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God and His Demons
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159 of 165 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The Publishers Weekly attack of Parenti posted above is noticeably ad hominem, a hit piece if ever there was one. Hiding behind his anonymity, the critic calls Parenti a "New Atheist" (whatever that is). In fact Parenti comes across more as an agnostic, unwilling to rule out beneficial forms of religious experience.
--We are told that "Parenti spares no adjectives in describing the evils of religion." This makes him sound like some kind of name-caller. More than adjectives Parenti gives a deep appraisal of theocratic abuse, past and present.
--The PW critic says the book is an "angry volume" a "condescending tirade" written with "unconcealed scorn and derision." In fact, this book is written in a clear and cool tone, nuanced and precise, though indeed it covers some terrible things that can make anyone angry.
--The PW anonymous critic says the book has no introduction and no conclusion. In fact the book has a well-written and thoughtful introduction and conclusion.
--As part of the critic's name-calling strategy, Parenti is described as little more than a "Berkeley-based . . . activist." Actually Parenti is an internationally acclaimed scholar and award winning author.
--The PW critic speculates that Parenti not only cannot bear religion but human beings in general. But the book offers a humanistic message and takes many compassionate stances against the abuses delivered upon the afflicted, showing a real concern for human beings.
--Not once does the review mention what Parenti is really critiquing; it's not religion as such but oppressive theocracy! And he does it brilliantly. The reader will find this book intriguing and engaging and will be informed by every page of it.
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54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Anytime one can pick up Parenti's most recent book they should jump at the chance. Every few years when a new one of his comes out it's a gift to anyone who cherishes beautiful writing, intellectual rigor and top notch socio-political analysis. In this particular case Dr. Parenti turns his talents and breadth of knowledge toward dissecting and attacking the religio-nonsense and Christian right blowhards who have far too much power in America today.

Obviously God and His Demons does not disappoint. It easily holds up Parenti's well earned status as an internationally respected scholar and cultural critic. Using his trademark wit and world renowned research skills he brings it all to the table as he skewers to the third degree the proselytizers, hucksters, hypocrites and religious moneybags who turn the stomachs of those who adhere to principles of rational thought and social justice.

Over the past several years a handful of good books have been published by some decent progressive thinkers that address the religious right and Christian power brokers in a thoughtful and critical manner. Parenti's God and His Demons is now at the top of this list and will very likely remain as a significant work on the topic for generations to come. It's a book that future scholars and curious laymen will brush off in order to get the full picture of just what exactly was going on in the pews, pulpits, televangelist studios and halls of Congress at the turn of the millennium.
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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
God And His Demons is a analysis of organized religion from an historical, theological, social and political perspective. Parenti is a progressive scholar, but free of dogma and jargon. It is written with passion, eloquence, and wit.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Michael Parenti's God and His Demons is an extraordinary study of both the practices of some of the world's leading religious leaders, past and present, and the "sacred" texts upon which their practices have rested. The study is remarkable in several respects. Let's look at each in turn.

First is the shear breath and depth of the subject matter and its management. Parenti walks the reader through important themes in both the Old and New Testaments, elements of the Koran, and Buddhist doctrine, with special attention given to Tibetan Buddhism. Along the way we encounter a panoply of iconic figures such as - to name just a few - Pope John XXIII, John Paul II, Martin Luther, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Archbishop Romero, Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson, Randal Terry, Mark Foley and the heavy hitters - Jesus, Muhammad, and the Dalai Lama. A host of US presidents make appearances and even such loathsome but religiously inspired characters such as Adolf Hitler, Timothy McVeigh, J. Edgar Hoover, the Hunt brothers and Jim and Tammy Faye find their way into Parenti's tale.

In addition to leading personalities we come to know a divergent range of organizations such as the Catholic Workers, the American Friends Service Committee, Jewish Voice for Peace, Unitarian Universalists, the Church of Scientology, the Mormon Church, the National Association of Evangelicals, Jehovah's Witness - again, to name just a few. The role of the US federal government (the White House, Congress and such agencies as FEMA) does not escape Parenti's critical gaze, nor does the American doctrine of separation of church and state or lack thereof.

Parenti nimbly rolls out his analysis against the backdrop of the public policies of dozens of countries and conflicts and struggles with which the reader may be familiar: the current Catholic Church's pedophilia crisis, intelligent design, liberation theology, and evangelical based lambasting of homosexuality and evolution. All of this is woven into a vast international setting, replete with linkages to the use of violence from the Crusades to the US intervention in a number of countries as well as your garden variety divinely inspired and ghastly forms of righteous punishment.

The volume and range of Parenti's scholarship could have easily succumbed to a tangle of redundancy and hard-to-follow analysis in the hands of a lesser writer. And so we come to the second remarkable aspect of God and His Demons: Parenti is a scholar in the service of the average citizen, who might otherwise find it too difficult and time consuming to sift through the mountains of misinformation and propaganda that spew daily from the power centers upon which we depend for a trustworthy view of the world. God and His Demons is not a tome that one must literally study; instead, it is fast-paced, rigorous in its confrontation with dishonesty and irrationality, easy to read and engagingly sardonic.

The third remarkable aspect brings us to the heart of the matter. While Parenti may provide non-believers out there with solace and while he exposes intolerant religious fools, this is not a book whose intention is to advance the cause of atheists, as is the case of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, nor, as is the case of scholars like Bart Ehrman, the cause of agnostics generally. Nor is it his purpose to mock religious hypocrites or to show faith as an irrational and dangerous set of creation myths (Bill Maher). Instead, Parenti picks up an entirely different cudgel: he is writing from the point of view of someone who is passionate about social justice. So for example, were "religionists" to have given expression in their practice to such widely accepted values as democracy, freedom of expression, or the freedom of every working person to live securely, safely, and well, I doubt very much that Parenti would have bothered to detail the misdeeds of religious leaders or the oligarchic principles embedded within their orthodoxies.

Parenti is pulling back the curtain but he is doing it for small "d" democrats, for those who believe that kids ought not be treated cruelly, that massive inequality is intolerable, that super privilege is flat out wrong and indefensible, and that intolerance and exploitation of people is a moral problem of the first magnitude. So, for example, while many have applauded Martin Luther as a reformer, Parenti reminds us that he defended the German aristocracy. The Dalai Lama, whom many progressives support, is found wanting by Parenti for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that he believes that "it is a good thing to be rich" and that one's wealth itself is a sign of having been generous in the past. Parenti's concern, then, are the ways in which religionists have become allies of the few whose privilege comes at the expense of and subordination of the many.

Further, Parenti's case is not that Mother Teresa or Ken Lay of Enron or John Paul embraced poverty, swindling, or counter insurgency death squads, respectively, because they fell off the scripture wagon. Rather he tracks such ignoble deeds back to the scared texts themselves and reveals in unflinching detail how such texts have sanctioned the most brutal of crimes and the cruelest of inequalities. It is in this context that Parenti is urging us to assume a degree of social responsibility: how can we celebrate self-government six days a week and worship a king on the seventh? How can we advocate family values and then obey a Lord that at the same time demands to be worshiped, under penalty of eternal torture, over and above all family members? There is nothing "mean spirited" here at all. Quite the contrary, it is in virtue of Parenti's commitment to and solidarity with the lowest of the low that he inveighs mightily against the sins of the most powerful, and at times the most religious, among us.

God and His Demons is signature Parenti. Unrelenting and unambiguous, Parenti is again lifting boots off of necks. This time, however, it not just sacred cows that he skewers but the things sacred themselves.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
It might surprise some readers that a believer can read Dr. Parenti's book and find it refreshing not just for the beautiful prose and impeccable research for which the author is well known, but also edifying. This Christian reader is grateful to the author for exposing the darker underbelly of hypocrites in the religious world who give faith a bad name. In particular, Dr. Parenti discusses the abuses among people who have hijacked the name "Christian", using it to impose upon good, trusting people, such improbable ideas as that they are obligated to turn over billions of their hard earned money to "Christian" leaders, or that they must give up one of America's most cherished freedoms, that is to say, the freedom of having one religion dominate this nation's laws. It is quite surprising that so many people appear to have readily embraced the idea that we do not need to have separation of church and state in America. Thankfully, we have writers like Parenti to remind us of this as part of the first amendment to our constitution! What is more, he exposes the very shocking and worrisome development within the Air Force Academy of blatant anti-Semitism among "Christian" fundamentalists and coercive fundamentalist indoctrination on campus both at the Air Force Academy at West Point. These are just some very small examples of red flags which any citizen who cherishes the separation of church and state in this country should be aware of. Dr. Parenti's book lays out many such examples. Whether a believer in a faith, agnostic or an atheist, all readers can benefit from Parenti's scholarly research.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
"God And His Demons" is another excellent and important book by Parenti. Though I am one of the convinced congregation of atheist/agnostics, this book had me smiling, nodding, and even laughing out loud. It added much fuel to my intellectual fire. It is well researched, copiously footnoted, and written with great humor and passion.

I have learned so much from many of Mr. Parenti's previous works (I am obviously a fan), such as "History Is Mystery" and his "Julius Caesar", so that I eagerly await his new publications. I have always enjoyed his clear, concise, and intelligent writing. When I can learn and be amused at the same time, I consider myself very blessed and lucky. This book fills the bill.

I thank Mr. Parenti for being a socially conscious and delightful teacher. May he publish many more books.

Robert Campus
New York City
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Now that flat-earth fundamentalists are threatening church-state separation, it's time for opposition of all stripes to get mobilized. Parenti's 200-page book packs a lot of ammunition in a relatively brief space. Don't look for the sort of airy proofs or disproofs that occupy natural theology. Do look for religion's embarrassing side on planet Earth that rarely gets retailed by our politicians or media. You know, the Old Testament God who smites his enemies, shows no mercy to women and children, and lays waste to more cities than an atom bomb. Parenti lays out this bill of indictment in excruciating Biblical detail. Then there's God's only son who's definitely got a good side, but, thanks to Parenti, shows his own share of suppressed scandals.

And if Biblical text is not telling enough, there're the modern day merchandisers: the grubby hucksters (Robertson, et al.), the unabashed hypocrites (Swaggart, et al.), the plaster saints (Mother Theresa, et al.), and even a reactionary pope (John Paul II). Then there's God, the Supreme Designer, who builds heaven and earth, but appears to have something against old guys and their urinary tract. It's enough to make you wonder what goes on in the heads of these flat-earthers. And let's not forget their global counterparts who preside over their own cruelties in the name of Islam or Buddhism, including even the sainted Dalai Lama. They too get their dirty linen hung out on Parenti's unswerving clothes-line.

Now, I'm not ready to hog-tie the infinite in any direction, nor discount every elevated feeling some people have; neither, I believe, is Parenti . But I am ready to keep the flat-earthers on the other side of the church-state divide, and let them wallow in their Creationism, especially since evolution appears to have passed them by. So, if you're interested in religion's real record on earth and not just the glossy advertisements, pick up Parenti's book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 23, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Isn't it time we engage in a dialog about an afterlife and a universe that makes sense? I teach a college level Philosophy course and every year discussions are made cumbersome by a student who is determined to answer every challenging question with a God or faith based reference. This reference usually replaces any knowledge they were supposed to have gleaned from reading the textbook or understanding what a Socratic argument is meant to do.

Parenti asks legitimate questions not only about articles of theological faith but also about the hype surrounding those who would have us believe they are so "holy" as to be beyond reproach. He slaughters more than a few sacred cows in the process, asking tough questions about people like Mother Theresa, who treated herself to the best in medical care while allowing donations of medical equipment to rust and offering the poor little more than prayer. He even questions the "perfection" of the "God created" human form which is anything but perfect and certainly not the work of a master planner. Not only does he question but he does so with remarkable wit. Like Parenti I would also like to know why an all powerful God ran the urethra through the prostate and made our spines unlikely to support us without significant pain for much of our lives. These are the kind of practical realistic questions he poses. They are exactly the kind most religions want us to overlook.

He takes aim at the damage done by cults as well as more mainline organizations that claim you should abandone reason to please God. Many have criticized him for being a proponent of Atheism. I didn't get that at all. He doesn't deny that some cosmic force might exist. He does makes us look long and hard at the "God" we have created in our image and likeness. If you aren't willing to examine what you believe, don't read this.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
I recommend this book with great enthusiasm. It is filled with learning and fine scholarship, yet written in a lively and engrossing way. Each page seems to provide and stimulate original,creative thought. Parenti is a powerful agnostic and a critic of dishonest and deceptive religious leaders.This book is the best of the recent critiques of organized religion.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
This book did a really good job of showing the negative (read evil) effects of the God worldview. It's a broad (not deep) attack on the world populated by gods. It's not deep in any area and it wasn't intended to be deep so I don't hold that against it. However, it wasn't very compelling reading to me. Perhaps that is due to my familiarity with the topic but that is why I gave it four stars instead of five. Regardless it is a job well done and I can easily recommend it.
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