Strange Gods by Susan Jacoby

book cover based on painting of the conversion of St. PaulStrange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion by Susan Jacoby (2016)

Really well written, all 465 pages. Jacoby is also the author of other books including The Age of American Unreason that is a good book too. So I thought I would just take a flip through this book to start and found the few photographs in it that illustrate all too well the problem of adherence to religious dogma. The first picture was of a terracotta statue “believed to represent the Alexandrian philosopher and mathematician Hypatia (c.350-415) who was literally torn to pieces by a Christian mob for the dual offense of being a female intellectual and expounding classical pagan philosophy as Christianity triumphed throughout the Roman Empire.” I had heard of her before, so was gratified to see her story mentioned.

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The Life of the Parties by A. James Reichley

The Life of the Parties: A History of American Political Parties (2000, 1992)

the life of the partiesThis link is to the 2000 edition, the one I am reading is 1992 but not as dated as one might think given that it begins at the beginning of America’s founding and all the information up to then and is extremely detailed and analyzed and described very well.

This book answers the many questions I have had over the years of how we ended up with an essentially two-party system that is run like two warring corporations for a monopoly of the United States government as the prize.

I knew that the Founding Fathers had not begun nor wanted political parties, but apparently not “until they began running parties themselves.” Thomas Jefferson was pro-party. Alexander Hamilton “associated parties with ‘ambition, avarice, personal animosity.'” I’m going to side with Hamilton on this point. James Madison “wrote in Federalist Number Ten of ‘the mischiefs of faction. John Adams expressed ‘dread’ toward ‘division of the republic into to great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other.'” Now that was prescient!

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