What You Don’t Know About Religion (But Should) by Ryan T. Cragun

religionWhat You Don’t Know About Religion (But Should) by Ryan T. Cragun

Published March 15th 2013 by Pitchstone Publishing

Buy this book at: Book Depository / Amazon / B&N


What is a religion? Why are people religious? Are religious people more educated than nonreligious people? Are religious people more moral, more humble, or happier? Are religious people more or less prejudiced than nonreligious people? Is religion good for your health? Are people becoming more or less religious? Studying religion as a social phenomenon, Ryan T. Cragun follows the scientific data to provide answers to these and other questions. At times irreverent, but always engaging and illuminating, What You Don’t Know About Religion (but Should) is for all those who have ever wondered whether religion helps or hurts society—or questioned what the future holds for religion.

Rating: 1 star


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

There are really only a few things you need to know about this book:

“I could have approached this book that way (highly scientific and detailed), But had I done that my audience would have dropped considerable. So I did simplify things.”

No, I swear to God that particular misspelling actually is in the book. But just remember, this book was written for dummies, that will be important later.

“Our new world needs tolerance.”

“When I was religious, I was very arrogant.”

“If you’re on the fundamentalist bandwagon, it’s time to get off……We nonreligious will inhereit the earth, but we won’t share it with fundamentalists.”

“What I hope to have done with this book, however, is undermine and destroy the appeal of religious fundamentalism.”

“To my mind the scientific research suggested to me a logical path – to reject religion. You need not do that. You could choose the best religious alternative to that: liberal religion. I can respect that choice.”

“After people read this book, they should view religious fundamentalists with sympathy and a bit of scorn.”

“Religious fundamentalists are detriments to society and they should be treated as such. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we round them up and lock them away – that would be awful and is unethical. I’m suggesting that you should think about religious fundamentalists as though they are misogynistic, racist, homophobic Luddites, because they are.”

“…but you can pity then, and frankly, I think it is perfectly fine to tell then that you do. Tell them that you feel sorry for their choice to oppose the qualities of a progressive, modernized, advanced, democratic society. It’s time that religious fundamentalists were considered socially deviant.”

So, am I the only disturbed by these quotes? Tolerance huh? Yes, this is a very tolerant book! It will tell you for 250 pages that the highly religious are dumber, less well off, less educated, more prejudiced, more violent, misogynistic, homophobic, hypocritical, arrogant racists. I wanted to give this book a fair shot, I really did. The author is a former Mormon, and so am I. I was a fourth generation Mormon, born into the faith and I stayed long past the time I started to have doubts. I finally left the religion and frankly it left a bad taste in my mouth. So I wanted to agree with this author! And I couldn’t! Because I have never read a more prejudiced and hateful book by a more arrogant author in all my life.

This book was purported to be about the social science of how and why people are religious, and whether or not religion is really such a benefit to people’s lives as it claims to be. This intrigued me. But what I got was “look at this graph, this is what that graph tells us. now look at this graph, this is what it tells us. shit, religious people suck!” And rinse and repeat for 200 something pages. I learned nothing about religion and everything I ever needed to know about the author’s character.

Now, by this point the author will probably tell you one of two things about me (and he admits it in his book). If I don’t agree with his points then:

A. I am a religious fundamentalist who just is socially deviant and can’t understand simple logic, even though the book was written for dummies. Everyone should point and laugh at the idiot with a God.

B. I didn’t read the book all the way through and so therefore I failed to grasp it.

Let’s address this. First, I did read this pile of garbage until the very last sentence. And I learned nothing and have thoroughly wasted my time. Also I am one of the people who would be classed as “non religious” in his book. I am now a Pagan and have been since a few years after I left the Mormon church. I have faith in many things and I practice my faith in private, but I do not participate in a religion with others.

Save yourself the time and find an actual book about the science of religion, because this one is just thinly veiled hateful spew about religious people and religion in general. Oh, who am I kidding, there is no veil!


Review: The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

the 19th wifeThe 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Published June 2nd, 2009 by Random House

Synopsis and cover image from the Goodreads book page

Buy this book at: Book Depository / Amazon / B&N


It is 1875, and Ann Eliza Young has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Expelled and an outcast, Ann Eliza embarks on a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of her family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how both she and her mother became plural wives. Yet soon after Ann Eliza’s story begins, a second exquisite narrative unfolds–a tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah. Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death. And as Ann Eliza’s narrative intertwines with that of Jordan’s search, readers are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love, family, and faith


Rating: 3 star



For anyone who doesn’t know, I used to belong to the Mormon church.  I was born into it (4th generation actually) and lived it until I was around 18 and then removed myself from church membership at 19.  So, in a sense, I can identify with Ann Eliza and her apostasy from the church.  I may have left for different reasons but I was surprised how many were the same.  This also left with me a rather biased view of the church and their teachings.  I was still interested in this book for the story it presented and tried very hard not to let my own biases color this review.  But I feel a tiny disclaimer is warranted just in case I didn’t quite succeed.

This book attempts to tell two stories simultaneously.  First is the story of Ann Eliza, 19th wife to the 2nd prophet of the LDS church Brigham Young.  It tells the story of her disenchantment with the church and later her divorce from Brigham and apostasy over the issue of polygamy.  She later goes on a personal crusade to end polygamy in the United States for good.  The second story is the story of Jordan Scott.  His mother is the 19th wife of a polygamist man in a fringe branch of the LDS church, which branched off over the issue of polygamy, and she is arrested and accused of murdering her husband.

Now, I found both of these stories interesting but I wasn’t entirely happy with the way they were handled in the book.  Ann Eliza’s narrative overtook the large majority of the pages and quite frankly it wasn’t the most interesting thing going on.  Anyone with even a tiny bit of knowledge of Mormon history knows how Ann Eliza’s crusade ends.  They know that the church banned polygamy from practice in order to coincide with US law.  We know that her crusade was only partially effective since fringe elements in the church branched off from the main church and still practice polygamy to this day.  These are all things we KNOW happened, so Ann Eliza’s story is not surprising but only mildly interesting.  What was surprising was Jordan Scott, a young man cast out of this fringe group (called the Firsts) for holding hands with his stepsister.  His mother drives him to the highway and puts him out on the road to fend for himself at 15.  He is then pulled back into the sect when his mother is arrested for murdering his father year later, and he finds that he believes her to be innocent.  We follow Jordan on his quest to discover the truth of his father’s demise.

Although I felt that Ann Eliza’s story got far more coverage than it needed to, I can’t say that I disliked what I read.  The only part that got on my nerves was when we read something from her memoir and then a chapter or so later are told the SAME THING as someone tells Jordan Scott about it.  I felt like this was a forced attempt to connect the two stories when it wasn’t necessary.  We already had the connection of polygamy, the Firsts being founded by Ann’s brother, and both being the 19th wife.  We didn’t need anything else to be intrigued so it felt forced to put all these connections between the stories in there.  The other part of Ann’s narrative that I had issue with was that it got repetitive all by itself.  We hear her talk about her lecturing on multiple occasions, we hear about her marriage from not only her but her former husband AND her son.  It got cumbersome and took up way too many pages, meanwhile I was frothing at the mouth to hear about what Jordan was doing!

Jordan’s story, unfortunately, got neglected.  We kind of think he has a boyfriend (Roland) who is kind of an asshole, but he so readily hooks up with goody goody Tom that I wasn’t quite sure what was going on.  Johnny was a delightful character who added some much needed levity to this otherwise very heavy story.  All of the other characters in Jordan’s narrative I really had no feelings for because none of them were fleshed out very much, so I couldn’t have any feelings toward them one way or the other.  I feel like the author relied too much on the reputation of sects like The Firsts and that the reader just automatically understood the interactions.  Here’s a hint, we didn’t and we wanted to!  The ending of Jordan’s narrative took me by surprise.  I honestly never saw it coming, mostly because I never had enough information to see it coming.

Also SPOILER!!!!

Minor grip about the title.  Neither of these women was actually the 19th wife.  Popularly they were known as the 19th wives, but neither actually were in reality.  I don’t know why that bugged me, but it did.  Overall, it was an interesting story and the ending saved it for me on many accounts. A good investment of my time, but it could have done with a few hundred pages less.