An age of rational inquiry, the Enlightenment, constellated with the genius of Voltaire, Descartes, Kant, et.al. followed by an age of "suspicion" that included Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud - these two great periods gave mankind the philosophical tools to question the authority of and ultimately see the damage perpetrated by the three dominant religions. Onfray's indictment of religion is laced with sarcasm for its banner of "brotherly love". He reviews its complicity in thirty centuries of crimes and injustices. As for the authority of their holy books, they are a hodge-podge of improbabilities, fables and - an this is critical - enough contradictions and inconsistencies to justify virtually any act of violence against the non-believer.
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.