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How Character Shapes Belief

Top 5 Books: Character Shapes Belief
2008This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

An astute political analyst once mentioned that Aristotle taught us that the ad hominem was a logical fallacy. He went on to add, "I wonder what he had to hide." Ideologies and systems should not be seen as pristine, stand-alone affairs. The best book to get us thinking about beliefs' bloodlines:

Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky
Paul Johnson

Why is it that many of the most lionized figures of the modern world were people who lived seriously rancid lives? Should it matter that Rousseau, a darling of educational theorists, serially abandoned all his children?

Degenerate Moderns: Modernity as Rationalized Sexual Misbehavior
E. Michael Jones

Jones examines Margaret Mead, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Kinsey, and others. It seems the way you actually live will affect how you construe the data.

Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism
Paul C. Vitz

Turning Freud's projection theory of God on its head, Vitz strikingly argues that the fatherlessness of modern atheists should be seen as a function of deeply felt fatherlessness at the human level.

In Praise of Nepotism: A Natural History
Adam Bellow

Bellow reveals that many "self-made men" were nothing of the kind—they were family-made men. A corollary of this would be that great contributions to civilization do not fall from the sky, but are forged in conversations around the dining-room table.

How the Scots Invented the Modern World
Arthur Herman

Centuries of hard-edged theology and hardscrabble living placed 18th-century Scots in a unique position to contribute to an unexpected renaissance. The answer to, "Who gave our culture what it has and why?" may surprise those who just ask, "What do we now possess?"


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