An Atheist's History of Belief: Understanding Our Most by Matthew Kneale

By Matthew Kneale

What first brought on prehistoric guy, sheltering within the shadows of deep caves, to name upon the area of the spirits? And why has trust thrived considering, shaping hundreds of thousands of generations of shamans, pharaohs, Aztec clergymen and Mayan rulers, Jews, Buddhists, Christians, Nazis, and Scientologists?

As our desires and nightmares have replaced over the millennia, so have our ideals. The gods we created have developed and mutated with us via a story fraught with human sacrifice, political upheaval and bloody wars.

Belief was once man's such a lot epic exertions of invention. it's been our closest spouse, and has mankind around the continents and during history.

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He denounced their favourite fighting gods as working for the forces of evil. More radical still, he declared that entrance to heaven depended not on wealth or birth, but on one’s behaviour during life. Dead Iranians would face a tribunal of gods and a set of scales, on which their past actions would be carefully weighed. If their good deeds proved heavier, a beautiful virgin would lead the deceased over a bridge to the mountain paradise. If the bad outweighed the good, however, then, as if in a special-effects film scene, the bridge would narrow to a blade, and as the hapless deceased desperately tried to creep along it to the other side, he or she would be seized by a hideous hag and flung down into an underworld of darkness, misery and dreary food.

Some Jews were even said to have had undergone operations to reverse their circumcision. Greekification, though, soon went badly wrong. When the Hellenisers split into two feuding factions, the Seleucid king, Antiochus IV, stepped in and pushed matters further than any but the most extreme Greekifier could have stomached. Antiochus made the Laws of Moses – which, as we saw, now lay at the very heart of Judaism – illegal. Circumcision and observation of the Sabbath were banned, and shrines to Greek gods were set up in Yahweh’s temple.

Within a few generations, a stream of movements emerged whose members were convinced that the world was about to be violently transformed by supernatural forces. The renowned sociologist of religion Max Weber observed that such movements usually followed a pattern. Their supporters were generally poor and uneducated. This should not surprise us. Those whose lives were tough, uncertain and spent in sight of others far more fortunate could be excused for hoping for a radical remaking of the world.

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