5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This Book Explains Ourselves,
This review is from: Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization (Hardcover)
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I greatly enjoyed this book - perhaps because everything the author said resonated with me, as he explained the four ways people search for immortality (not dying, having a soul that lives on, being reborn, and leaving a legacy - usually children, but also one's "works".)
As an atheist, I have studied religion - all religions - as a way "those in charge" used to control the masses. It's also interesting to think of it from the point of view of people wanting to achieve immortality because they do not want to die, to face the "great unknown," and it is so much more comforting to believe they will live on in a "heaven," which will make all their suffering on earth worthwhile.
I like the author's voice - he writes well and with humor, and explains his premises clearly.
There were a few minor errors of fact that I caught - as I'm a student of Egyptology and Stephen Cave shares the story of Akhenaten, the Egyptian pharaoh who was the first "monotheist" - defying the rest of his people who worshiped many gods in order to worship the only god, Aten, the sun. He talks of Tutankamun, Akhenaten's son, without mentioning that King Tut's original name was Tutankaten, and that it was changed when, after Akhenaten's death, Egypt went back to worshiping the old gods. (He also mentioned that in 1913, the German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt found the bust of Nefertiti, but does not mention that it actually was not perfect - one of her eyes, and only her eye, had not been painted).
He also says, "the three great monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam all also believe in literal, physical resurrection as a central doctrine."
This isn't strictly true - the Pharisees believed in resurrection, the Saduccees didn't.
But these are minor nitpicks.
Cave has written a fast-moving, but fascinating, book that will serve as the starting point for people who are interested in history - as they will look upon their favorite historical entities (whether ancient Egyptians, ancient Chinese or Japanese, and so on) with new eyes. It will spur others to start researching into these time periods.
And of course it will help the reader see with new ideas the events that are happening today.