Last week I conveniently drove past a Ferrari – roof down – trying to exit a parallel parking space in a trendy shopping area. My son (12) was awestruck (naturally) but then he made an interesting comment. He noted that that guy driving “looked rich.” “Ah, yes, he’s driving a Ferrari!” was my reply. But no, he went on to explain – the man’s hair, his clothes, even his sunglasses, told my son something about the social group he was conforming to. Religion is, for many, a social conformation, and that’s where this book begins.
I, like many New Zealanders, was born into a Christian family. Christianity is kind of the passive default position for many of us. We haven’t chosen Christianity per se, but are effectively cultural Christians, and belief in creation is assumed. In contrast, belief in evolution is rarely assumed and is in fact an active position that requires defense at times. It’s socially acceptable to attack the non-creationist, yet many of us feel compelled to “not offend” our Christian colleagues, family and friends by telling them that Genesis, as presented in the bible, makes no logical sense.
Kerry Spackman’s latest book provides a sound, factual and very readable account of why we need to question our belief system; why we need to examine the ant to understand the Ferrari on which it crawls. This book will confront your belief systems, refreshingly with facts rather than rhetoric.
Take for example, Spackman’s approach to the creation/evolution debate. As he gently debunks the creation argument on the basis of science and mathematics, he makes the following observation: “The process of reducing conflicts with our model is called dissonance reduction by psychologists and is an extremely powerful part of our nature.”
In other words, when faced with facts that conflict with our belief system, that we cannot reason away, we just choose to ignore them. A short-term solution to quiet our brains, but leaving us devoid of, and still searching for, ultimate truth. And is it possible that there are different versions of the truth, so-called beliefs? As Spackman points out “millions of people’s lives have been ruined by beliefs not founded in truth” using examples such as the persecution of homosexuals, or female circumcision. Spackman starts with the creation of the universe and ends with his views about what is wrong with the rampant capitalism that shapes our modern society – a journey that is easily navigated and worthwhile.
The back cover of this book offers the following bold promise “this book will change your beliefs – and change your life” and for the most part I think that’s a reasonable claim. I wouldn’t say it has changed my beliefs entirely, but it has given me some tips and built my confidence in my beliefs. So yes, it will change my life. All thinking adults should know where their beliefs arise from and have the tools to create their own. I will leave the last words of this review to Kerry Spackman himself:
“If you think about it, beliefs are even more powerful then nuclear weapons because they shape the actions of everyone who lives on the planet.”
Published by HarperCollins
This review was first published on the booksellers.co.nz blog