Saturday, March 05, 2005

104+ Miles

Book Review of Doubt by Jennifer Michael Hecht

The book Doubt focuses on the ‘non-belief’ systems throughout world history. It does not focus on just one type of methodology. It has a healthy representation of Skepticism, scientific empiricism, atheism, agnosticism, free thought, rational materialism, etc. This is great in and of itself because it lets us realize that just as there are many types of belief systems there are many methodologies that operate outside of belief systems.

The book doesn’t just concentrate on the two areas that writers generally concentrate on when exploring ‘doubt’ (Greek Philosophy and the Freethinkers of Europe during the beginning of it’s age of science; circa 1800). It explores threads of doubt prevalent in the established religions of the Jews, Christians and Muslims. It also explores the heterodoxic sects that developed out of said religions.

One of the best parts is it exploration of the systems of the Far East. Many are familiar with the non-theo-centric base of traditional Buddhism and Jainism yet she also introduces us to the Carvaka sect of Hinduism which didn’t believe in any Gods and was strictly materialistic.

She also has a small section on African-American doubt where she introduces us to a list of Black Free Thinkers. Amongst her list is Hubert Harrison whom was a great propionate of free thinking at the turn of the last century. He wrote a piece entitled “The Negro Conservative: Christianity Still Enslaves the Minds of Those Whose Bodies It Has Long Held Bound” in 1914.

Why is a book like this relevant?

Because it is generally taught that everyone must believe in something. It is taught that the majority of the world thinks like this and has always thought like this which is not true. It gives a historical context to movements nowadays which don’t conform to the ‘you have to believe in something’ rhetoric. Believe means to accept without sensory validation or ignorance of the scientific method. Many have real responses and convictions that are the result of observation.

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