The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. Philip Pullman's entry in the occasionally brilliant "Myths" series, retelling the gospel story. In this version the simple, passionate, revivalist preacher Jesus is accompanied by his well-meaning intellectual brother Christ. Christ dreams of a giant organized Church, much to his brother's disgust, and retells the story to make it more likely.
The book is written in a simple Young Adult style prose. It holds your attention quite well even though the basic story is pretty familiar.
Overall though, I found it all a bit too obvious. Most of the New Atheists have a lot in common with the Evangelical Protestants: the former's criticisms of religion are very similar to Protestant criticisms of Catholicism. It's the organised aspect of religion that they dislike the most. The Protestant/Atheist view is that Jesus himself was all right, but the church that came after him corrupted everything.
In the book "Christ" basically stands in for the church, arguing that the Kingdom of God needs authorities to manage everything and keep the masses under control. "Jesus" says the power would be abused. There are even heavy hints at the paedophile scandal. However rather than the scoundrel of the title, "Christ" is portrayed as a gullible fool rather than actually evil. A mysterious stranger, either the devil or St Paul, manipulates Christ into many of his actions.
Overall, somewhat interesting, but a bit too heavy-handed and conventional to be really impressive.
What I'm Reading 2
Finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Henrietta Lacks was an impoverished black woman who died in 1951. Cancer cells taken from her proved to be unusual in that they're unusually robust; and can multiply while suspended in fluid, not just on a slide. These HeLa cells became a standard in biological research, and are widely used today.
The book combines the scientific story of the cells with the story of Lacks' family, who struggled with poverty and illness, and some of whom are bitter about the large sums of money made by medical supply firms from the cells. It's a reminder of how powerfully any person's death can resonate: you wonder if Lacks could have helped her children get better outcomes if she had survived, and if that could have helped future generations in turn.
Overall, an interesting read. But there aren't any particularly striking revelations here if you know the basic story, so not unmissable.
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