Reviews for ‘Of Blood and Fire,’ ‘Comparative Religion,’ ‘The History of Politics and Race in America,’ and ‘The Spiritual Brain’

Here’s a quick update: I’m still busy doing things. I have some minor reviews here, but I still don’t have enough mental bandwidth to do longer critiques just yet. Posts will continue to be irregular.

Of Blood and Fire

This is a ‘Chosen One Rides a Dragon and fights the Evil Empire’ genre book. I enjoyed it! It sticks with typical genre tropes (elves, dwarves, dragons, evil empires, prophesies), but nonetheless is extremely well executed. I think this might be the best-written ‘Chosen One + Dragon’ book I’ve ever read. The author uses some clever turns of phrase, and some colorful language. Additionally, I enjoyed the combat. It focused most on blow-by-blow action, meaning ‘He swung his sword forward from the left, but the protagonist dodged by stepping back and to the right. The protagonist reposte-ed by lunging forward with his sword…’

No more comments. I’m moving on to book 2 immediately.

Comparative Religion

This is a re-review from two years ago. I stand behind what I said in that review. This is good at covering the bases of ‘what is religion’ from an anthropological perspective. For example, this discussed mainly the Abrahamic Religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism), as well as Hinduism/Buddhism. It discusses topics like ritual, the afterlife, the ‘functions’ of prayer (expiation, propitiation, purgation, jubilation, renewal).

It didn’t go into minor religions or defunct religions. I wanted it to talk about topics like how religion is a tool for a culture to propagate itself/ a religion is how a society views itself. It didn’t go into the more esoteric/theoretical side of religion, like the ‘United States Civil Religion’ or magic or theocracies.

The History of Politics and Race in America

This is a short, 5 hour lecture series on the topic of race relations in the US since 1950. It was a scathing treatise about a lot of the disadvantages faced by people of color in the united states, discussing stuff like power structures or red lining policies and stuff like that. In our divisive times, if you’re Democrat leaning, you’ll agree with what this says; if you’re right leaning, you won’t agree with it.

The Spiritual Brain

This is a Great Courses lecture series on how neurology/the brain/spiritualism/religion interact. The lecturer is both a medical doctor and a man of faith, and uses scientific theory to justify his spiritualism. As examples, this lecture covers topics like how people who go to church regularly usually have better heal (perhaps because they have a support group). Or brain neurology, discussing how the hypothalamus regulates emotions in the body, and might therefore have some sort of causative link with a person engaging in ecstatic prayer. Or how people who are a part of a strict religion are on average healthier than those who are not, usually because strict religions ban consumption of ‘sinful’ things like drugs and alcohol, which are also unhealthy.

Overall, I think this is one of the more insightful ‘religious studies’ lectures I’ve listened to, providing a whole new angle of perspective on the topic. Highly recommended, probably in my top 3 for the subject.

I have 2 critiques. First, this was very Christian-focused. Also, this needed to discuss the negatives associated with religion/spirituality more. For example, how people can think they’re hearing messages from God, when they’re really just schitzophrenic.

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