Faith Overcomes Doubt

MOVIE: Religulous — You don’t have to abandon faith in a higher power to find Bill Maher’s exploration of religious nuttiness and irrationality a total hoot. But it helps. And as my friend the Rev. Molly Collins points out, atheism is a form of belief, albeit one in the nonexistence of God. Some may call it sacrilege; I think that Religulous is a needed tonic for these times we live in, and in my own faith, can’t help but believe that God has a sense of humor too and finds this at least less offensive than some of the things said in His name — or Hers or their name, depending on what theology one subscribes to — that contradict rather obvious precepts of certain religions. One can’t fault Maher for the one element this film could use—respect for religious people that also think—because it’s not part of his mission in this truly hilarious and wildly entertaining film, and frankly, not all that funny. But for all those believers who appear to be so detached from reality to be at least detached from rationality if not deluded, there are countless people of faith who understand the meaning of mythology and the power of symbolism and ritual, and how they convey and reinforce spiritual truths even if some of the stories and practices seem downright absurd at face value. Yes, faith in God by its very nature defies reason. And for all the wackiness as well as the downright offensive behavior of far too many that believe they know God, as I like to say: Don’t throw out the baby Jesus with the bathwater.

BOOK: The Brothers by Art, Aaron, Charles and Cyril Neville and David Ritz — There’s no better collaborator on musical autobiographies than multiple music book award winner David Ritz, whose works include books with Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Etta James and recently deceased producer and music exec Jerry Wexler. (Full disclosure: a few years back I enjoyed a delightful dinner with Ritz, who I’d raise above being just a music journalism peer.) When I saw this 2000 tome on the shelves at one of my favorite bookstores—the Texas Half Price Book chain—I expected a great read. But it’s all that and more. It’s an amazing tale of family, racial realities in the South (as well as the rest of the nation) during the 1950s and ‘60s, the perils of drug addiction, the City of New Orleans and its music. Hence well worth seeking out if the Neville Brothers or Louisiana and Southern Black music are at all of interest to you. The book tells a classic, dramatic and all too illuminating American story, complete with happy ending. The Neville Brothers are African-American roots music at its best today, and after reading this, their sounds and songs become that much richer. For the full experience seek out the rare collection A Family Affair: A History of The Neville Brothers. Or slip the group’s Fiyo on the Bayou or Family Groove and dig the power, soul and beauty that comes out of the speakers—so much that one might be inclined to believe that there is a God.

From The Progressive Populist, December 1, 2008

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