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

By Matthew Kneale

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

As our goals 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 used to be man's so much epic exertions of invention. it's been our closest spouse, and has mankind around the continents and during history.

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Extra info for An Atheist's History of Belief: Understanding Our Most Extraordinary Invention

Sample text

Daniel 7:7) The beast had an extra horn, which had eyes and spoke, and which represented King Antiochus IV himself. Thus, Daniel offered a series of symbolic puzzles to solve, which doubtless added to the text’s power to persuade. Once readers had successfully decoded it, and had gained a sense of satisfaction at their own cleverness, they would be far less likely to question the book’s predictions. Symbolism also made the text future-proof. Had it been written with simple clarity, recounting the actual names of empires and events, the Book of Daniel would doubtless have faded from view, as people grew less interested in a distant struggle between Jews and their Seleucid rulers.

So began a long and highly confusing conflict. The war eventually ushered in a century or so of full Jewish political independence. It also produced a theological spin-off that would be far more long-lasting: the notion of the end of the world. Our unknown forger wrote what was, in effect, the first known resistance literature: a text which promised patriotic Jews that their cause would triumph and their oppressors would be destroyed. It also promised that Jews who kept true to their old religion would be saved, while those who reneged would not.

Yet an answer can be attempted. The very first historical mention of the Jews comes from an Egyptian inscription dating from between 1213 and 1203 BC, which lists a number of peoples that Pharaoh Merenptah claimed to have defeated, one of which is a tribe called Israel. After this, our next source of information comes from the Jews themselves. Their own first histories, collected in the Old Testament, are thought to date from around 950–850 BC, at the earliest, though they were much revised – one might say faked – over time.

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