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Bondage of the Mind: How Old Testament Fundamentalism Shackles the Mind and Enslaves the Spirit Hardcover – March 7, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Aldus Books Inc (March 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0979640601
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979640605
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,268,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

From School Library Journal

With all the energy of an iconoclast of 1859 or 1927, R.D. Gold has pitched himself against the hyperliteralism of Orthodox Judaism, which is just as likely as conservative Islam and Fundamentalist Christianity to take the words of its scripture not just as holy writ but as bare, literal and inerrant fact. Gold patiently explores the not just scriptural literalism, but the notion of Mosaic authorship and "hidden codes" in the Torah and concludes with a vision of an illusion-free sense of religion.

From the Author

"R. D. Gold is a fresh new voice, a witty and mordant guide through the moral and intellectual chaos of the tribalism and special pleading that is Orthodox Judaism - and, by extension, all religious fundamentalism. I enjoyed this book immensely. You will, too." - CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, world-renowned journalist, editor, and book critic, best-selling author of God Is Not Great, Thomas Jefferson: Author of America, and Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man": A Biography

"Bondage of the Mind is a strong, original, and very readable book that addresses an important topic in a clear and convincing manner - and it could not be more timely. It is not only for a Jewish audience or a liberal audience. I, myself, am a conservative columnist and former editor of a Catholic magazine, and I found the book captivating. Bondage of the Mind provocatively confronts issues of interest to everyone." - DINESH D'SOUZA, named by the New York Times Magazine as one of America's most influential conservative thinkers, best-selling author of What's So Great About America, The End of Racism, Illiberal Education, and What's So Great About Christianity

"There is no hotter topic in today's culture wars than science and religion. All the hot-button issues - evolution vs. creationism, stem cell research, separation of church and state - have their root in a literal reading of the holy scriptures, especially the Old Testament. Bondage of the Mind presents one of the clearest outlines of what we know about the true origins of these texts and what really happened in history. From this new beginning, so elegantly presented in this page-turning narrative, we can begin the process of cultural renewal. Bondage of the Mind is a must-read for anyone who cares about the future of humanity." - MICHAEL SHERMER, publisher of Skeptic magazine, noted columnist for Scientific American, author of How We Believe, The Science of Good and Evil, and Why Darwin Matters

"This compelling critique of literalist religion takes the case of Orthodox Judaism to prove a point of broad interest: Religion expresses humanity's aspiration, but fundamentalism is the enemy of rationality and freedom. The challenge to Orthodoxy is argued clearly and passionately - and convincingly. Bondage of the Mind is a very important book - indeed, the most important book of its kind in the last hundred years." - JACOB NEUSNER, one of the world's leading Jewish scholars and theologians, author of countless books, among them The Formation of the Jewish Intellect, Struggle for the Jewish Mind, and American Judaism: Adventure in Modernity

"Bondage of the Mind is a courageous critique of Jewish orthodoxies, the likes of which have not been framed since the early debates over the credibility of revealed religion in the nineteenth century." - DAVID H. AARON, professor of Hebrew Bible and History of Interpretation at the Hebrew Union College's Institute of Religion, author of Biblical Ambiguities: Metaphor, Semantics, and Divine Imagery.


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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer VINE VOICE on August 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I had heard of this book, but didn't think I cared about "Old Testament Fundamentalism," so I had ignored it. But the review in the latest Skeptic magazine praised it so highly I thought I should give it a try. What a remarkable book. It's no exaggeration to call it a page-turner, and Gold manages to pack a lot of information into a tight space not by writing dense prose, as academics often do, but by selecting examples and quotations that are so on-target that no more need be said. And as far as not caring about "Old Testament" fundamentalism (I came out of a Christian fundamentalist background), it turns out that all fundamentalisms are basically the same thing. Who knew? What's more, a very efficient way of countering Christian extremism turns out to be countering Old Testament extremism, because much of what is fanatical and wicked in Christianity has roots in the Torah as much as if not more than in the gospels, letters of Paul, and Revelation. I cannot recommend this book too highly, even to people with no real interest in the topic, because it is an exemplar of how to present a persuasive case that is long on reason and short on mere rhetoric. I have seen no finer recent example of a book that manages to be genuinely cogent while avoiding polemics.

I was shocked to read a couple of the 1-star reviews...that is, until I read the one that says, in essence, that it doesn't matter that archeology and reason point in another direction, what really matters is "faith." I can't help wondering how faith is possible given that the thing being believed is not merely unknown, or mysterious, or unknowable, but demonstrably wrong.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Douglas T. Hawes on May 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gold takes the reasonably recent research results that shows the Old Testament/Torah to be tales of many authors rather than the word of God and uses it to attack Orthodox Judaism and other forms of fundamentalist religion. Although not a scholarly book he does backup his work with decent references (29 pages of notes). It also has a 12 page index. It is reasonably easy and enjoyable to read.

I enjoyed the last half of the book more than the first. In the end of the book he makes some good points about: God's Truth, Religious Fundamentalists, Religion and Science, and Rituals
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Wayne Dynes on April 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Gold is an American secular Jew, residing in the Bay Area, who is seeking to sound the alarm against the new aggressiveness (as he perceives it) of apologists for Jewish Orthodoxy. These scholars insist that the Torah, with all of its attendant superstition, intolerance, and outright absurdity, is uniformly the word of God. As such nothing can be subtracted from it. In Gold's view, this doctrine makes these advocates fundamentalists, just as much as the Christian evangelicals who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture.

Some eyebrows will be raised at Gold's retention of the term "Old Testament," which most biblical scholars have discarded as imposing a Christian perspective on the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh. Perhaps the author is making a valid point, though, because the Jewish Orthodox writers regard their scriptures with the same unvarying reverence as evangelical Christians do. For the Orthodox it is their Old Testament. (Arguably the Oral Torah, regarded by some as of equal authority with the Written Torah, is the Jewish New Testament.)

Gold is a concerned layman, not a professional biblical scholar. He cites only a few books. Yet he excels in two areas. First, his literary style is outstandingly clear and engaging. The book can be read--with much profit, I might add--in a sitting.

Secondly, and most crucially, he subjects the claims of the Orthodox writers to withering, unremitting scrutiny. His conclusions are stark. "[T[he evidence weighs heavily, very heavily, against the truth of Orthodox Judaism. If we apply the same principles of rational belief that we rely on in everyday life, it is difficult--I would say impossible--to reach any conclusion other than that the dogma of Orthodox Judaism is not true. It is false. . . .
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By John M. Eden on April 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Bondage of the Mind is an important, brilliant book that is long overdue. There are lots of books promoting atheism, and even more (by several orders of magnitude) promoting religious fundamentalism. This book promotes neither. Instead, it asks readers to open their eyes - and their minds - to consider a compelling argument that the dogma of fundamentalism in general and of Orthodox Judaism in particular is false.

The author has done extensive research and thoroughly documents all the evidence he presents. The book is a first-rate piece of scholarship, but the author writes in a colloquial, often humorous style that make it a pleasure to read. He builds a powerful case that it makes no sense for anyone to give up much of his or her freedom for, as he puts it, the straightjacket of a flawed fundamentalist belief system.
Some of the reviews posted here are just flat out wrong. One claims that "Gold had pitted himself against an accomplished logician (Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb) and is found desperately wanting" and to prove this he recommends "a parallel reading of his and Gottlieb's texts based on logic alone." Well I did that, and it is Rabbi Gottlieb who comes up holding the short end of the stick - and I say that as the holder of a Masters degree in Philosophy from Stanford University, where the Philosophy Department is particularly strong in mathematical logic and the philosophy of science. (If you read Bondage of the Mind, you'll also see that Gold is not "frothing at the mouth," as Mr. Greenblatt suggests. An unfair ad hominem attack if I ever saw one.)

I read Rabbi Gottlieb's tract, "Living Up...to the Truth", that Gold cites in his book.
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