Five Interesting Points from The Mystery of Death by Nikolaos P. Vassiliadis

“An explanation of what happens to you when you die” is sort of the lazy man’s answer to the question of “What is the purpose of religion?” This is true, but it is only a part of it.

The question of what happens after death has enthralled, and indeed scared the hell out, of human beings since we first became aware, unique to all other creatures, that we will, in fact, die at some point, and that this death is inevitable.

This is what author and theologian Nikolaos P. Vassilidis attempts to shed some light on in The Mystery of Death, at least from an Orthodox Christian perspective. Published in Greek in 1993 and later translated by Father Peter A. Chamberas, Vassilidis, a member of the Orthodox Brotherhood of Theologians has taken Scripture and the teachings of the Holy Fathers and compiled them in a lengthy tomb big on what Scripture and logical analysis tells us and light on speculation.

It’s heavy reading, as you can imagine.

Religion, most religions at least, deal with more than just what happens when you die. But questions surrounding the end of life are obviously incredibly important, questions such as:

  • Why do human beings know they will die?
  • Why do we die?
  • Why are we here if we’re destined to die?
  • And of course, what happens next?

Vassiliadis relies heavily on the writings of St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine, St. Symeon, St. Gregory Palamas, St. Nikodemos, and other luminaries of the pre-Schism Church, as well as more recent Orthodox scholars like Georges Florovsky and Justin Popovic. It’s a well-researched book that offered a lot of eye-opening revelations about what death is, why we die, sin and repentance, and what comes after.

It’s tough to do a typical review of this book other than to say I highly recommend it to any Christian, Orthodox or not (although Catholics will probably have an easier time with it than most other denominations). So as with my discussion of Moses Maimonides’s The Guide for the Perplexed, I think it’d be more useful to go over a few of the more interesting points Vassiliadis makes:

Continue reading “Five Interesting Points from The Mystery of Death by Nikolaos P. Vassiliadis”

Book Review: The Art of the Argument by Stefan Molyneux

I like Stefan Molyneux. I find him a very smart, interesting, and entertaining speaker. He is a philosopher with a wide area of focus: Politics and government, culture and entertainment, philosophy and the nature of truth, economics, religion . . . it all gets discussed on Molyneux’ podcast at Freedomain Radio and on his YouTube channel.

A lot of people don’t agree, of course. They mock his catchphrase, “Not an argument,” call him “LOLyneux” for some of his more esoteric ideas like peaceful parenting (e.g., never ever spank your kids), and generally think he’s a fraud or a quack. I get the disagreeing with him about stuff, but where the fraud and quack accusations come from eludes me.

An author of many other books, Molyneux is what you could classify as a right-of-center liberal. He’s big into individual freedom and small government, and is staunchly anti-socialist, but is also pretty socially liberal nationalist who believes that every nation has the right to determine its own destiny free of foreign meddling. He’s anti-globalism and anti-war, as well as being anti-racist . . . but takes a lot heat for his views on, say, the racial distributions of certain things such as IQ.

And yet, with Molyneux, it seems like he just point out things that appear to be objective facts in order to discuss, understand, and make sense of them in order to do something good with them.

I never get the impression that Molyneux hates certain types of people.  I mean, he’s an atheist who sees all religion as a bunch of anti-rational mumbo-jumbo used to explain things in earlier times, and yet he also defends Christianity and fully recognizes its important to the development and continuing survival of Western civilization.

In short, he’s an interesting guy.

Stefan Molyneux

Which brings me to The Art of The Argument: Western Civilization’s Last Stand. The subtitle is a little hyperbolic, but argument and debate have been some of Molyneux’s most discussed topics for a long time. In fact, the idea of “the argument” permeates everything he does.

Basically, Molyneux pushes for clear, rational, and evidence-based thinking as a means of presenting viewpoints and ways of life in the battlefield of ideas. The more evidence-based and divorced from emotion and selfish gain an argument is, the better people will be persuaded to see its truth. Similarly

On the other end of the spectrum, we have sophistry. Sophistry is Molyneux’s pet peeve. Sophistry is the facile manipulation of emotion, rhetoric without truth, designed to confuse and enrage the listener to support an anti-rational and often counterproductive position that usually benefits the sophist. And more often than not, the sophist is coming from a position of pain, projecting their own neuroses, hatreds, and hangups on the world at large as a way of lashing out at “unfairness,” “inequality,” and “injustice.”

In short, Molyneux stresses that there is an objective good–what can lead to Universally Preferable Behavior (UPB) as he calls it–and that it revolves around the age-old battle between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome.

On this topic, I find it hard that anyone can disagree with Molyneux.

So when I heard that he was writing a book specifically about what he calls “The Argument,” I was excited.

So how does it fare? Is it the intellectual battle manual we were promised? Does it really lay out the best ways to think and reason and debate?

Not quite.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s an interesting, well-written and clearly thought out book. But it doesn’t exactly deliver as promised. Continue reading “Book Review: The Art of the Argument by Stefan Molyneux”

Book Review: SJWs Always Double Down by Vox Day

It’s tricky to walk the line these days. So many people are binary thinkers, meaning that they want to paint you with the guilt-by-association brush for the mere fact of agreeing with a person they themselves find disagreeable, even if the person in question is right about the thing in question.

I’ve written about this phenomenon before, coming down firmly on the side that it’s okay to like a work of art despite the politics or unsavory personal predilections of the artist in question:

Life is more fun when you experience things and engage with them. Communication is the purpose of art! If you don’t like a message, nobody’s forcing you to live by it. However, it’s hypocritical to say “I’m open-minded!” while categorically refusing to listen to the “other side” and its points-of-view.

And if there’s one takeaway I hope you get from this post, it’s this: You don’t have to feel guilty for liking something. Save the guilt for, you know, actual sins.

Roman Polanski raped a child, but that doesn’t make his movies bad. Michael Jackson had inappropriate relations with children, but that doesn’t make his music any less fantastic.

Which brings us to Vox Day.

Now, I am in no way equating Day, real name Theodore Beale, with Messrs. Polanski and Jackson. However, Day has a similarly unsavory reputation among polite Internet society in politics and among the mainstream sci-fi/fantasy community. Many find his hypotheses on gender, race relations, immigration, religion, and culture in general distasteful, and he’s been involved in several, admittedly nerdy and kind of inside-geekdom-baseball controversies over the years. But despite all this, two facts remain:

  1. The man can write; and
  2. The man is spot-on when it comes to SJWs

(Note: For an explanation of what an SJW is, check out my review of SJWs Always Lie and my post about beigeness.) Continue reading “Book Review: SJWs Always Double Down by Vox Day”

Book Review: The Dean Died Over Winter Break: The First Chronicle of Brother Thomas by Christopher Lansdown

If you’re into classic “whodunit?” stories, have I got a book for you. The Dean Died Over Winter Break, the newest novel by Christopher Lansdown, will wrap you up like a warm blanket. I’ll admit that this isn’t my preferred genre of novel. Maybe this makes me less-qualified to review this book; who knows? But the concept is so unique I had to give it a shot.

You see, our two detectives are friars from the Franciscan Brothers of Investigation. That’s right, two members of a Franciscan orders–friars and not monks, as explained in the book–named Brother Thomas and Brother Francis, are tasked by their order to investigate the murder of the unloved Dean of Yalevard college in upstate New York. With the help of grad student Sonia Figueroa and their friend and sometimes co-detective Michael Chesterton, our Brothers try to crack the seemingly perfect crime.

And oh yeah: it’s their first murder case.

Christopher Landsdown

The Dean Died Over Winter Break is infused with a healthy dose of Catholic theology and philosophy, as you could imagine, written by one with extensive knowledge of both.

And boy is this book full of philosophy! In fact, nearly every character speaks with a near encyclopedic knowledge of philosophical schools of thought. If you enjoy lengthy digressions into ontological disputes, the nature of sin, and even bits of world history, then this is the book for you. Oh yeah, there’s the murder-solving stuff to, but I get the feeling that Christopher had a lot of fun with these discussions.

And that brings me to my main critique of The Dean Died Over Winter Break. I felt that the murder mystery aspect, which was arguably the most well-done part of the book, faded a bit in the background. Seriously, the sleuthing and clue-gathering and interviewing were fantastic . . . but seemed pushed aside in favor of the lengthy intellectual debates. I wanted more mystery stuff, especially since Christopher’s characters are likable, and he threw in enough credible misdirections and red herrings to really catch the reader off-guard.

And when the Brothers do crack the case, it makes perfect sense, which is a badge of honor for any murder mystery worth its salt.  Continue reading “Book Review: The Dean Died Over Winter Break: The First Chronicle of Brother Thomas by Christopher Lansdown”

Book Review: The Monster of Mordwin: A Tale of the School of Spells and War, Book 5 by Morgon Newquist

Alis and Cahan are back with another adventure through Thillon with The Monster of Mordwin, the fifth tale in Morgon Newquist’s series of short stories, The School of Spells and War. Here, the wizard Alis and the warrior Cahan are sent to Mordwin College to investigate the appearance of a strange, moaning, and rather muddy golem that’s been menacing the lands near the school.

The format of the series has settled into a pattern–the odd-numbered books are adventures, and the even-numbered books are more interstitial character studies set at the titular school (the Scholae, as the characters call it). At least, this has been the pattern so far.

And it works, since Alis and Cahan are both employed by the school as investigators who help those facing some sort of unsolvable crisis, magical or otherwise.

It’s a fun series, especially if you’re into no-frills, fast-paced fantasy with a gentle sense of humor and a dash of “will-they-or-won’t-they?” romance. Mrs. Newquist is a lean writer, and you won’t find many wasted words here. Even better, her characters are likable and heroic.

Without revealing the plot, I will say that I like how the villains in these books are rarely cartoonishly evil: They are often sympathetic and have reasons for doing what they do, though these reasons don’t excuse what they’ve done. And there is an overarching threat, first encountered in book one, that looms over the entire narrative, the strange beings of darkness called the Formless.

That said, I do wish there was a little more sword-fighting and magic-slinging. I’d love to see Cahan finally get a chance to let ‘er rip and slay some baddies. He seems kind of sidelined by the magical nature of the problems he and Alis have checked out thus far.

I also want to see more of the Formless, but this is a minor quibble. I’m sure they’ll be popping up again sooner or later.

The Monster of Mordwin is another fun entry into the School of Spells and War series. Do yourself a favor and check them out if you’re into traditional fantasy told well.

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Book Review: The Ophian Rising (Soul Cycle Book IV) by Brian Niemeier

The Ophian Rising, Soul Cycle Book IV by Brian Niemeier

With a heavy heart, I finished reading The Ophian Rising, the fourth and final book in Brian Niemeier‘s Soul Cycle. And thus closes one of the most interesting, unique, satisfying, and fun book series I have read in a long time.

In my review of the first book, Nethereal, I described it as such:

Take the good parts of Dune and Star Wars, mix them together with a heaping dollop of Dante, a dash of high fantasy, and a whole lot of horror, and you’re beginning to almost approach Brian Niemeier‘s self-published Nethereal, book one of his three-part Soul Cycle series.

Is it sci-fi? Is it science-fantasy?

Who cares? It’s fun.

This description works across the entire series.

I refuse to get into spoiler territory here, as interested readers need to experience the Soul Cycle for themselves. What I’d like to do instead is explain why this series works so well, and encourage you to read it for yourself.

All I’ll say about The Ophian Rising is that:

  1. Brian’s writing, good to start with, gets better and better with each book.
  2. The Soul Cycle needs to be read from front-to-back in order to pick up on everything Brian has subtly wove into it. I plan on doing a re-read of the whole series soon.
  3. Brian knows how to tell a lean story that’s still satisfying (more on this later).

And here is my only complaint about The Ophian Rising: I wish that it, and the series itself, was longer. That’s right: Brian has left me wanting more. Thankfully, I know he has no plan to stop writing anything anytime soon.

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Why You Should Read The Soul Cycle

Regular readers know that I’ve written about Brian before. He edited the manuscript for my own novel, The Rust Man, and writes about many topics on his own blog that I’ve used as springboards for further discussion here.

I’m going to distill a few of Brian’s biggest points for you, and then explain why, if these sound good to you, you should read his work.

  • The era of the doorstop novel is over.
  • Readers want something they can pick up that will grip them from the start and keep them reading–the key word here is immediacy.
  • Favor clear writing over clever writing.
  • People crave heroes that are actually heroic–good and evil matter!
  • Books are competing with TV, social media, movies, video games, and streaming video.
  • Keep your politics out of your writing–shoehorning contemporary issues into your fiction is a recipe for disaster, or at least for severely limiting your audience.
  • The era of big publishing is over. Indies are where it’s at.
  • Indie does not equal low quality. Not anymore.
  • And finally: If it has nothing to do with your story, get rid of it.

I can safely say that The Soul Cycle series embodies all of these principles. Continue reading “Book Review: The Ophian Rising (Soul Cycle Book IV) by Brian Niemeier”

“Amateur” versus “Amateurish”

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I love how musicians, especially rock musicians, for some reason equate “knowing the rules of music” with “being a worse musician or songwriter than someone who deliberately doesn’t know any rules.” I find that laughable.

Yet I also find laughable the idea that just because somebody doesn’t have the stamp of approval from “the academy,” what they do is somehow sub-par. I tie the music to writing and technology, trust me.

“Amateur” doesn’t mean you’re “amateurish,” as I explain in this video.

I also start with another shout-out to author Adam Lane Smith and his excellent debut novel, Making Peace.

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and Gab.ai @DaytimeRenegade

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