I bought this book on the recommendation of Pierre Cloutier in Quebec, and very deliberately as the first book to read on 22 December 2012 as Epoch B begins (see graphic above with book cover).
Across the entire book are what I now call E to the 5th: Empathy, Ethics, Ecology, Education, and Evolution. The bottom line of the book is clear: abandon religions as selective (and generally exclusionary) arbiters of morality, each severely hypocritical in having one morality for insiders and another for "others" (infidels, shiksas, whatever the name, moral disengagement is the rule and genocide is often the result).
When addressing really important books, I read the notes, bibliography, and index first. The notes are a second book -- these are not normal cryptic notes, each note is a short exposition, and any reading of the book is incomplete with a reading of the notes. The bibliography is extraordinary, and my attention was immediately drawn to the authors honored with three or more books being cited: Karen Armstrong, Mario Bunge, Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins, A.C. Graylink, Robert Ingersoll, Immanuel Kant, Hans Kung, Paul Kurtz, John Rawls, Peter Singer, Baruch SPinoza, E. O. Wilson, and Robert Wright. Among them Kurtz, Singer, and Wright are central. Roughly 1,000 books are listed by title in the bibliography.
I am an intelligence professional far removed from the traditional world of secrecy and totally focused on public intelligence in the public interest. I just finished sending a proposal to the Secretary General of the United Nations for creating the UN Open-Source Decision-Support Information Network (UNODIN) at the same time that that I have sent a proposal to Sir Richard Branson for the creation of a global commercial intelligence grid called "The Virgin Truth." Both can be found easily by searching for "21st Century Intelligence Core References 2.3" -- I mention this because I was absolutely not expecting the following, quoted from Paul Kurtz's Preface:
QUOTE (20): We need a realistic appraisal of the human condition and a resolute determination to take responsibility fgor our own destinies -- as far as we can -- in our own hands.
Exactly right. We need to restore the kind of intelligence with integrity that our indigenous native forebearers embodied in their "seventh generation" thinking that was one with nature.
I am surprised to learn in going through the book that the author is a PhD level economist, and having just reviewed a book that essentially concludes that all economists are sluts pandering to the wealthy, I am happy to say I know two that are not: the author, and Dr. Herman Daly, whose "true cost" or ecological economics is long overdue for a Nobel Prize (he has received the Right Living Award).
Generally speaking the author finds that religions are divisive and exclusive; permit state officials to eschew personal morality in the name of the state; separate man from nature and mind from body; impose the fiction of an eternal hell, a form of virtual religious terrorism (my words here); and generally treat women badly, Islam being the worst followed by the Catholics.
The economists emerges early on with a listing of the five things that kills economies:
01 Too many "free riders" consuming public goods
02 Monopolies and cartels
03 External costs not included in the price
04 Incomplete or asymmetric information advantages
05 Excessive concentration of wealth
The above is all about balance -- about transparency, truth, and trust. As one who has renounced the mendacity and inefficiencies of secret processes, and cataloged "information pathologies" I consider the integral connectivity that the author establishes between the truth and humanism to be the essence of the matter.
In Chapter 4 on "Sharing" the author ends by proposing a United Nations International Solidarity Organization (UNISON), which again shocks me, as I have just completed my newest paper, easily found online, "2012 Reflections on UN Intelligence 2.2 20 Dec 2012" (29 pages). What the author does in bring forth the Tobin Tax (I favor Dr. Edgar Feige's Automated Payment Transaction Tax), and suggest that all those billionaires -- over 1,000 of them, should pay a one percent international tax or donation, while tax free foundations with over a billion in managed assets should do so as well. Where the author and I meet -- and this is NOT something I was expecting when I chose this book as my first book in Epoch B -- is in seeing truthful information, shared information, true cost information, as the center of gravity for elevating the five billion poor.
QUOTE (79): Lying, cheating, and resorting to corruption and deception in order to amass riches and gain power at the expense of others are all examples of exploitation and are contrary to a humanist approach to life in society. Lying or deception of any kind , is inimical to humanist morality.
America, thy name is Griftopia. Well said. We have become a lying, cheating society in which no one anywhere is held accountable for high crimes and misdemeanors that are without question gross violations of the US Constitution (public officials) or public charters (corporations, the academy, the media, and non-governmental "griftopia lite").
Most of the chapters are short. The longest is Chapter Six, "No Superstition," is a rigorous dismantling and diminution of all religions that avow an afterlife while amassing persistent wealth (tax free of course).
In discussing democracy the author again slams religions, particularly in the USA where religions are not supposed to be participating in political campaign, but do, without losing their tax exempt status. He lists five dangers to democracy:
01 Concentration of wealth and wealth inequalities
02 Debt, inflation, and under-funded public goods
03 Sociopaths or psychopaths in power
04 State sponsored propaganda
05 Concentration of media ownership & campaign financing
The chapter on Education is one I was looking forward to, and it is all too short. It stresses the importance of the Internet and the role of religion as anti-thetical to knowledge. While the author over-states the rationality of science (I find most science to be very fragmented, very corrupt, and generally unfocused on true human need), he comes out with some strong thoughts on education.
QUOTE (193): The gift of learning, that is to say the opportunity to acquire information, knowledge, and wisdom, is the greatest of them all. That's why education, education, education, especially disciplined education, should be the fundamental priority of every society. It is the surest protector of liberty.
I will stop there, reiterating my observation that the Notes are a second book, and the 1,000 or so books listed in the bibliography are by themselves illuminating reading.
As I went through the book, I thought of books I have read and reviewed here at Amazon, and below I list the author's ten humanist principles followed by one book recommendation from me, none of the books I am recommending are in the author's own bibliography. As with this review, my Amazon review of each of the books below is summary in nature -- Cliff Notes for Smart People.
DIGNITY. All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (BK Currents (Hardcover))
RESPECT. The Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century
TOLERANCE. The Leadership of Civilization Building: Administrative and civilization theory, Symbolic Dialogue, and Citizen Skills for the 21st Century
SHARING. Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition
NO DOMINATION. Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History
NO SUPERSTITION. Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
CONSERVATION. Ecological Economics, Second Edition: Principles and Applications
NO WAR. The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central-Eastern Europe
DEMOCRACY. Empowering Public Wisdom: A Practical Vision of Citizen-Led Politics (Manifesto Series)
EDUCATION. Philosophy and the Social Problem: The Annotated Edition
I am including above as contributed images a handful from my latest book. For me the take-aways are two: first, that the Golden Rule is still the most precious single guideline for humanist thinking and behavior; and second, that Will Durant nailed it in 1916: education is "root." It is not possible to create a prosperous world at peace, a world that works for all, without committing to the liberal and life-long education of every person and most particularly each of the five billion poor. That is actually the central thrust of my proposal to Sir Richard Branson -- if my one pager indeed gets to him, he is surrounded by 20th century green eyeshade folks that do not read books such as this one.
I have not done this book justice. It is a brilliant measured read, strongest against superstituion, lighter in other areas, but on balance, a superb gift, a superb self-improvement book, a superb assigned reading for any student at any age.
Best wishes to all,
Robert David STEELE Vivas
THE OPEN SOURCE EVERYTHING MANIFESTO: Transparency, Truth & Trust