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An Atheist's History of Belief: Understanding Our Most Extraordinary Invention

An Atheist's History of Belief: Understanding Our Most Extraordinary Invention [Kindle Edition]

Matthew Kneale
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Product Description


"[Recent atheist polemics are littered] with facts and histories, but there seems to be a lack of empathy and.explanation. Kneale's book addresses both these flaws and is all the more welcome because of it. Rich and fulfilling" Nudge

Book Description

Forget Dawkins or Hitchens, this is a refreshingly unbiased non-believer's account of WHAT humans have believed across the ages, and WHY.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1316 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (10 Oct 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DE15N3Q
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #152,278 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a brief and enjoyable history of religous belief 21 Nov 2013
By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a very readable history of religous belief, which traces how the worlds major religons have evolved over time. Christianity receives the most detailed exploration but there is much here about Judiasm, Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism too, with Aztec and Inca beliefs examined briefly, before coming up to date with the rise of Scientology.

There is a lot covered in what is quite a short book of 238 pages, so inevitably some of the exploration is quite brief. This is a very enjoyable book though, writen with style and gentle wit, and is also very informative without being patronising in any way.

One small thing to note is that this is not really a hard back book - there is no dustcover and the covers are quite bendy - almost like a paperback.

Well worth reading though
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent run through an essential subject 10 Dec 2013
An excellent book, which takes one on a grand journey through 30,000 years of belief. A lot of learning carefully digested and presented dispassionately and with a light touch: it is not a Dawkins rant. I found the section on early Christianity and the development of the faith particularly informative and perspective-providing. I don't think there is a book quite "in this space". Glad I read it.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Believers shouldn't be put off 20 Oct 2013
I believe in a God, so I thought I'd at best be annoyed and at worst feel thoroughly under-mined - but it's a lot cleverer than that - thought-provoking, with a fascinating depth of knowledge and research and often very, very funny. No bedside of a vicar, imam or rabbi should be without it
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a rare thing 24 Oct 2013
I only know Matthew Kneale as a fiction writer, but as English Passengers and When We Were Romans are two of my favourite books, I wanted to see what he'd do with non-fiction. He hasn't disappointed. This book is a mammoth achievement and is compelling reading no matter if you are or aren't a believer. Kneale applies his characteristic strengths in wit, humour and storytelling to carry the reader through his own exploration of the reasons why humans believe. It is incredibly well-researched and argued with a shocking scope and breadth of knowledge, but without any academic pendantry that might bore the reader -- and which can lead this reader to throw down other popular histories. I couldn't put this book down. It is quite simply a tour de force. And while I'd like to see more fiction coming from him, well done for him for using his imagination to talk about the imagination in this interesting way. Deserves a place on the bestseller lists.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faith is a belief not based on fact 13 Dec 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Well worth reading if you are an open minded individual. Valid objections, subjectively difficult to refute, are made to the idea of religious beliefs formulated on a Supernatural Being existing somewhere in our realty. An entertaining and informative book, encouraging further research to anyone who rejects, or is curious about, current models of religious belief based on cultural and scriptural sources.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Breath of Fresh Air 21 Oct 2013
This short, highly readable book gives a perspective on religion which is clear-eyed and subtle. It is also very funny. The author explores the similarities between religions (for example, the prophet as outcast) and the gradual emergence of new themes (paradise in the afterlife). It is particularly good on some of the world's more unusual, recent religions. This is a book that all can enjoy. It certainly did not offend the present writer, who is himself religious.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A breath of fresh air 24 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Matthew Kneale wears his learning lightly in this survey of religious belief, covering a huge range of history and some theology for the general reader in an entertaining way. He has produced a very informative survey which pulls out key themes and gives the reader much to think about. It might be challenging at times for some believers, but a faith afraid of challenge is a poor one, and the author makes it clear that he is considering the history of belief as a phenomenon, from the outside. To my knowledge it is the first attempt to carry out such a complex task, and Kneale's easy and lively style ensures that the book presents complex concepts in a very clear way. I enjoyed this, and learnt a lot from it - although I remain a believer!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is it really what it claims to be ? 25 Dec 2013
By Orpheus
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A funny little book which is interesting to a point, but which seems to me to be too deterministic in its overall viewpoint. Although it is interesting to see that a number of themes have arisen in different religions in response to particular external influences, one finds quite often phrases such as "the christians reacted to this external threat by ...." or "Catholics needed to persecute Jews because.."

In fact one thing that any history nowadays must do is stop telling us that there was any degree of coherence in the decision making process of a movement composed of general "thought". A village might vote to do something, or an orthodoxy might publish something - but beyond that, these social histories need to be just that - histories of general economic and social pressures - not histroy in the form that "roundheads were right but boring and cavaliers were wrong but romantic".Therefore, this book could do better.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
I thought this marvelous; clearly and engagingly-written, obviously well-researched, but inevitably limited in terms of depth/nitpicking pedantry because it's intended as an... Read more
Published 1 month ago by JD Morris
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Enjoyable and informative. Non-atheists might find it interesting too.
Published 1 month ago by Ian Thompson
2.0 out of 5 stars like the numerous reports of "primitive" peoples being aware of ...
A very disappointing book. Kneale has managed to write a history of religion without, as far as one can tell from the text, Index and Bibliography, reading William James, Maslow,... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Tu Fu
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched and written book
Well written and researched book. I would recommend it to any one interested in the history of religion.
Published 2 months ago by Mr. G. WILLIAMS
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Interesting read
Published 4 months ago by mrs s lewis
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting. I perhaps ought to read it again ...
Very interesting. I perhaps ought to read it again before commenting but it has certainly made me think!
Published 5 months ago by Janet Louise
1.0 out of 5 stars Review in The Guardian
(Not a newspaper known for its sympathy towards religion). Concluding paragraph to the review of this book :

"It bewilders me that he should have written a book so... Read more
Published 6 months ago by R.C.Wolff
4.0 out of 5 stars Happy with purchase
A satisfactory present for my son-in-law, so while I have not read the book, I am happy with my purchase.
Published 7 months ago by Bob Bull
5.0 out of 5 stars A definitive work
Whilst predominantly history based this will resolve any doubts. If you don't have any then this will provide them 'in spades'.
Published 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars I heard the Neil Denny interview with the author on the Little Atoms...
It was such an interesting and intelligent discourse that I decided to buy the book and read it at leisure.
Published 10 months ago by smartjoeylad
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