Making Sense of Brief Lives
A bracing and ambitious work of practical philosophy.
There are some questions we can’t avoid. Questions about meaning and morality, about belief and evidence and truth - about things that are reflected in our lives, whether or not we ever analyze them explicitly. This is the conviction that drives Making Sense of Brief Lives, first to identify with stark clarity the practical philosophical questions we face in life, and then to drive toward decisive answers.
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This book changed the way I think, the way I speak, and the way I live. [...] With a writing style that is precise and surgical but also seductive, Phil Smoke produces compelling answers to these most pressing questions. And while Smoke's writing is some of the finest I've come across, this only points the reader to what is essential to the project of this book - beautifully clear and careful thinking. Smoke explains how we arrive at our worldviews more or less by accident and urges us to make a deliberate effort through slow and careful reasoning aided by evidence to construct a new, more sensible view of the world. One of the main recurring themes of MSOBL is that life forces us to engage in philosophy - we must believe something, and then we must act accordingly. FULL REVIEW HERE > https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R3LH8VGUTR5UN8/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1789048222 ~ David Cressey, Amazon and Goodreads
Running at a briskly pertinent 108 pages, Smoke attests that the so-named Gods of Religion are, fundamentally, human creations and thus continues forward with radical, eye-opening honesty, whilst at all times providing clear and simple tools to enable us to address all the facts he brings up throughout the book. To explain it a little better, If God is real, what makes everyone think they know what he wants? Ergo, humans project their own thoughts and emotions onto something to explain the world around them. For no one truly knows and it’s just easier to say what’s real or not so you have some type of control in your life; or lack thereof, of course. So the short answer would be that we created Gods. Just as we will ourselves be Gods if we found another civilization that was less advanced than us. As for the discussion What is the true meaning of morality? well, in and unto itself, morality refers to the set of standards that enable people to live cooperatively in groups. It’s what societies determine to be “right” and “acceptable.” Sometimes, acting in a moral manner means individuals must sacrifice their own short-term interests to benefit society. So what we also get within these pages/chapters is a supernaturalist account of religion cloaked in an honest, truthful and evidently heartfelt desire to not only teach us, but guide us through a life where, sometimes, those aforementioned, and worldly clear and simple tools of navigation are perhaps just not so. FULL REVIEW HERE > https://annecarlini.com/ex_books.php?id=326 ~ Exclusive Magazine, Review
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Making Sense of Brief Lives, and see a kindred spirit when Smoke discusses free will and the idea of conscious experience as a simulation or fiction. “How can I then be certain of anything about the world beyond my mind? Ultimately I cannot.” I’m amazed Smoke packs so much into such a short manuscript. The notes deserve special attention. Overall a great read. ~ Dr. Robert L. Taylor, author of The Deceptive Brain: Blame, Punishment, and the Illusion of Choice
I would love to see Making Sense of Brief Lives on the syllabus for all first year seminary students. Smoke does readers a service by repeatedly focusing attention on matters of utmost existential relevance and providing clear and simple tools to address them. In doing so, Smoke is uncompromising in his honesty and merciless in assailing wishful thinking on all fronts. In an age when so many in our culture cannot muster the internal resources to reflect critically on their commitments, this is a call that needs to be made again and again. A supernaturalist account of religion is regularly examined in these pages. Like many students entering seminary, he has rightly discerned that the gods of religion are, without exception, human creations. There are a few classic ways that people respond to this realization. Smoke shows us the path of the nihilist. He feels compelled to drive the shock of existential abandonment from God’s death straight through the heart of all reality. There are other paths that people of radical honesty have open to them, even—capitalizing on Golgotha—quite Christian ones. I hope that someday Smoke finds one. Like a young Saint Augustine, he has much of true value to teach us. ~ Alexander Blondeau, PhD in Systematic Theology