Monday, November 9, 2015

The Challenge of Things: Thinking Through Troubled Times by A.C. Grayling (Notes)

Notes and mental highlights:

" Christianity not only does not have a monopoly on tolerance, kindness and generosity – these are attributes of individual human beings of any religion and none – but in a bloody and tumultuous past it has often exhibited the opposite of these characteristics, and that must not be forgotten."

" If you get to the New Testament for instruction on how to live, you are told to give away all your possessions, make no plans for the future, reject your family if they disagree with you, and stay celibate if you can.  This is the outlook of people who sincerely believed that the Messiah was going to return next week or next month, anyway very soon."

" Christianity is not Christianity but borrowed Greek philosophy."

" The story of a prominent individual's life cannot be complete without the truth about what people felt at the moment of summing up, whether it is in mourning or rejoicing. Let us say what we think, and be frank about it: death does not confer privileges."

" Remember that all this Christian teacher training is aimed at Christian indoctrination of the young, not least the very young. Without indoctrination of the young religion would wither and die of its own implausibility."

" Children should be taught about religion as a socialogical and historical fact, and left to make up their own minds about the merits, such as they are, but each when they have reached maturity.

" When individuals cannot allow their religious loyalties to be trumped by their public responsibilities, they should resign; the alternative is for the public domain to be invaded and disrupted by a Babel of claimed individual religious sensitivities, or even worse, by various religious organizations whose prejudices, taboos, anxieties and antipathies distort the overall public endeavor for a decent and equitable social order which is as inclusive as possible."

"  The Internet is like the Agora of all, except that everyone can attend and have a say. The downside is the volume of rubbish, the anonymous viciousness and sneering, the ad hominem attacks, the paragraph long pretensions to authoritativeness, the degrading of debate it encourages, making the Internet what I before now called the biggest toilet wall in history."

" The sleep patterns of famous people are intriguing. Churchill slept in about two short bursts, the first in the predawn and the second in the afternoon. Lady Thatcher is said to have scarcely slept it off, and some would say it showed. As we age we sleep less, subconsciously aware that we are soon to sleep forever."

"  Is it in irony, a sense or an encouragement that the traditional gift to a retiring employee is a watch?  It is an irony if retirement is a state in which time no longer matters, and the days drift into each other, all resembling Sunday. It is a hint of mortality if retirement is seen as the last chapter in life story, for then it will measure the counting down of one's days. But it is an encouragement if it suggests that the time is at least come to have freedom, fun, opportunities, variety, classes, travel, projects, hobbies, new beginnings."

"  The chief mortuary technician told him that he would not be much needed until January; 'Not many people die at Christmas', said the technician 'but we will be swamped after new year'. My friend asked why, surmising flu and pneumonia, but the technician said, 'People see family and friends over the holidays. But for the old and ill, early January is the start of a long, cold, dark time, with nothing to look forward to. They switch off in droves.'"

"  There is not much middle ground when it comes to teachers. They are either good, in which case they are among the most important people in the world, where they are not good, in which case at best they represent a missed opportunity – which is a serious matter – and at worst they are positively harmful. Teachers are harmful when they put students off a subject of study, thus depriving them of a chance at the fullness of what it could offer. To put the matter harshly, the crime involved is not far removed from poking out someone's eye with a sharp stick."

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