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Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam Paperback – January 16, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
*The original title in French is "Traite d'Atheologie", which accurately describes the contents. Here in Canada, the English translation's title is "In Defense of Atheism", which is unfortunate, the tone of the book being far from defensive (It's rather scathingly critical).
*Onfray is a very popular French philosopher, and I tremendously enjoyed his literary style: it's both flowery and ... meaty.
*The author obviously spent a tremendous amount of time pouring over the so-called "holy" texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (and other books). There are no factual errors in his work to my knowledge.
*Critics complain Onfray ignores the good side of religion. Well, he doesn't: he just dismisses it as relatively insignificant compared to its atrocious side.
*Onfray interestingly observes that even though our western societies are now secular, they are still pretty much stuck with judeo-christian values
(See for example the institution of marriage or the bioethics debates).
*I highly recommend this book, that I just finished reading today in its
Specifically, his handle on history, especially as it relates to religion, is mystifying if not downright dishonest. Most of what he says about Christianity is even worse. I found myself (a Christian) thinking, 'I don't recognize his characterizations of my beliefs.' I'm fairly certain a Jew would say the same, and I'm guessing so would a Muslim. He sets up ridiculous straw men beliefs, or represents specific segments of the church as if they spoke for the whole.
Two sayings kept leaping to mind when reading his book. "You can't make this stuff up," and "Truth is stranger than fiction." Apparently, you can make this stuff up, and his fiction is definitely stranger than the truth.
Not worth the time. If you must read about atheism, J.L. Mackie or Antony Flew writes far better with far better arguments (although, ironically, the latter opted out of atheism late in his life).
In closing, one can only guess he pulled a stunt similar to Richard Dawkins--he put pen in hand without doing any study on the subject. Even his own position is never developed in any positive sense; just a negative attack on religion, and an unstudied one at that.
Onfray outlines the similarities of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. He then sketches the growth of their influence. In the end Onfay offers readers a choice. On the one hand we have reason, knowledge, freedom, pride, democracy, equality of the sexes, the joy of sex, and a passion for this world. Religion offers us dogma, faith, a distrust of science, submission, theocracy, guilt, misogyny, sexual repression, and an unhealthy focus on an afterlife. Simply stated, Onfray's manifesto starts from a flat rejection of God - and an afterlife that discounts this precious life - as a fiction in the face of what is obvious - extinction.
For all the promise of secularism - its greatest victory is the separation of church and state - we are still in a religious era. Still, Onfray sees signs of turbulence that signal a tectonic shift into a transitional post-religious age. But he chides the post-Christian secularist movement for not being "militant" enough (viz. too accomodating) in its opposition to all religious thinking. Borrowing from Nietzsche, he says, and this is where he loses me - we can choose not to make a choice - in this application, between "Israel" and the goals of an Iranian revolution. His point: all the religions are equally bad. From this side of the Atlantic (Onfray's book has been translated from his native French), it appears that cracks in the Judeo-Christian religious world are coincident with the eruption of militant, political Islamic states. Pragmatism and morality suggest siding with the better of the two.
So is Onfray unfair? Is he inclined to bully his case? Not the point. This is a polemic intended to shake the rafters. The ideas rush with energy and passion (I count one sentence with over ninety words!). Open your mind and you will read this book with rapt attention.
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