Book Review – Life’s too Short to Pretend You’re not Religious by David Dark

Framing

David Dark it the author of Life’s too short to pretend you’re not religious. Dark is a Theology professor at Belmont University of Nashville, Tennessee. He also teaches in incarcerated communities in the greater Nashville area. He is the author of several books including The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, Everyday Apocalypse, and The Gospel According to America. His writing has appeared in several different magazines including Pitchfork, Paste, Books & Culture, and Killing the Buddha. Dark is writing towards multiple different generations of readers. He writes to the generation that is slightly older than the current college age by making many popular references that may make more sense to kids who were born in the eighties instead of the late nineties. He still makes the book relevant to modern college age students by making the topic and title very applicable to modern college students. The title is very bold and flashy. It draws in all kinds of people who may immediately agree or disagree with Dark’s thesis. He doesn’t hide what he is trying to say, he puts it out there for every passerby to read and digest within themselves. This book is nonfiction through and through. It would probably fall on the border of the general philosophy section and the religious writing section. Dark has implemented both into his writing. This will be discussed more later.

 

Content and Methodology

David Dark breaks his book Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re not Religious into nine different chapters. These different chapters form a progression of Dark’s thoughts. Dark starts by defining what caused his writing of this book. A friend in a restaurant told him “ no one hates religion as much as I do” (11). Dark realized how dangerous this thought was and decided he needed to write a book warning about the dangers that this mindset brings with it. He moves on to the second chapter where he uses a personal story about his naive obsession with trying to please God by taking communion in a department store parking lot. This thought at a young age drove him to think about religion more than the average person might. In the third chapter he gets into the meat of his book. He starts talking about how each person has a religion they follow. The fourth and fifth chapters are titled “Choose your Ancestors Carefully” and “I learned by watching you”, respectively. Dark uses these titles with a touch of tongue-in-cheek humor to prove his point that we can not choose who our relatives are but they influance us. This leads into his next two chapters which focus on the influence of technology in modern culture. Dark writes critically of technology in modern life. Dark uses the last three chapters to summarize his arguments and bring the book full circle by talking about the erroneous statement that his friend made about hating religion.

 

Analysis

David Dark starts with the central problem that discussion of religion leads to a breakdown in communication. When his friend says that he hates religion Dark feels he cannot respond with anything close to a topic of religion. He observes how people react when religion is talked about. People become defensive and cannot continue any conversations. He writes about when religion comes up, “Guards go up immediately and with good reason. It’s the ultimate conversation stopper; an association to end all associations” (14). Dark moves on to explain that “religion is a controlling story” (14). It does not matter what that story is, as long as the story shapes an individual it can be considered a religion. In the beginning Dark defines religion as being “called, moved, or compelled by something outside of yourself” (17). This could be anything. He discusses the importance of people having a religion in their life. If people do not have it they will lose all direction in their life. Dark makes the argument that people have a religion even if deny it. He says “we’re never not speaking and acting upon our religion. We’re never not involved in everyday worship” (18). People always worship something. People consciously or unconsciously rank things in their life. Some people might put their jobs before their family or a relationship before schoolwork. People are always “worshiping” something in their life. It is inescapable.

The other major point Dark makes is about technology. He is very critical of the use of technology. He writes “a computer isn’t a companion; it’s a vampire” (103) and “cell phones might be instructively referred to as electric soul molesters” (103). Dark’s critical view stems from his belief that people are trying their hardest to matter as fast as possible. He has observed people clamoring for a foothold in the online world. He wants to stress that there is consciousness beyond the digital world. He poses a thought provoking question to us when he says, “Amid the static that degrades, how might we access wisdom, compassion, hospitality, and other forms of life for which there is not app?” (106-107). He wants to challenge the impatience that America has come so accustomed to embracing. He makes the charge that “there isn’t a sin that I can think of that isn’t somehow born of misperceived need, of haste and its accompanying inattentiveness, of some feverish variation once more of Hurry up and matter!” (107). He brings it back to religion with the comment about sins, but also pushes the envelope forward with his critical remarks about the direction of the American culture.  

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