By Jackie Wellman
Paperback: 158 pages
Publisher: PublishAmerica (July 25, 2005)
This is Jackie Wellman’s first book and in one sentence, I found the book informative, entertaining and in many parts funny.
The book is divided into five sections which demonstrate the manner in which Ms. Wellman has conducted her study. It follows the natural progression when a study is made and this aids in making the book a pleasurable read.
In Section 1, Ms. Wellman begins by explaining the purpose of this work. She clearly states that it is a personal quest – one that began when she was given a unfavourable prognosis for a medical condition she suffers from. This is most evident when Ms. Wellman states: When I hear someone say, “It must be God’s plan; we just do not understand,” it gets my blood boiling. How could God be involved in possibly giving my beautiful son HSP [hereditary spastic paraplegia]?”
Though it starts in this manner, throughout the book, there is use of humour; this, coupled with a personal touch immediately draws a reader into Ms. Wellman’s quest. This lightness in her words makes reading such heavy stuff a pleasure.
In the next section of the book entitled ‘Religion Rundown’ there is no doubt that Ms. Wellman has done extensive research.
Her statement at the beginning of the section is very positive in its nature:
“Most religions send out a message of love and compassion. The ways those messages are sent out are a little different, but they basically all say the same thing – be nice!”
She has listed down not only the various meanings given to the word ‘religion’, she has, thereafter, listed down almost all known religions of the world today. Though I am aware of most of them, I learnt about a few new ones like Congregationlists, the Shakers, Wicaa and Roma and Vudon.
I must admit that when it came to a rundown of my own religion, Hinduism, I was ready to criticise; however, I was immensely pleased to read, “Hinduism is a complex religion that can answer questions about how to achieve whatever the follower wants … Here is a little more to add to the confusion: …” To me, this showed a maturity on Ms. Wellman’s part for she recognised the difficulties that surround this ancient set of beliefs.
Ms. Wellman’s maturity is even more pronounced when she gives the rundown on Islam when she clearly states the main beliefs, the rules by which Muslims live and the fact that “It is a peaceful religion.”
Even in this section, humour is employed. For instance, when she mentions Jehovah’s Witness, she says, “Now, be honest, who has pretended they are not home and not answered the door when they are in the neighborhood?”
In Section 3, “Evolution and Common Sense”, Ms. Wellman ‘applies’ what she’s learnt from her research and here, some of the most entertaining passages are written. The overriding concern here is the concept of Creation. She ponders the facts, scientific issues like radioactive aging, Darwin’s theory of evolution and eventually, the truth. These are all difficult subjects to deal with and whole textbooks have been written about them. Ms. Wellman has described, in simple language, each of them which gives the reader just enough information to understand the concepts, theories and ideas.
Then comes what can be considered a potentially explosive part of the book – section 4 which is entitled, “In the Name of Religion”.
She sites numerous examples of atrocities that have been carried out and are still being carried out in the name of religion. In one sentence, she sums up her understanding that, “Religious intolerance has been around as long as religion has been present.” She proceeds to give a succinct account of the Crusades, the Inquisition, Jewish Persecution, Witch-hunts, Natives, Colonists, Slave Trade and Recent Intolerance.
The last section, which is Ms. Wellman’s concluding part, is entitled, “Clarity” – this is really a set of questions that Ms. Wellman asks. But the way in which she asks the questions, which are very difficult to ask, let alone answer, can make you laugh. For instance: Right after the tsunami disaster I caught the end of a special on CNN … about how different religions were explaining the immense wrath of nature. Several answers were about how people were being punished for their sins. How ridiculous!
She proceeds to list times in history when natural disasters occurred and many people perished. She says, “These last four [China and countries around the Indian Ocean] are countries were overpopulation is prevalent; was God doing a little population control? Was he bored and needed some excitement?”
Then comes her gripe with the Church on how they treat women. She says,
“Just the idea that women were created as an afterthought from a small piece of God’s “special creation” makes it seem that man are superior to women. How can any woman with any self-esteem believe any of this?”
Finally, we see Ms. Wellman’s own clarity for she says, “The big question for me was … Do people need to go to church every week to be “good people”?”
Further on, she comes to, what I think, is her most important realisation –
“There is a natural tendency to associate spirituality with religion, but they are different. That, I did not know. Religion is an organized system of beliefs in the worship of God or gods. Spirituality is finding your own authentic self.”
There is an emphasis in her study on Christianity and America; this is only to be expected considering that she is an Episcopalian and lives there.
If there a single criticism I can make, it has to do with the design of the jacket cover. For a book entitled, “Spiritual Clarity”, the exact design on the cover is very hard to make out!
In all, this has been an enjoyable, relaxing and informative read.