An Atheist's History of Belief

An Atheist's History of Belief

Understanding Our Most Extraordinary Invention

eBook - 2014
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What first prompted prehistoric man, sheltering in the shadows of deep caves, to call upon the realm of the spirits? And why has belief thrived since, shaping thousands of generations of shamans, pharaohs, Aztec priests and Mayan rulers, Jews, Buddhists, Christians, Nazis, and Scientologists? As our dreams and nightmares have changed over the millennia, so have our beliefs. The gods we created have evolved and mutated with us through a narrative fraught with human sacrifice, political upheaval and bloody wars. Belief was man's most epic labor of invention. It has been our closest companion, and has followed mankind across the continents and through history.
Publisher: [United States] : Counterpoint : Made available through hoopla, 2014.
ISBN: 9781619023710
Branch Call Number: eBook hoopla
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: hoopla digital


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May 16, 2015

Recommended Book (with minor reservations) ••• This beautifully written book is a page turner. Enjoyed most every moment of it. The book is largely a detailed pre-history & history of the three Abrahamic religions; there are some brief comparative examinations of non-Abrahamic belief systems, but the survey of them is neither comprehensive nor deep. But the book is extensively well-researched; and cross-referencing does uphold these facts. ••• About 95% of the book is an examination of the development of religious beliefs. However. ••• The author claims to examine the development of BELIEF — not of religion. This is tricky. He switches, in the last chapter, to looking at political belief & a quick survey of personality-driven cults & "new" religious movements. The last chapter is incoherent & chaotic. ••• Kneale's primary premise, however, is that strongly-held belief systems arise out of a need for assurance. Fair enough. He convinced me. But I think that the book would be stronger without the wanderings of the last chapter — or, at least, by tying them in more clearly. The last chapter threw me. I had anticipated, seeing the direction that he was going, that Kneale would sum up & restate his premise structure in a clean, coherent way. But… That wasn't to happen. The last chapter wanders, meanders, jumps, hops, skips. ••• It is only that last chapter, that last 5% of the book, that reduces my rating of this non-fiction from 5-stars to 4½-stars. I also think that the title of the book is unfortunate. "A History of Belief" would have sufficed. (Inclusion of the word "atheist" might ward off people who would benefit from & ENJOY reading this book.) ••• On the whole, however, I STRONGLY DO RECOMMEND THIS BOOK. Kneale presents the evolution of (primarily religious) belief in a new & refreshing way. It is an enlightened viewpoint. And it is all told in a very approachable, very human way. It's worth reading. ••• carlboygenius / san francisco


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