Author Archives: Amos

“A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL”— A Young Lover

“A Very English Scandal”

A Young Lover

Amos Lassen

 “A Very English Scandal” is  a three-part dramatization of events leading up to Jeremy Thorpe’s infamous 1979 trial for conspiracy to murder his troubled and increasingly troublesome young boyfriend, Norman Scott.

Hugh Grant is Thorpe and he is charming, sly, duplicitous, forthright, manipulative, sometimes by turns, sometimes all at once, he is never less than wholly convincing and compelling. He is every bit a star handles the comic scenes and moments with deftness yet he never loses sight of the underlying nervousness, fear and venality underlying the politician’s moves. Discussing his situation with best friend Peter Bessell (Alex Jennings), he realizes his need to marry in order to progress in politics. He is so very different from poor, unstable, neurotic Norma (Ben Whishaw), born Josiffe, renamed Scott when he relocates to Dublin and a modelling career seems to be taking off.

Scott is, at first, as Thorpe notes, “a very heaven” and he idolizes Thorpe, who gives him a flat, money and a nickname, Bunny, that will one day be known, as nicknames between lovers never should, nationwide. Scott becomes resentful of the time Thorpe spends away from him and concentrates on his refusal to get him a new insurance card so he can claim benefits and secure his prescription medications. When their relationship disintegrates past the point of no return, Scott tells the police Thorpe made him “a victim of his lusts” and provides private letters as evidence. “Bunnies can and will go to Paris!” says one letter that has tickets to France enclosed.

Thorpe’s political star is rising  via several pro-European, pro-immigration and other progressive speeches that fit with our sympathies and complicate our reactions as his mood darkens towards his ex-lover. This is a drama that is brutally funny, clever and confident. It is twenty years of salient political history with a finely-worked portrait of the English establishment, shaping and being shaped by a certain kind of man  who is protected by certain privileges and living under a particular kind of fear. The era’s moves to legalize homosexuality and the European and immigration concerns playout in the background and give resonate but it is Grant’s powerful performance that  holds it together, humanizes the characters and makes sense of it all.

Jeremy Thorpe  was an MP who became the leader of the Liberal Party, but this was a time when being gay was very much frowned and illegal. Oscar-nominated director Stephen Frears  does his best work in a long time. but it’s not for a film opening in theaters today.

As captured here, Norman was something of an acquisition for Thorpe, someone he could protect and predict. Tired of the danger of illegal one-night stands with men, Norman was something he could control—until he couldn’t. After the two split, Norman became the secret for Jeremy that wouldn’t go away. And so he tried to have him murdered.  Norman was the kind of young man who partied constantly and told stories to try and impress people around him. The look in his eyes when one of Thorpe’s colleagues who knows about the relationship verbally recognizes the honest emotion of it is poignant. He has been dismissed by everyone and was then seen by one of the most powerful men in the country. He refuses to let that go. In some ways, it’s all he has.

For Thorpe, nothing is more important than his reputation and his political career, and it’s when his gay love threatens his career, he lashes out. He would rather be dead than outed. Norman becomes a situation that he thought he completely controlled that ends up controlling him. Thorpe remains engaging instead of merely a villain. We understand part of what he did.  This is a scandal during which the sexuality of the defendant became more controversial than the allegation that he tried to kill someone. The skewed priority that values public perception over human life is there under the surface of the show and we fully understand that this is what created Jeremy Thorpe and made him into such a monster. 

 “A Very English Scandal” can be very humorous, especially as the attempted murder unfolds in a dumb manner but when it reaches its emotional peak, it is incredibly moving. It is this year’s must see.

“When Brooklyn Was Queer” by Hugh Ryan— A Forgotten History

Ryan, Hugh. “When Brooklyn Was Queer: A History”, St. Martin’s, 2019.

A Forgotten History

Amos Lassen

Hugh Ryan shares the never-before-told story of Brooklyn’s vibrant and forgotten queer history, from the mid-1850s up to today. It seems strange with Brooklyn being part of New York that her vivid and romantic gay culture has not been dealt with before now. Ryan’s book is a “groundbreaking exploration of the LGBT history of Brooklyn, from the early days of Walt Whitman in the 1850s up through the queer women who worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II, and beyond.” Until now, no other book, movie, or exhibition has ever told this story. Not only has Brooklyn always lived in the shadow of queer Manhattan neighborhoods like Greenwich Village and Harlem, but there has also been something of a systematic erasure of its queer history.

Ryan gives us that history for the first time and it is delightful.  His prose is filled with grace, intimate and moving. We feel his love for his subject as he answers questions of what history is, who tells it, and it is through the retelling that we are able to make sense of ourselves. We  see how the formation of the Brooklyn we know today is linked to the stories of the incredible people who created its diverse neighborhoods and cultures. After all, what is a neighborhood without people— just empty buildings with no character. Ryan brings Brooklyn’s queer past to life and claims its place as a modern classic.

Ryan begins his history in 1855 with the publication of “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman. Many forget Whitman’s place regarding LGBT literature but he is one of the forerunners and an important writer who made his home in Brooklyn and we find many aspects of what gay life was like in 19th century in his writing. W.H. Auden, Truman Capote, and Christopher Isherwood were in Brooklyn as well and they are part of the history but who is really important are not the names we know but the working class men and women who lived on the margins and  the constant influx of sailors that came through the Brooklyn Navy Yards. Ryan has found other documented stories of queer life in police records for sexual perversion and in the records of doctors who carried out  pseudo-scientific research on queer (especially trans) bodies.

The working class was more open to all kinds of non-marital sex, not just same-sex or gender nonconforming desires. Many of these communities were basically immigrant communities and the ratios of men to women were so different that marriage became less of an option. Men and women inhabited separate social spheres with  little access to private spaces where they could meet together. In places like the municipal baths or aboard ships, men (and to a lesser degree, women) had chances to gather together in semi-privately. It was a time when new ideas about sexuality-as-an-identity were more common among upper-class people, and those ideas gave more risk to same-sex desires because it was an activity that might be frowned upon and that defined a person.

Ryan has done incredible and meticulous research and uses skilled storytelling to make this such fun to read. It bring about a need for intimacy and community. We certainly feel Ryan’s love for queer Brooklyn on every page. This is a story of the “endurance, resourcefulness, and indefatigable joy queer people brought to bear upon the challenge of their own survival”. We go back to a time before we had an idea of legal acceptance and we get fascinating and surprising stories.

“DESIRE: THE SHORT FILMS OF OHM”— Meet Ohm Through His Film

“Desire: The Short films of Ohm”

Meet Ohm Through His Film

Amos Lassen

We go through life hearing about people that are fascinating and we say to ourselves that these are the “someones” that I would like to. Know more about. And then we forget. For me, one such person was Ohm Phanphiroj. Every once in a while his name pops up and I am reminded to research him but for whatever reason I never do. Now I am caught because in order to review TLA Releasing’s new film of the Ohm’s four short films, I decided that I had better get on. I was suddenly engulfed by a swamp that presented me with more ways to know Ohm than I could ever imagine. Thank goodness for TLA saving me a lot of time by bringing out on DVD for the first time, award-winning male erotic photographer Ohm Phanphiroj’s four most stunning, explicit, films all in one place.  These are “The Desire Trilogy”, “The Meaning of It All,” “Journey”, and “The First Conversation Between Frank and I”.  As far as I can tell these four films that explore male desire in an  artful, erotic, and forthcoming way have never been available to the public before in this form. However, the films contain real sex going on and therefore may not be suitable for everyone.

Ohm Phanphiroj is an international award-winning photographer, filmmaker, and educator. His works deal with controversial issues including sexuality, identity, gender roles, human mistreatment, exploitation, and the contemporary male nude.  He is a former fashion director at Esquire and Qr magazine, Ohm’s professional experiences include his work as a gallery director, fashion photographer, filmmaker, legal consultant, and a professor.

Ohm’s works are in the permanent collection at the Kinsey Institute, Lesley-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian, Syracuse University, Savannah College of Art, Indiana University, Emory University, Georgia State University, The School of Art Institute of Chicago, and in private collections throughout the world.

Ohm is also working on a short film trilogy consisting of “The Space Between Us”, “The Deaf Boy’s Disease”, and “The Last Summer”, which is due out soon.

“THE FRONT”— Six Survivors

 

“THE FRONT”

Six Survivors

Amos Lassens

As World War II came to a close, Frank Aldridge (Josh Durham), a war correspondent for the newly formed UN was given the job of interviewing German prisoners of war in an allied internment camp. He hears about the war from the perspective of six different survivors. Director by Jon Blaze and Nathan Blaze, we get a series of six episodes the story comes together.

In episode 1, Lt. Lawrenz  (Deward Lawrence) is a German prisoner of war who Frank questions about his civilian life before the war and his motivation for enlisting. Lawrenz becomes lost in thought thinking back to last spring when his war ended. He receives information that an American armored column is approaching their position and so he prepares a defense and a battle breaks out and the Germans are forced to surrender.

In the second episode, Frank interviews Feldwebel Loewe (Jovan Martin), a young soldier who recalls the time he spent deployed to Yugoslavia where a tenacious partisan resistance culminated with the Battle of Sutjeska in 1943. Loewe and his company traverse a muddy riverbed, laying telephone wire when they are ambushed by the Yugoslavians. They telephone desperately for help but are slaughtered to the last man and Loewe is shot. A young partisan is ready to kill him when he is rescued by arriving German reinforcements.

In Episode three, Obergefreiter Thomsen (Robb Hudspeth) introduces himself to Frank. Still very much proud of his deeds during the war, he tells Frank about how he received the Wound Badge on the Volkhov Front in 1943. Then until they hear artillery in the distance. Allied forces open fire and a battle ensues. The German nest is destroyed by a bazooka and allied soldiers begin to overrun the trenches. Thomsen is shot as he retreats.

Episode four has Frank’s interviewing Maj. Wright (Mike Buckendorf) who is in charge of the internment camp. Wright informs him that some prisoners have escaped. They take a jeep and some men and set out to recover them. Gefreiter Braun (Jackson Elliott)( recounts his experience fighting Soviet and British forces and tells Frank about the day his war ended. While searching, one escaped POW is killed and the other is eventually found and captured alive. When Frank asks him why he fled, the prisoner explains he feared being turned over to the Russia.

Episode five brings us Gefreiter Braun, an Austrian who joined the German mountain troops and tells Frank how his younger brother died on the Eastern Front and about when he decided to surrender to American forces in 1945. While on the long march north, Braun’s company of weary Germans is ambushed in the woods by Americans. Braun is knocked unconscious by a grenade and awakes to find he is the only survivor. Defeated, he finds a group of Americans and surrenders.

Episode six takes us to Frank meeting a female agent in London who claims to have been a former operative of the Red Orchestra. Code  name Mademoiselle  (Anne Beyer)  shares her deeds with him as well as the eventual destruction of her spy cell in Berlin. She escaped being helped by a German defector. She gives no details of what became of him. In 1942, she infiltrated a Nazi bunker and detonated an explosive. In the ensuing chaos she found where the defector was being held and assassinated him so he could not talk.

I am surprised how much I became wrapped up in this and I did not want it to end. I really hope that we get more seasons of this series. What really stands out is the human element which often falls away during war stories.

“2 PLAINS AND A FANCY”— A Psychedelic Buddy Comedy

“Two Plains & a Fancy”

A Psychedelic Buddy Comedy

Amos Lassen

 Lev Kalman and Whitney Horn’s “Two Plains & a Fancy” is a psychedelic buddy comedy that takes place in the Colorado mountains over a few days in September of 1893. We follow three tourists from New York who arrive in Colorado in search of the perfect hot spring, unaware they’ve arrived just weeks after the Denver Panic, by which the silver-mining bubble of previous decades fell apart and towns have been evacuated after the industry collapsed. Alta Mariah Sophronia (Marianna McClellan) is a reformed con artist who has since turned to mystical pseudoscience; Ozanne Le Perrier (Laetitia Dosch) is a French geologist and Milton Tingling (Benjamin Crotty) is a watercolor artist who enjoys painting with scarves draped over his face. During the film’s first 20 minutes, the characters find their first hot spring in a tactile communion with nature thus easing corporeal boundaries to the point they seem to have evaporated.

What follows for the trio however are encounters with time-traveling charlatans, lazy cowpokes, and, at one point, a melancholy rancher (Michael Murphy with the desire to repeat the past as closely as possible.

The film has been billed as a “spa western”  that combines the absurd and sublime.“Two Plains” doesn’t take itself seriously. There are some rather odd production inconsistencies which are clearly intentional like the cast being squeaky clean from their rough ride in the dusty landscape and occasionally speak French, eat saucisson and brie for their lunch and have ridiculous names such as Ozanne Le Perrier, Alta Maria Sophronia and Milton Tingling (Benjamin Crotty). After a dip in the first spa waters they encounter, their lunchtime conversation focuses on the supernatural.

The three travelers are searching for several restorative hot springs (hence the film’s oddball genre designation — “spa western”), all of which are off beaten paths and typically in disrepair. Is it right to call their journey digressive when it appears to be made up of nothing but detours? Robert Altman regular Michael Murphy cameos as a rancher who’s all too happy to be swindled by Sophronia. The group befriends and has several tequila-fueled discussions with a pair of cowpokes named Ken Buns (André Frechette III) and Cliff Perfecto (Travis Nutting). In the film’s best sequence, Sophronia leads a seance outside a whorehouse that climaxes with what can only be described as candlelit under-the-covers ghost sex.

This is the kind of movie in which whimsy is frequently supplanted by an overpowering sense of dread and with a strange crew of cast members including a “witless dandy, a gibbering Geologist…and, a mendacious mystic!” “Two Plains and a Fancy’ requires a certain sense-of-humor…and, an appreciation for seriously independent, seriously small budgeted cinema. If you have the sense-of-humor then, this film as it is the film for you. It undermines cowboy genre machismo at every turn and is alternately philosophical, silly and sincerely mind-expanding; a journey where digressions are more important than the destination.

“THE LAPLACE’S DEMON”— Predicting the Future

“The Laplace’s Demon”

Predicting the Future

Amos Lassen

“The Laplace’s Demon” is an Italian film that is based on a scientific theory known as The Laplace’s Demon. We follow seven researchers who are working on a system to predict the future. As a test, the team focuses on predicting how many pieces of glass there will be when a glass is deliberately broken. After completing their experiment, the team believes that  they have done the impossible and cracked the code of chance and probability and are awarded an invitation to visit the famous professor Cornelius, who lives and works on a remote island in the middle of nowhere. When they arrive there, they are taken to a mysterious isolated mansion where they are not met by Cornelius but  by a videotape recording that he left behind. His silhouette on the television screen explains the rules of the game, and a model replica of the mansion us in the middle of the room revealing that the researchers have become pawns in a unique experiment: a real life game of chess. They are pawns in a death trap programmed with a revolutionary equation that anticipates  every move so that now the team must work together and do everything in their power to survive the night. There is a good chance that they’re all doomed.

 

The film stylishly looks at the idea of fate vs. free will under the direction of Giordano Giulvi (also co-writer) who beautifully balances pastiche, homage, and genuine suspense, giving us a gorgeous thriller that mixes classic gothic horror, film noir and science-fiction in unprecedented ways.  It is a tense, thrilling love letter to classic science fiction and horror cinema of times past.

“The Laplace’s Demon” finds interesting and clever ways to explore patterns of human behavior, and even though the use of the model and the chess pieces sounds like a ridiculous idea, it actually works beautifully in the movie. There is high tension as both pawns and characters are killed off one by one.

Before long, one member of the disappears. Something terrible, represented by the black queen, is coming for them. But if their captor has perfectly calculated how they will behave and where each of them will be at any given time, have they any hope of survival? The question of whether or not the scientists believe they have free will is not just academic; their beliefs about it shape their actions and it is those actions that make this such an engrossing film.

“Anti-Semitism: Here and Now” by Deborah Lipstadt— An Analysis of Hate

Lipstadt, Deborah. “Anti-Semitism: Here and Now”, Schocken, 2019

An Analysis of Hate

Amos Lassen

Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt brings us “Anti-Semitism : Here and Now”, an in depth, penetrating and provocative analysis of anti-Semitism, the hate that will not die. Her focus is on  the current, virulent incarnations on both the political right and left including white supremacist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, to mainstream enablers of antisemitism such as Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn, to a gay pride march in Chicago that expelled a group of women for carrying a Star of David banner.

It is impossible not to notice the upsurge in anti-Semitic acts over the last decade and these include rhetoric and incidents by left-wing groups targeting Jewish students and Jewish organizations on American college campuses. We have seen the reemergence of the white nationalist movement in America, complete with Nazi slogans and that are reminders of the terrible fascist displays of the 1930s. Throughout Europe, Jews have been attacked by terrorists, and some have been murdered.

We are not sure where this hate is coming from and we cannot see clearly  any significant difference between left-wing and right-wing antisemitism? The anti-Zionist movement has surely had a role here. We do not know  what can be done to combat the latest manifestations of an ancient hatred. Deborah Lipstadt gives us her own superbly reasoned, smartly argued and certain controversial responses to these troubling questions.

Lipstadt has had her own experience with an anti-Semite so she can certainly explain  anti-Semitism to us making this quite a valuable book. There are many Jews who have not experience outright hatred so the issue might be far from them or so they think. I have experienced it at the hands of a white and racist New Orleans upper class and I can tell you that it hurt badly. Lipstadt explores just about every manifestation of contemporary antisemitism and backs what she finds historically. She gives us an intelligent explanation of why Jews come under attack today and she offers convincing reasons for the rise of antisemitism  now and shows that it is our duty to “call out and combat” it.

“Using a form of Socratic dialogue allows Lipstadt to give us several enlightening essays on a wide range of historical aspects and current manifestations of antisemitism. It is difficult to talk about the hatred if the calm, lucid, intelligent, and have a faultless moral compass so that we can get the real feel for racial justice. Anti-Semitism is always ugly especially when those who regard themselves as champions of liberation use it.

 

COMING IN JUNE 2019: “Out in Time: The Public Lives of Gay Men from Stonewall to the Queer Generation” by Perry N. Halkitis— Three Generations of Gay Men

Halkitis, Perry N. “Out in Time: The Public Lives of Gay Men from Stonewall to the Queer Generation”,  Oxford University Press, 2019.

Three Generations of Gay Men

Amos Lassen

The civil rights of LGBTQ people have slowly yet steadily strengthened since the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Even with enormous opposition from some political segments and the catastrophic effects of the AIDS crisis, the last fifty years have brought great improvement in the conditions of the lives of LGBTQ individuals in the United States and in many cases we have gained respect, something we have been without for many ears. The realities and challenges that were once faced by a young gay man coming of age and coming out in the 1960s is, in many profound ways, different from the experiences of a young gay man coming of age and coming out today. The differences are staggering.

“Out in Time” looks at  the life experiences of three generations of gay men –the Stonewall, AIDS, and Queer generations showing that while there are generational differences in the lived experiences of young gay men, each one confronts its own unique historical events, realities, and socio-political conditions, there are consistencies across time that define and unify the identity formation of gay men. The study here is guided by the vast research literature on gay identity formation and coming out, The ideas and themes explored here are seen through the oral histories of a diverse set of fifteen gay men, five from each generation. “Out in Time” shows  how early life challenges define and shape the gay men, “demarcating both the specific time-bound challenges encountered by each generation, and the universal challenges encountered by gay men coming of age across all generations and the conditions that define their lives.”

Here voice is given to three generations of gay men, each generation from a wholly different social, political, and legal context. Through personal narratives, we see a complex thread of identities and life histories that make up today’s gay men. Most surprising are the many commonalities  that Halkitis has drawn out from these men including their struggles and triumphs in a rapidly changing but still prejudicial society.

Perry Halkitis looks to repairing and building the LGBT community in the face of hostile political winds in the U.S. today. Through interviews with a diverse set of cisgender men, this book creates an intergenerational conversation that rarely happens in the gay male community. Ig connects gay men across generations in time and place and suggests still needs to be done.
Halkitis chronicles coming of age challenges, struggles, and accomplishments of a diverse group of gay men thus giving us an original and totally interesting read.  

 

“Our Year of Maybe” by Rachel Lynn Solomon— Between Friends

Solomon, Rachel Lynn. “Our Year of Maybe”, Simon Pulse, 2019.

Between Friends

Amos Lassen

“Our Year of Maybe” is a contemporary young adult novel that examines the complicated aftermath of a kidney transplant between best friends. Aspiring choreographer Sophie Orenstein and Peter Rosenthal-Porter are best friends. Peter has been on the kidney transplant for their entire friendship. Peter is a gifted pianist  and he is everything to Sophie—best friend, musical collaborator and secret crush. When she learns she’s a match, donating a kidney is an easy, obvious choice and requires no thought but she wonders  if after the transplant, he’ll love her back the way she’s always wanted.

But….. but Peter’s life post-transplant isn’t what either of them expected. Though he once had feelings for Sophie, he’s now drawn to Chase, the guitarist in a band that happens to be looking for a keyboardist. Now knowing that she cannot have Peter, her life begins to move in a different direction. She suddenly has dance opportunities, new friends—a sister and niece she barely knows yet she wants Peter more than ever even though he has grown increasingly distant, and increasingly bitter. He doesn’t seem to feel the same connection.

Peter worries that he’ll forever be indebted to Sophie and she isn’t sure who she is without him. One heartbreaking night tests their relationship and it becomes  something neither of them recognizes, leading them to question their past, their future, and whether their friendship is even worth fighting for.

Early on, Peter’s kidney disease left him largely isolated and Sophie was happy to share his world and she was convinced that he was not only her best friend but also the love of her life. Sophie learns that a transplant would allow Peter to fully participate in the world for the first time and since they are a match, Sophie is only too happy to donate a kidney. Peter embraces his new life, joins a band and dates as he figures out if he can or should return Sophie’s feelings. Sophie, of course,  is heartbroken to find that his life no longer revolves around her, even as she explores her own talents. They both must decide what life looks like without Peter’s illness at the center, and what Sophie’s donation means to their relationship.

Author Rachel Lynn Solomon wonderfully captures the complicated lives and identities of today’s teens.  We see that Sophie and Peter are realistic human beings as are the other characters we meet here including Peter’s boyfriend, Chase, and Sophie’s sister, a teen parent. This is a story of the heart rather than action and the joys and frustrations of discovering oneself are skillfully related here. When relationships change there is no single way they must be. We explore friendship, love, and the bonds that hold us together.

Sophie and Peter are messy, imperfect, and very, very real. We find ourselves in a situation that both elates us and scares us. It is next to impossible not to fall in love with Sophie and Peter and we want them to find their happiness even when that means contradicting each other. They are both selfish and messy but filled with heart. Here is the messiness of friendship and unrequited love filed with emotion causing tears to come easily and I love that we can identify with the characters to that degree.

“What Is Philosophy of Religion” by Charles Taliaferro— An Examination

Taliaferro, Charles. “What is Philosophy of Religion?”, Polity, 2019.

An Examination

Amos Lassen

“Philosophy of religion is the philosophical examination of the themes and concepts involved in religious traditions as well as the broader philosophical task of reflecting on matters of religious significance including the nature of religion itself, alternative concepts of God or ultimate reality, and the religious significance of general features of the cosmos (e.g., the laws of nature, the emergence of consciousness) and of historical events (e.g., the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake, the Holocaust).” It also includes the investigation and assessment of worldviews (such as secular naturalism) that are alternatives to religious worldviews. Philosophy of religion involves all the main areas of philosophy including metaphysics, epistemology, value theory (moral theory and applied ethics), philosophy of language, science, history, politics, art, and so on.

We get here an overview of the field and its significance and read about developments in the field since the mid-twentieth century. These sections address philosophy of religion as practiced primarily (but not exclusively) in departments of philosophy and religious studies that are in the broadly analytic tradition. We now have an increasing breadth of the field, as more traditions outside the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) have become the focus of important philosophical work.

An important part of philosophy is concerned with religious questions. What is the meaning of life, and how might religious faith or doubt impact such meaning? What is the evidence for the existence of God? Is evidence essential for religious faith? What is the relationship between science and religion? What is the relationship between religions? How can or should one assess virtues and vices, right and wrong, from a religious versus a secular point of view?

Writer and philosopher Charles Taliaferro addresses these and other important questions involved in philosophy of religion. He challenges the negative, often complacent attitudes towards religion as being dangerous or merely superstitious, arguing instead for a healthy pluralism and respect between persons of faith and secular inquirers.

The book is a practical, question-based approach to the subject, inviting the reader to engage in a down-to-earth way. There is a great deal of stimulus and guidance here.

Many of the terms and themes of philosophy of religion today were introduced by the group of philosophers who were the first to consistently contribute to philosophy in English. From them we get terms like ‘theism,’ ‘consciousness,’ (possibly also ‘naturalism’ and ‘materialism’) and the beginning of a debate leading up to the present about how the existence of consciousness may provide a clue to the ultimate meaning and constitution of the cosmos, and we also find a serious effort to advance the cause of religious tolerance and to take stock of the importance of atheism and the need to address its philosophical cogency.