I just received a review for my book (Things I Never Learned in Sunday School) that caused my hat size to expand significantly. What made it so fantastic is the reviewer (Infidel 753) didn’t just say things like, “I really enjoyed your book,” or “I learned a lot from your book,” or “Great book.” No, he wrote a comprehensive review that truly highlighted the contents.
Ordinarily, I would just refer blog readers to Amazon to read the review, but in this instance you won’t find it there — so I’m proudly sharing it here.
Most atheists know that the dogmas of Christianity have little or no basis in objective reality. But it turns out a lot of them don’t even have much basis in the religion’s own sacred text either.
Nan Yielding became “born again” in her early twenties, spent the next fifteen years in mental subjection to conservative Christianity, and eventually started questioning what she had been told to believe. Finding that the church had no answers, she started looking for her own, by studying the Bible and other primary sources. Startlingly, she found that the Bible is not what most Christians believe it is, and she ended up leaving Christianity altogether. This book, however, is not a personal deconversion story — it’s a systematic explanation of what she discovered and, more importantly, the evidence backing up her conclusions.
To begin with, the religion of the ancient Hebrews evolved over time under the influence of the more powerful cultures by which the Hebrews were dominated in pre-Roman times — Babylonian, Persian, and Hellenistic Greek. Several concepts that modern Christians believe were always part of it were borrowed from Zoroastrianism, in forms quite different from what they have become. For example, Satan and Hell (each of the two gets a full chapter) don’t appear in the Old Testament in anything like their modern Christian versions. When the passages modern Christians believe refer to them are examined in context and with reference to the words in the original language — as the book does in detail — it’s clear that they did not mean, and could not mean, what moderns think they did.
The New Testament comes under similar scrutiny. Passages which modern Christians interpret as prophecies of the distant future (perhaps even our own time), when considered in light of the cultural and political circumstances when they were written, are clearly references to events and persons contemporary with their authors. The character of Jesus, the resurrection, the role of Paul, the Antichrist, and the nature of God are similarly examined, with similar results. Modern Christianity, like the ancient Hebrew religion, has evolved over time — and it has drifted far from its supposed source material.
It’s easy, some might object, to assert such interpretations. But the meat of the book is the supporting evidence it provides. The basis for each point is carefully explained, and there are 26 pages of endnotes, bibliography, and other resources. At 170 pages total, it packs a huge amount of information into a relatively short read. It’s well-written and easy to understand, even when discussing concepts not familiar to most people today. And it’s not framed as a debunking of Christianity, but as an inquiry into where its ideas really came from.
There’s a saying that the Bible is like those long terms-and-conditions pages you get when you buy software on the internet. Nobody actually reads it; they just scroll to the end and click “I agree”. Nan did read it, and found that it doesn’t say what moderns think it does. It isn’t even about what moderns think it is — its stories and polemics are addressed to the long-vanished and alien times when they were written, and have hardly anything to say to us at all.
P.S. If you would like to comment on anything in the review, you can find the “original” on Infidel’s blog. Hint: He also has other posts you might enjoy reading. 🙂