The Godless Delusion: A Catholic Challenge to Modern Atheism

It’s been a year since I have done a review for The Catholic Company.  And I’ve had this book that entire time, which is why I said no more blogging until I got these reviews done.  It’s time.

I started to read The Godless Delusion: A Catholic Challenge to Modern Atheism (a year ago), but it made my head hurt, so I stopped.  It’s not the book’s fault.  I’m very out of practice with anything intellectual written for adults, spending so much of my time reading my children’s school books.  Algebra is pretty much my biggest challenge nowadays, and, for me, that’s as difficult as yawning.

I pulled it off the shelf about a month ago and made myself read it, one section at a time, as I sat in my daughters’ room enforcing quiet so Mary could fall asleep.  It still made my head hurt, because exercising seldom-used muscles is painful, but after doing it for a while, it didn’t hurt quite as much.

I love this book.  I fear that when called upon to utilize anything I gained from this book, I will fail, but then I will just say, “I have a book for you to read.”  One thing I did walk away with was this: it’s not my responsibility to prove that God exists, rather it is an atheist’s job to rationalize his worldview which really cannot be done.

The authors, Patrick Madrid and Kenneth Hensley, do a great job of patiently explaining why atheism is not a natural, logical extension of a scientific inquiry, but rather is firmly rooted in blind faith and, unlike a Christian worldview, is full of contradictions and magic-wand waving.  “Don’t look at the man behind the curtain,” they say, while the Christian says, “That’s God behind the curtain!  Isn’t He marvelous!”

The atheistic worldview is so prevalent is today’s society that I’m hard-pressed to think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit by having a copy of this book.  Certainly any parent with teens or young adults in their lives should know how to counter the Darwinist/naturalism propaganda in which any of the natural sciences are steeped. I know that I would have benefited from reading this book when I was a teenager.  Perhaps it might have saved me a decade or so of angst.

This book is charitable enough that a budding atheist or a confused and defensive young intellectual can be handed it for private reading.  I do not think anyone who suffers extensively from pride will make it through, but those who do make it and who are seriously looking for truth will be given some not-very-easily dismissed arguments in favor of a Divine Creator.  For anyone who finds himself practicing backyard-barbeque and water-cooler apologetics, this book will definitely help you put the atheist on the defensive.

One final note: my 3 year old loved the cover of this book.  She found it amusing, perplexing, insane.  Every time she saw it, she had to talk about it.  “Why is he doing that, Mommy?”  “He’s going to get hurt, Mommy!”  “Mommy, that man is so silly!”  It’s a great cover…perfect.

I received this book for free from The Catholic Company in exchange for my honest review. If you blog and would like to be a Catholic Company reviewer and receive free books (they don’t pressure you to do your reviews quickly, I assure you), then check out this link.

The Invisible World: a book review

Last December I reviewed a children’s book by Anthony DeStefano, Little Star.  Several months ago, Mr. DeStefano sent me another of his books to read.  I just pulled out the letter he sent, and I’m happy to see it doesn’t have a date on it, so I don’t know how embarrassed I should be about how long it has been sitting on my desk, waiting.  I read the book right away; I just didn’t blog about it.

Unlike Little Star, The Invisible World is not a children’s book.  Subtitled Understanding Angels, Demons and the Spiritual Realities That Surround Us, this book explains the Catholic Church’s teachings of God’s other creatures who were given free will.  Although I do not consider myself ignorant of the world of angels and demons, Mr. DeStefano managed to keep my attention, present new information, and provide a unique perspective on topics to which I had merely given cursory thoughts.  For example, although I pray daily to my guardian angel and have some very concrete examples of times he has helped me, I really had not considered that he would have a unique personality, just as we humans do.

I especially recommend this book to anyone who has little knowledge of angels and the spiritual world and who would like a reliable, Catholic resource.

If you would like to get a free copy of the book for yourself, leave a comment and I will select one person randomly.  Mr. DeStefano offered me a copy to one of my readers, but if that had a time limit which has expired, I will buy a copy myself.

Updated to add a deadline to leave a comment: I’ll randomly pick a name on Thursday morning, Sept 1st.

The Adventures of Beer Man: a book review

It’s not very PC to consider yourself a drinker.  Alcohol has a bad rap, and its consumption is best kept to a minimum in public and polite society.  Think I’m joking?  Not too long ago, at a military ball, an official announcement was made that anyone who had had anything at all to drink had better not be driving.  In part, perhaps, it was done to legally cover their rear ends in case someone was irresponsible and reckless.  But honestly, I get the sense that many people really mean it.  It didn’t matter that dinner was served and possibly hours would pass from the time one might imbibe and one might then drive.  The implied rule is that your BAC had better be ZERO if you intend to drive.

I’m certainly not in favor of drunk driving, and I think we need to be cautious and responsible.  But Bill and I went to dinner last night and each of us nursed a drink – he had a Bass Ale and I had a Strongbow Cider – and I didn’t even consider that he wasn’t fit to drive.  I certainly felt fine myself.  But more often than not, if out with others, I drink water and he hands me the keys.

In The Adventures of Beer Man, Eric Scheske tackles this neo-Prohibitionist mentality with humor and logic.  Roy Tate seems like a nice, mild-mannered fellow.  Secretly, though, he battles the forces of Puritanism, Debauchery and Rastafarianism disguised as Beer Man, who hands out free beers at social events that need a little kick in the pants.  Beer Man doesn’t want everyone to get drunk; he merely wants everyone to have a good time. 

This is not a message in favor of hedonism, a self-gratifying indulgence.  Rather, Beer Man shows that the art of drinking leads to good for others as well.  Drinking a few beers will make you more charitable, less likely to quarrel with your neighbor, more likely to sit a spell and have a pleasant conversation, and more likely to be friendly with strangers you would otherwise ignore.  In other words, proper drinking makes you more sociable and being more sociable means being a better neighbor and being a better neighbor means being more the way God intended us to be.  Drinking makes us virtuous.

It’s a message that won’t sit comfortably with the prudes among us.

I really enjoyed this book and found it to be easy, fun reading.  It is self-published via Kindle which means it is not available to sit on your shelf.  I downloaded it to read on my iTouch, which was not as bad as I thought it would be.  I did have to flip pages every 3 seconds or so, but I got used to it.  I also downloaded the Kindle software for PCs to my husband’s laptop so he can read it, and there is definitely more of a page to view through that medium.  It’s also available through Smashwords, although I’m completely unfamiliar with this site.  The book is only $0.99, and I did pay for it, so I am not making even that money in exchange for this review.

Eric Scheske blogs at The Daily Eudemon, and I’ve been reading him there for years.  If you like The Daily Eudemon, you’ll like The Adventures of Beer Man.  Scheske’s voice is prevalent in his novel.

Little Star

Have you seen the many reviews for this book in the blogosphere?  I, too, received a copy from the author, Anthony DeStefano, in exchange for my opinion of it.

Little Star is a delightful story of the birth of Jesus, told within the story of an insignificant star which burned brightly to warm the newborn King.  Although this star’s effort expended him, he is remembered forever as the Star of Bethlehem and is honored by those who decorate their trees with stars.

In the weeks we’ve had our copy, the book has been read many times, often by the older children to the younger ones.  It would be a wonderful addition to anyone’s Christmas book library.  If you are looking for an inexpensive family gift for someone with young children, I think this would be an appreciated present.

Go here to see the lovely illustrations by Mark Elliot and to hear the story (narrated by Pat Boone).

St. Damien of Molokai – Apostle of the Exiled

I don’t even remember when I received this book from The Catholic Company. Before the move…and that was January. I am not a diligent book reviewer. I do the best I can.

I read St. Damien of Molokai – Apostle of the Exiled by Margaret & Matthew Bunson. Right up front, I want to say that I did like the book. I learned quite a bit about the history of Hawaii, the personal background of St. Damien as well as many people who knew him, the conditions at the leprosy camp on Molokai, and St. Damien’s work there with the lepers.

There were a few things, however, that were…different…from other biographies I have enjoyed. First of all, the book is not strictly chronological. The chapters are set up to cover specific topics. The chapter itself will be mainly chronological, but then the next chapter will deal with different people or issues. That chapter will also be fairly chronological, but the time period may overlap the previous chapter, so the authors may take you back in time to cover these new topics. It took me a few chapters to catch on to this, so I was a bit confused at first and the book felt very jumpy.

Besides being a bit disjointed in time, the biggest problem with this method of presenting a biography is that I felt like I was looking at a series of snapshots rather than a movie. It was very difficult for me to see the big picture and all the various issues that were happening at once. St. Damien was dealing with many many issues all at the same time: politics, personality conflicts with his superiors and other people on the island, the stress of being isolated, the stress of working with ostracized people who were dying, the challenges of living with leprosy, the strain of being the subject of unflattering gossip. When these topics are brought up one at a time, it makes it easier to discuss that particular topic in detail, but harder for the reader to grasp the overall significance of having that stress along with everything else that was happening to the man.

The only other disappointment I had was that there was no dramatization of his life. No dialogues, no painted scenes. The authors stuck with the facts as they were known. They quoted letters, notes, diaries, but they did not re-invent a scene. I admire them for sticking with the facts and not wanting to “quote” a man when there is no proof that he said those exact words. But, personally, it was hard for me to get a good idea of his personality without him being fleshed out through dialogue, thoughts, or actions.

I hate to write bad things about a book, which is probably why I procrastinated on this post.

So, to conclude I want to repeat that I did think this is a well-researched, well-written book. I learned many things I did not know about Hawaii and the leper colony as well as about the most famous non-native Hawaiian. The drawbacks are my own personal preferences, and had I known about them in advance, I might not have been as bothered by them.

I received this book for free from The Catholic Company in exchange for my honest review. If you blog and would like to be a Catholic Company reviewer and receive free books (they don’t pressure you to do your reviews quickly, I assure you), then check out this link.

Book Review Bonanza Part VI

This is my second to last review of the bonanza. I think.

Last school year, at some point, I saw a blurb on Love2Learn Blog that Hillside Education was seeking students’ renditions of The Creation of Adam to be used as the cover art for a new book. It just so happens that my homeschool curriculum (Mother of Divine Grace) encourages the occasional copying of works of art, and it just so happened that the art work Billy was studying included this piece by Michelangelo. Naturally, I had him copy it, and I sent it in.

His copy was not selected for the cover. But that’s okay.

As a thank you for participating, Margot Davidson (who IS Hillside Education), sent Billy a copy of In His Image: Nurturing Creativity in the Heart of Your Home by Mary C. Gildersleeve.
This is a gem of a book. The first part of the book explains what she means by creativity, and why she feels it is important to foster it in your home.

The second part has some suggestions for various crafts (no photos or exact instructions as she wants students to fill in the gaps with their own imagination). Each chapter includes a different category of craft (for example: needlecrafts), and she thoughtfully lists the Dewey Decimal numbers you would need to find appropriate books at the library in those related categories.

And in the appendices, she includes an annotated bibliography and a list of online resources for shopping.

Perhaps the best part, aside from the library numbers, are the blank spaces she includes for you to fill in with your notes or other resources. The book is meant to be written in and referenced often. I found the online resource section particularly helpful as I was trying to plan my Christmas shopping.

Aside from a heavy bias in favor of knitting (an admirable craft, but I prefer sewing), this book is excellent. I recommend it to those who want to encourage creativity in themselves and their children but do not know where to start. It is also a good resource for someone, like me, who enjoys one particular craft but wishes to support her child’s interests in different crafts and needs some help on how to do that.

If you do happen to get the book, all the artwork submitted for the cover contest is inside, including Billy’s. As I mentioned, Billy received this book for free, and I was under no obligation to review it. I have received no other compensation for this review. The book is enough. Thank you, Margot.

Book Review Bonanza Part V

Catholic Parent Know-How: Peer Pressure by Woodeene Koenig-Bricker is an 8 page booklet published by Our Sunday Visitor. It focuses on helping parents understand effective ways to communicate with their teens and what parents can do to minimize the influence of negative peer pressure on their children.

As someone who reads books on raising children, I did not find much new material in here. But I realize that there are many, many parents who do not have the time or the inclination to do that sort of research. Considering its small size, I think the pamphlet packs in quite a bit of useful suggestions and information and would be very helpful to a generic group of Catholic parents.

It is a fairly inexpensive booklet – less than $2. I imagine the majority of sales would be to churches and schools which would then pass them out to parents or have them available in a literature rack in a hallway. I do recommend them for parents of teens and pre-teens (middle and high school students). This would be the sort of literature that could go home with CCD or parochial students at the beginning of the school year.

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find out more about Catholic Parent Know-How: Peer Pressure. I received this booklet for free in exchange for an honest review on this blog.

Book Review Bonanza Part IV

Tired of book reviews yet? I still have a few more.

I’ve seen these two books by Dr. Meg Meeker reviewed and discussed in several places, none of which spring to mind right now. I finally decided to check them out.

Although I am linking to the Catholic Company’s website, these books are secular in nature. She does discuss the importance of religion in raising children (children need answers, you, the parent need to provide them), but she doesn’t say which one (she does say at one point that her parents are Catholic, but she does not herself claim a religion in this book). I would also like to point out that although she discusses in great depth the effect that peers and traditional schooling have on a child, she does not once ever mention the word homeschooling or suggest alternative methods of education. And her opinions, though conservative, are backed up with statistics and her personal experience as a pediatrician.

I say this for those readers of mine who are not Catholic or not homeschoolers or not conservative politically, because I want my next statement to be heard with some understanding that this person is not advocating my personal lifestyle, wonderful though it is.

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters is an absolute must read for anyone who has a daughter or anyone who has sons who may one day marry someone else’s daughter. (I will say, though, that if you only have sons, perhaps just borrowing the book would be smarter.) Since my daughters are still young, I have yet to navigate those dreaded waters of adolescence. After reading this book, I’m not sure if I fear those years even more, or if I’m happy to now have a better understanding of the issues girls growing up today face.

Although this book is addressed to fathers, and their central role in a girl’s life is the primary theme, mothers need to read this book too. If you are a single mother, this book will show you what your daughter is missing and the pitfalls for which she is at risk. For me, listening to my 8 year old constantly moaning about her father being gone was beginning to annoy me, but I now have a greater empathy for what she is experiencing, and I try harder to be kinder when she is feeling low (which is every night right after bedtime).

While Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters details the issues of eating disorders, suicide, and teen sex, Boys Should Be Boys has some funny anecdotes. Why is it that boys are funnier than girls? In my house it seems to be that the girls are all about drama, and the boys are all about comedy. Boys Should Be Boys is not all fun and games, though, and Dr. Meeker repeats many of the same, depressing teen statistics that she did in her first book. The bottom line is that the older any child is before he or she gets involved in risky behavior (sex, drugs, and alcohol), the greater the likelihood that he or she will successfully achieve adulthood without needing serious counseling or a few months in a detox center.

Both Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters and Boys Should Be Boys are excellent books that will arm parents with the knowledge they need to raise children in a very child-unfriendly world. I highly recommend them both.

Disclaimer: I happily forked over my husband’s hard earned money for these books. I received no compensation of any kind, although it is never too late and I’d be happy to help someone think of something.

Book Review Bonanza Part III

Tuesdays seem to be our regular day for going to the library. The little ones usually get one or two videos that are due back after one week, and the older ones like to get audio books for the car which we generally get through in short order with all the running around. This the first time in seven years of homeschooling that I’ve managed to make the library a routine, and not a rare treat. It’s a huge accomplishment on my part.

When all the kids were very little, I had a “first ten” rule. The first ten books to come off the shelves went home with us. Trips to the library were kept to under 15 minutes. Now that I have older children, we stay a little longer, not much, but I have the older ones take turns watching the little ones while I help everybody find books that might interest them.
I keep reminding myself that finding books would be much easier if I had a book list prepared in advance, but I haven’t made it to that level of organization yet. For now, I’m left to chance and keen eyesight to spot good reads, especially picture books for the 6 and under crowd. Most of the time, the selections are mediocre. Sometimes, the random books are awful.
And every once in a while, I get a gem.
Such was the case when I brought home Blueberries for Sal. We own Make Way for Ducklings, by the same author, Robert McCloskey, but I had never heard of Blueberries for Sal. And what a charming book. Little Sal goes hunting blueberries with her mother at the same time that a little bear cub goes hunting for blueberries with his mother. The little ones wander off and then end up following the wrong mother! When I read it to the children, all six of them and myself smiled at the antics of the young ones and laughed when the mothers discovered who was really behind them. Naturally, there is a happy ending to this story which is fun and delightful for children of all ages.

I spent no money to read this book, nor did I receive any compensation for this review. Blueberries farmers, however, saw an uptick in sales after we were finished.

Book Review Bonanza Part II

If you are happily married, you probably don’t need to read The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. There really isn’t any shocking new information in there.

If you are unhappily married and you choose to read this book, you will probably have one of two reactions. #1: “Wow, I never knew that about men. I wonder if I try being nice to him instead of nagging him incessantly, if he really will act more romantically.” or #2: “Oh, so it’s MY fault if I’m unhappy? Yeah, right.”

Psychologists and happy people will tell you: you are responsible for your own happiness and you can’t change other people – focus on yourself and what you CAN change. When it comes to spouses, it is more difficult to claim responsibility for personal happiness: it just doesn’t seem possible to be happy if you are married to somebody who isn’t “meeting your needs.” Dr. Laura’s book attempts to show women how they create their own problems by expecting the wrong kinds of things from their husbands and by not meeting their very simple needs.

Although I agree with most of her advice, and am actually quite shocked that so many women would treat their husbands as awfully as the examples she gives, the biggest turn-off in this book is her customary blunt style and her assertion that it’s all the woman’s fault. Naturally, she excludes abusive and other unhealthy situations, but even in normal, healthy marriages, husbands can be guilty of causing hurt and difficulties through poor choices, unkind words, thoughtlessness and selfishness.

I do agree that women tend to hold on to these hurts for longer than men and that these little issues can build up over time to create a mountain out of a molehill (and that women, and not men, are responsible for that mountain). I also agree that acts of kindness on anyone’s part help a person “get over” (forgive) those little problems. So, for an open-minded woman who truly desires a loving marriage and really just doesn’t understand her husband, this book might contain some eye-opening advice. For a wife in a good marriage looking for a refresher course on what her husband needs and wants, it’s an excellent resource. For the wife who really insists that her husband meet her in the middle, it isn’t going to help much at all.

Disclaimer: I did not receive any compensation in any form for this review, unfortunately. I also did not pay for this book. A friend had it on her give-away stack and I took it from there. I assume it was her husband’s hard-earned money that paid for it.