It's an Exciting World

The life and times of David Geisert



The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures

This book goes into the Darwinistic past of religion and how it has changed into what it is today.  They start out with prehistoric societal religions that held the groups together, and made them sacrifice themselves for each other.  They then go into how early religions built on each other by taking narratives and festivals.  They go into how the major religions of today started forming.  Finally they get into how the current nationalism is a form of religion without calling out a specific deity (think manifest destiny).  I really like the book and it makes me think about how the foundations of religion are group cohesiveness and the ability to drive people to the greater good of the group over the good of the self.

Audible Link

Skepticism and Religious Relativism

This was a nice and short overview of where skepticism and religious relativism come from and what the basic ideas behind them are.  It doesn’t get in depth about it but give a lot of points to look into things further.

Audible Link

Leviticus and Numbers from NKJV

This was an incredibly boring and tedious listen, and I didn’t pay good attention through most of it.  I expect no other part of the bible to be quite as bad as these two books.  The laws are very specific and some of them are downright strange, but I can see how they came about with the technology of the time.  They wouldn’t have said that if the house is filled with mildew that you should bleach it and keep it dry.

Genesis and Exodus from New King James Version of the Bible

I never really thought about how terrible some of the things the people of God did before.  I’d heard some jokes about it before but listening to these two books (part 1) of the Bible audiobook bring it out.  Some of the terrible things are:

Giving away your wife so that you can get into the community, but telling everyone that she is your sister, then waiting for God to get angry and threaten to destroy the other person for their iniquity even when they didn’t know anything about it and taking a lot of their property as a reverse dowry of sorts.  After all of this you go to another city and do it all over again.  And then your descendant does it as well.  The excuse given is that you were afraid they would kill you to steal your wife.

After one of the daughters of your people has pre-marital relations with boy from another group you demand that him and all of his people circumcise themselves and tell them that they can then marry your women.  When they are all in huge pain from circumcising themselves you kill them all.

God sets a plague upon someone because they aren’t doing what God wants.  God makes them not change their mind so that God can show his power, and sets another plague on the person.  God then does this 4 more times before allowing the person to change their mind.  God them decides that the person should change back so God can have him destroyed.

God makes a people unable to convert so that they can be destroyed for not believing.

God makes new life, then when it hasn’t fully met it’s potential, he decides to remove it all from the earth (earth sized abortion).

This is also rife with the joke I put in the book of Mormon.  It is much worse in fact than the Book of Mormon in justifying anything a believer does to a non-believer because of the belief.

Abiding in Mindfulness, Vol. 3: On Dhamma

This book was very repetitive of the first two and I can’t tell if the guy likes telling the same stories over and over or if they repeated content between the books.  I think it is the former.  He references many of the good books and studies I’ve been listening to lately, like the marshmallow experiment from the willpower instinct.  I really enjoy the points he has on mindfulness and not being attached to emotion, but I still can’t get behind the end goal.  If the end goal is enlightenment and enlightenment is being fully detached from the world, then that is something that I don’t want.  I want to be fully attached to the world, but in control of myself.  I want to rule over my instinct, emotions, desires, and thoughts so that they don’t rule over me.  To do this I think the practices of Buddhism are very spot on, but the end goals that we strive for diverge greatly.

Audible Link

Book of Mormon

Wow was this dry and not at all what I was expecting.  This also was the worst narration of any book I’ve listened to.  The narrator reads the chapter number and verse, then rereads the verse number for every single verse in the entire book.  It was painful.  The history of the people in the book was mainly along the lines of ‘the people sinned so God did not answer them or was wrath with them, then they were faithful again and God killed their enemies.’  Something I’ve been finding to be very true in most of the religious text I’ve been reading (besides Buddhist texts) is that they all follow the lines of the joke below

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The Science of Enlightenment

The title of this book is a misnomer.  The book has very little about science, and the little it does have is half-science.  It isn’t pseudoscience, just all the science in it is reported anecdotally.  I was very disappointed by this book.  There were also large portions of the book dedicated to meditations and overall expounding on meditation, mindfulness, and enlightenment having nothing to do with science.  I would recommend avoiding this book.  The book also had a bit of a different view on mindfulness and what that means vs. the way I had been understanding it in other books on the subject.

The one good thing I can say about this book is the way it points out how Buddhism, and other religious groups, could be more like the scientific community.  The best of these is open logical discussions on policy and practice.

Audible Link

Confucianism and Taoism

This was a pretty good summary of the basics of Confucianism and Taoism.  I like the points it makes about how the view of ethical leadership in Confucianism is a great way to take it in as a modern person, but some of the patriarchal and controlling ideas that stem from it’s practice don’t mesh with modern life.  The little part on Taoism was short, and said that there are lots of good ethical points made in Taoism, but it is more personal and deals with balance.  Both of these have prospered in their pure forms due to not being made into political weapons like many other religious or philosophical beliefs have been.  I listened to this twice, just to make sure I got the smaller points it made.

Audible Link

Abiding in Mindfulness, Volume 2: On Feeling, the Mind, and Dhamma

This was not as strange as the first book but a lot more meta.  The first book had a lot about physical things that simply could not happen.  This book focused on the mind and how we can view thoughts as though they are simply thoughts and not necessarily us.  I like the theme, but the exact way they define it leaves no definition of self.  That is somewhat the point of the definition, but I don’t agree with it.  I can tell that this concept was used by Scientologists to define the concept of Thetan, but there are many significant differences.

The overarching practice of being mindful, and always aware of what you are doing and why.  Using this you can teach yourself to think objectively more often instead of emotionally, realize that your actions should not follow from anger, confusion, sloth, or ‘desire.’  Desire as they put it is something that I would more describe as coveting.  The idea of desire being a bad influence isn’t something I fully agree with, even though that is more or less what they mean.  The subset of desire, which I would call coveting, is what I would consider a bad influence.  I believe that there are many desires that can be good influences.  When I was reading the section on good and bad influences I got images in my head of hands representing the good and bad, while being the same shape.  Coveting is a hand reaching out trying to grab something, while charity and good desire is a hand reaching out to give.  Both these hands are the same shape, only one is palm down, the other palm up.  Similarly the idea of confusion and clarity are two hands making circles between the thumb and middle finger.  The confusion has the hands linked, and the clarity has them separate.  Anger and Empathy are hands illuminated from the top by a red light and the hands are flat.  The angry hands were palm down showing bright red knuckles, the empathic hands were palm up and looked like they were cupping blood.  The slovenly vs. productive hands were in the shape of holding a rod.  The one was holding a tool, the other was holding something else.

I think the last book will be far too meta for me to enjoy, but I still look forward to listening to it.

Audible Link

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