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An Atheist's History of Belief: Understanding Our Most Extraordinary Invention Hardcover – 10 Oct 2013


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bodley Head (10 Oct. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847922627
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847922625
  • Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 2.4 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 357,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"[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.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Nov. 2013
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 By William Mackesy on 10 Dec. 2013
Format: Hardcover
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 By patrick reeve on 20 Oct. 2013
Format: Hardcover
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 By LT on 24 Oct. 2013
Format: Hardcover
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 By Garwood Yardley on 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 By Thomas Ashe on 21 Oct. 2013
Format: Hardcover
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 By Mrs Annemarie McAllister on 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 By Orpheus on 25 Dec. 2013
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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