3 books that challenged my thinking this year

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This year I've been broadening my reading beyond biblical and religious studies as much as possible. Three of the books that have impacted my thinking on other topics--human knowledge (epistemology), morality and politics, and relationships--are the following that I highly recommend:

1. Chuck Klosterman's 'But What If We're Wrong? Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past'

Takeaway: When we recognize how often the 'facts' of the past prove to be either dead wrong or insufficiently accurate it should cause us to be humble about what we think we know now because future generations will likely know better. 

2. Jonathan Haidt's 'The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion'

Takeaway: OK, so some religion here...but the main focus is different moral systems within a pluralistic society. Except in extreme cases, people on the other side of the aisle are not 'immoral' but instead work from a different set of moral starting points. 

3. Nicholas Epley's 'Mindwise: Why We Misunderstand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want'

Takeaway: While I'm still reading this one, thus far I've been blown away by the evidence that we not only struggle to understand other minds but we're not that good at understanding even our own. That said: we've got a special gift that allows us to communicate and it can be enhanced.

O Mammon!

Seems like a good day to share this excerpt from Philip Appleman's poem, 'Five Easy Prayers for Pagans':

O Mammon, Thou who art daily dissed
by everyone, yet boast more true disciples
than all other gods together, 
Thou whose eerie sheen
gleameth from Corporate Headquarters
and Vatican Treasury alike, Thou
whose glittering eye impales us
in the X-ray vision of plastic surgeons, 
the golden leer of televangelists, 
the star-spangled gloat of politicos –

O Mammon, come down to us in the form
of Treasuries, Annuities, & High-Grade Bonds, 
yield unto us those Benedict Arnold Funds, 
those Quicksand Convertible Securities, even the wet
Judas Kiss of Futures Contracts – for
unto the least of these Thy supplicants
art Thou welcome in all Thy many forms. But
when Thou comest to say we’re finally in the gentry – 
use the service entry.