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Chance or the Dance: A Critique of Modern Secularism Paperback – March, 1989


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 150 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Pr; Edition Unstated edition (March 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898702291
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898702293
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,159,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Richard J. Grebenc on June 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book was originally published in 1969, yet it remains fresh and relevant today. Truly a critique of secularism, Howard contrasts the "old myth" (where everything meant everything) to the "new myth" (where nothing means anything). In his chapters he takes on different aspects of these contrasting worldviews, from dishrags and borzoi dogs to sex and beyond. From serious subjects to laugh out loud moments. A fairly quick read, but one that could be repeated several times to catch all the insights of a gifted writer who certainly can turn a phrase with the best. Definitely recommended.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Eric Metaxas on May 30, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Thomas Howard's CHANCE OR THE DANCE? is a little-known modern classic, the sort of book that has changed many lives and is changing them still. In prose that is as beautiful as any you will read, Howard lays out the fundamental question that faces us today, whether to accept a view of the world that says we are extraordinary creatures whose lives have eternal meaning and beauty, or to accept a view that says we are cosmic accidents whose lives have no meaning at all. Simply among the very best books of the latter half of the 20th century.

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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Chad Toney on August 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
Thomas Howard never fails to get me thinking. He also quite often sends me to my dictionary or m-w.com. One of his biggest strengths is his ability to bring meaning to just about any subject.

He spends a whole chapter on poetry, bringing all of his skills as an English professor to bear in his analysis of this monumental work:

One foot up, one foot down,
That's the way to London Town.

I'm not kidding. His insights are actually incredible and if I taught any kind of literature, I would make this chapter required reading for my students.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Labarum VINE VOICE on October 25, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is one thing to look upon the rotting corpse that is secularism today and critique its weaknesses. It is entirely another to take to pen when the victory of secularism over faith seemed almost complete and to announce to the world that the emperor had no clothes. Such was the case when Thomas Howard published his critique of secularism Chance or the Dance? in 1969. A lot has happened since then but the amazing thing in reading the book now is that it could have been written yesterday. In fact, if one does not notice the original publication date, you would probably think it was a recent writing. The reason is simple - Howard focuses on eternal truths and as such their veracity does not change with the winds of popular fashion.

Howard's views the weakness of the secular vision as hinging on the limitations it places upon what subject matter may be cosidered to contribute to our knwledge of the world. Secularism, with its restriction to the natural and its overconfidence in the impartiality of the scientific process, has not eliminated faith but exchanged God for an idol of our own choosing. The author, as an English professor, has a far different and more classical view of knowledge than that supplied by the "conventional wisdom" and explores this in a series of essays that return to a more varied fabric than that advocated by modernity.

For Howard, the dismissal of all strata of proposed knowledge beyond empirical data grossly misunderstands both natural and supernatural. By accepting only "facts" we have eliminated the search for purpose in the universe and reduced "the dance" (the interwoven fabric of existence) to "chance" (the purposeless interaction of matter).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Edgar Foster VINE VOICE on August 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
Thomas Howard critiques "modern secularism" in a well-written relatively short work that does not pretend to be scholarly. Howard is a master wordsmith: he possesses the uncanny ability to turn unforgettable phrases. Furthermore, his vocabulary exceeds that of the ordinary mortal. Of course, Howard's book was initially published in 1969, so it has a few years under its belt (I was four years old when this work was published). Howard nonetheless effectively analyzes modern secularism although I do not concur with all of his assumptions or methods used in the critique. I will now summarize this work, then mention some of its strengths along with some weaknesses that I perceive in the book.

Chapter One outlines the difference between the so-called "old" and new myth. The old myth (Howard writes) claimed that people had souls, and the cause of mood disorders was considered to be demon-possession, whereas the source of pestilences was divine anger. Additionally, "the earth and sky were full of angelic and demonic conflict" (page 11). These ages are often characterized by the adjective "dark." But Howard informs us that the light eventually came. Or so men and women thought: "It was the light that has lighted us men into a new age" (ibid). In reality, one might characterize the so-called light as the "new myth." In the new enlightened age, Howard points out that miracles, angels, devils, virgin births and the attribution of causes to various gods by means of etiological myths became artifacts of human memory. They were replaced with special relativity, modern inventions, napalm, modern transportation and largely-populated cities.
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