Cultural Intelligence by Brooks Petersen

By Grant Steves

In the many books I have reviewed in the Newsletter the focus has been on religion and atheism.  They were excellent books that challenged our thinking about how we confronted our religion and became atheists.

At the base of this is the problem of communication and understanding others.  The others we come to know represent diverse cultures. Geert Hofstede, an international authority on cross cultural social psychology, has done significant research in the field of culture and communication.  In his research, he has been able to establish the need for educating people on the differences in culture and the difference it makes in communication.

Brooks Peterson has addressed the concern for educating people about culture in his book, Cultural Intelligence.  The book is divided into six parts and each deals with a basic question of culture and communication.  Part 1 answers the question, ‘what is culture?,' Part 2 asks us why an awareness of culture is important in daily life, Part 3 addresses the question, ‘what is cultural intelligence?', Part 4 focuses on how you apply cultural intelligence in everyday life, Part 5 explores what your cultural style is, and Part 6 suggests how we can increase our cultural intelligence.

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Introducing Anthropology of Religion by Jack David Eller

Routledge , 2007 352 pages

By Grant Steves

American atheists are familiar with and focused on Christianity in its various forms. However, it is important for us to expand our knowledge of what religion is and how it operates in various cultures. In understanding the evolution of religion, we will understand its role in any society, regardless of the dogma that is manifested.

Dr. Eller defines religion as a "profoundly human and social phenomenon - arising from an addressing intellectual, emotional, and social source - in which the nonhuman and ‘supernatural' are seen as profoundly human and social." Religion as a social construct can be studied by scientific means. We are able to examine its elements and discover how they are developed in a particular culture.

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Jesus Interrupted by Bart D. Ehrman

By Grant Steves

Jesus, Interrupted
Bart D. Ehrman
Harper Row, 2009, 292 pages

Bart Ehrman, as the Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, has specialized and taught about the New Testament. In his latest book, Jesus, Interrupted, he reveals hidden contradictions in the bible, and why we don't know about them.

In a mixture of autobiography and biblical scholarship, Bart Ehrman tells his story of going from evangelical behavior to agnostic. It is his scholarship that uncovers the problems of the bible, but that is not the reason why he lost his faith. Its core is scholarship on the bible, but it reads at times like a mystery thriller.

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The Atheist's Way by Eric Maisel (Grant Steves, reviewer)

By Grant Steves


The Atheist's Way: Living Well Without Gods

By Eric Maisel

New World Library

208 pages


Embracing atheism means leaving religion behind. You give up the crutch of prayer, and the unknown of spirituality. In the last few years, you may have noticed books that address spirituality and the atheist. None of these books gave an answer. They all seemed to miss the mark of recommendation; e.g., The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality by Andre Comte-Sponville, and Spirituality for the Skeptic by Robert C. Solomon.

Eric Maisel has written a book that presents The Atheist Way. In one hundred seventy-five pages, he molds an atheist way of living well without gods. What people need, according to Maisel, is to make meaning. It is our human quest to make meaning that result in an integrated person. It is this quest to make meaning that appears to distinguish humanity from other living creatures. Maisel offers a brief look at faith-based spirituality, but dismisses it: "The mind is a terrible thing to waste on superstitions, and I am thrilled to have my mind return from its indulgent philosophical wanderings." At the same time he recognizes "the lack of community and not having a ‘church home,' which may not be comprehensible to an atheist who didn't grow up in one," is something that creates meaning for some people. However, atheists are still better off despite "lacking the certainty and security of knowing I have the answer and that God is going to take care of me.... In our freedom, we are offered signature truths about reality:

"1) That human meaning is subjective and malleable; 2) that self-interest can be discussed internally, leading to thoughtful decisions about what we intend our life to signify; and 3) that because this process is available to us, we can create ourselves in our own best image, marrying ‘high values' and ordinary pleasures in such a way that we feel proud about ourselves, while getting a full measure of happiness our of life."

How do we create meaning? What are the answers? Is there a formula that Maisel has to offer? Meaning is private, personal, individual, and subjective discovery. Putting the responsibility on the person, we may: 1) ignore the problem, 2) hunt for meaning as something lost, 3) submit to authority, 4) say that all is subjective, and 5) stare too long at reality but fail to discover the reality. "In the end, we may elect to pursue ‘passionate meaning-making.'"

Maisel strongly endorses the idea that we create ourselves and not submit to how others would define us. He would have us invest in meaning. It is where we invest that reveals who we are and the meaning we make.

Eric Maisel's experience as a psychotherapist, philosopher, and cultural observer has guided many creative people to make their meaning. He recognizes the roots of belief that attach to those who become atheists. In that transition from spiritually driven to atheist, some become lost in a search for meaning. We must realize that ‘self-awareness will not simply happen of its own accord.' Start making meaning by writing ‘your life purpose statement, whether it is a word, a sentence, or a page. This step helps you to continue making meaning in your life.

In your search to discover the terms that you fill with understanding, try ‘making meaning, investing meaning, reinvesting meaning, divesting meaning, meaning adventure, meaning container, meaning crisis, meaning conflict, meaning disturbance...etc.'. Eric Maisel does not give the formula, but he tells us that meaning is a wellspring. "You make it; it comes out of you; it is new each day; it is infinitely variable." Making meaning is a process. It changes and evolves as we do...You announce that you are the sole arbiter of meaning in your life, you nominate yourself as the hero of your own story, and you give up all religions and supernatural enthusiasms."

Dr. Maisel has written a book that encourages us to make our self and the meaning within that human being. In reading this book, you may be encouraged to read anyone of his many books. It may be that you are coping with depression - read The Van Gogh Blues. Perhaps you want to write - try The Art of the Book Proposal and A Writer's Space. If you need inspiration - explore Coaching the Artist Within or Creativity for Life. When you need a step-by-step guide to completing your art - examine Fearless Creating. None of them will disappoint and all will stimulate you to make meaning.

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