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One person found this helpful
Pretty good advice, not very good philosophy
on September 28, 2014
What I've read is mostly useful, informed, and intelligent. Unfortunately, it's too late for me. My parents were depressed. My father abused my mother. When I was four years old, my aunt kidnapped me to protect me from my abusive father, but even by then some damage had been done. No matter how smart you are; no matter how well trained you are, you can be fooled by a psychopath predator, as was the author of this book, an intelligent, competent psychiatrist (apparently) who was deceived by a psychopath husband. She is trying to make amends with this book.
I just finished reading the book (I have to get it back quickly to the library I borrowed it from) and as I finished it, my problems with the book became clearer in my mind.
I suspect (and I am probably deluding myself) that I am a psychopath or at least something similar. Some of us crazy and dangerous people are fairly self-aware, and a positive stroke to us would not be amiss. Maybe Liane will get to that. I check in again after I read more. I just felt with so many adulatory reviews a little balance would not be a bad idea.
I just finished reading the book. (I have this on an interlibrary loan and have to get it back to the library by tomorrow or the FBI will be after me [joke, but I do have to get it back]. As I finished the book, the uneasy feeling I have about it became clearer in my mind. Dr. Leedom is a very intelligent and well-informed person and her book has a great deal of useful and intelligent information and guidance.
She also strikes me as in an odd way, a very naïve and innocent person. It may be a completely unjustified leap, but in a way I am not surprised that she married a dangerous and abusive man who got in a lot of trouble and caused harm to her and their children.
Part of this gets tricky because it has to do with religious belief and I am a very strong atheist. On page 164, she tries to be polite and respectful to unbelievers such as myself, but when she says, "Belief in a high purpose for life does not necessarily have to involve belief in God. Even if you don't believe in God, you can still believe in a higher purpose for your own life and the lives of your children," the condescension and distrust of people who don't share her belief system seems to leap out at me.
There are a multitude of problems, both philosophical and practical with such arguments, and similar ones she spouts in places such as page 164 where she gets into addiction and she starts touting fairly standard "12-step" programs against addiction. Without going into a lot of detail here, there are many problems with 12-step programs. They work for some people, but not for all.
To begin with, hard as it is for religious believers to accept, there is not the slightest bit of empirical evidence to indicate that religious belief is anything but total fantasy made up by human imagination. God does not exist. Period.
Second, religious belief does no more to promote love and goodness than any other widespread human value system and ideological system. In the history of all religions, there are widespread examples of caring, altruism, moral guidance, conscience and so on AND there are widespread examples of hate, fear, prejudice, violence, cruelty, and genocide. Check out Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity (to name the six most widely believed religions in the world (and you can trot down a thousand other religious competitors) they all have nobility and virtue and they all have blood and horror in their histories. Idealists such as Dr. Leedom cherrypick the "good" stuff and practice intense "head in the sand" denial about the other part of religion. In Chapter 9 (and other parts) she (correctly, I agree) condemns punishment as a parenting and guidance method. Speaking as a 70-year old atheist who grew up immersed in an overwhelmingly Christian society, I would need an entire state the size of California to list all the times I have encountered Christian parents who engaged in bullying and punitive behavior because they believed that was what "God the stern father" wants them to do.
In a way similar to how Thomas Jefferson wrote his own version of the Bible (trying to expunge the obvious superstition in that book), Dr. Leeson has created her own maternal, kind version of Christianity and trying to cover up the nasty paternalism which pervades the "Abrahamic" religions.
Religious belief has dominated human beings for thousands of years. 80% or so of human beings still believe in a "high purpose" or "higher being" which just does not exist. Atheism is not a belief system in the same way. It doesn't offer a "higher purpose." It just describes the universe more accurately. Humans are gradually sliding into a "post-religious" part of our history. For many reasons, we are in the most dangerous and difficult portion of our species' existence since we wandered around on African savannahs and learned to communicate. For individual parents, especially ones with at-risk children, her book offers a great deal of useful advice and information. From a philosophical and societal point of view, in my opinion, she has relatively little of useful advice to offer.