin And Evolution Of Religion".
A Kind of Archeology
University of Massachusetts Press
PO Box 429, Amherst, MA 01004
9781558497443, $65.00, www.umass.edu/umpress
For author Elizabeth Stillinger, the subtitle "A Kind of Archeology: Collecting American Folk Art, 1876-1976" is not only a subject, but also an activity of a lifetime. Author of five previous books on antiques and wife of William Guthman (deceased) who was a regular on Antiques Road Show in the areas of early Americana, particularly militaria, Stillinger writes from a knowledge base and broad historical perspective of an expert along with the enthusiasm, market awareness, and approach of the committed collector. Her aim is to share as well as instruct.
Given its eclecticism depending much on personal tastes (e. g., what is folk art is often in the eye of the beholder) and unpredictability with respect to what antique objects will be included in the field depending in many cases on archeological finds, attic discoveries, recent scholarship, or new thinking in the field, folk art cannot be precisely defined. Definition and even concept are at different times strongly influenced though not fixed by individual interests, market trends, and social change.
Folk art has come to be seen in a new light in recent decades because of how it relates to trends of modernism, especially the fading of the line between "high" and "low" art and the elevation of popular culture. "Collecting folk art has to do ... with the great shift in our perception of what art is." Avant-garde artists looked to the forms, materials, and decorations of folk art as representing the modernist ideals of "freedom from the shackles of formal art [and] self-expression above conformity". Stillinger explores this vein thoroughly in terms of the relevant modern interest in ethnology, social history, aesthetics, decoration, identity, and art theory.
The author notes that her voluminous, authoritative examination of folk art mostly of the Northeast can readily be applied to folk art of any region or group. The motives, perspectives, appreciation, and activities of collectors, dealers, and auction houses in the Northeast where Stillinger lives and has been active for decades which inform her study along with her own incomparable experience and knowledge are found among individuals in other parts of the country.
The abundant and diverse color photographs of quilts, sign boards, sculpture, amateur paintings, family portraits, patriotic woodworking, furniture, weather vanes, etc., coming page after page in a seemingly endless stream delight the reader as the text informs. The history, cultural ground, appeal, and market standing of folk art found in the book make it a benchmark in the field. There are many books on different aspects of folk art such as regional and ethnic; but none brings the field together to put it on the map and also to serve as a groundwork for study of the field and work in it as this book does.
Is Life One Big Goodbye
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466252929, $14.50, www.amazon.com
Quoting from the back cover:
I blend into the walls, like other women: faceless, no expression - a dead look. I've lost my identity, my individuality. I no longer know myself. The other women are young, Black, Hispanic, few White, like me. Most have been abused by fathers, mothers, husbands or children. Children who don't want to care for mothers sign them in after they have been released from psychiatric facilities. Twenty-year olds are put here by mothers or fathers after they come from drug or alcohol centers. Children don't want to care for mothers and mothers don't want to care for children - their own flesh and blood. If there's a 'me' underneath this faceless disguise that has attached itself to my body, I want it to leave, now!
"After having been married with children, a nice home, belonging to golf country clubs, and divorce, at age 68, after surgery and medical bills, I had no choice but to move into a Homeless Shelter.
Rose Lamatt was born on Long Island, NY, the daughter of an emigrant Italian father and a mother from South Philly. She married, raised a family and lived on Long Island until moving to Florida in l985.
"Her passion for writing started at fourteen when she wrote, The Day the Russians Bombed Us, inspired by the fear of the Cold War Era. Over the years she has learned that life can change in the blink of (an) eye; and because of several blinks, she did not fulfill her passion until her first novel was published in 2005.
"She writes of her past with great respect and has learned that by giving herself, she learned the best of herself."
Is Life One Big Goodbye is a memoir by Rose Lamatt, a 68-year old, convalescing white woman, living in a Florida homeless shelter for eight months while waiting to hear from lowincome housing. We know the economy is bad but how did this woman arrive at such a place?
And, at the same time, "Is Life One Big Goodbye: One homeless Woman's Survival Story" is poignantly more than just a memoir. It addresses, with an elegant simplicity, core problems within America's contemporary society. Lamatt writes from her subjective perspective of life in a homeless shelter - lack of privacy, changing roommates, rules, locked doors, fights, noise, chores, poor food, and goodbyes. She shares her unspoken thoughts with us, often negative ... struggling to be positive.
Lamatt arrived at SHAW, Shelter for Homeless and Abused Women, possibly as the result of choices she'd made in life, which we're all apt to make, but regardless, she was able to endure this experience and realize the spiritual benefits - new friends, extended family, an opportunity to give of herself, and a realization that we are all one.
This is the second book I've reviewed for Rose Lamatt. Her first book, Fears Flutterby, was about her earlier life, agoraphobia, marriage, children, friend Carol, and fourteen years care taking Carol, who eventually died of Alzheimer's. That book, as well as this one, have touched me deeply in the sense that, "But for the grace of God...."
Since her first publication, Lamatt's style of writing has delightfully improved. I particularly like the short chapters - each one different, each containing an element of harsh reality tempered with patience and faith. Her use of similes, metaphors and humor enrich the quality of the fabric she weaves.
What did Rose have when family and friends turned away? She had herself and her faith in the Creative Energy of the Universe.
I cannot think of anyone who would not be touched by this memoir. It is timely, honest and highly recommended.
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|Title Annotation:||'God, Jesus, and the Bible: The Origin and Evolution of Religion,' 'A Kind of Archeology: Collecting American Folk Art, 1876-1976' and 'Is Life One Big Goodbye'|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2012|
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