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Rich Wiltshir

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Koran Curious - a guide for infidels and believers
Koran Curious - a guide for infidels and believers
Price: 1.49

2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting if you can drown out the sunday school drone., 31 July 2014
I am "Koran Curious" in the same way I'm bible curious, Hammurabi code curious, Odin, Ra and Silmarillion and Bagavad Gita curious. CJ Werleman's book is useful and informative but, to my mind, unjustifyably deferential and excuse-offering for a work (the koran) that's poorly crafted from an alleged author (Muhammed) whose footprint in history hasn't been exposed, explained or demonstrated to me yet. That is why I read these works.

CJ's opening narrative of a christian thug's demise, circa 525 CE, merits a little research to sate my curiosity. I'm interested to learn (though I'll research elsewhere to confirm) that literacy amongst Islam's leading clerics' "followers" (if you can't read it, how can you follow it?), internationally, suggests fewer muslims have read the koran than christians have read the bible. However, I have learnt by reading this book: Pegasus gets a mention, paedophilia gets an excuse and death is a valid gift for disbelief - evidnce is stronger than assertion.
If this koran (and haddiths) were the final unalterable word of a universe-creating super genius, you'd imagine that morality would be hugely advanced by it and not etched in solely prophet-contemporary terms that demands unsavoury treatment of those who disagree or simply lack a penis? You'd imagine its delivery would be easilly and reliably forwarded globally - even if that meant the invention of incorruptible blockss and indelible ink for a 7th century printing press?
I can understand and in many ways respect CJ's choice of style for this work. But the koran and Muhammed, like the bible, Popol Vuh, Gilgamesh and Beowolf merit study and report that acknowledges their source as the minds of women and men and children, not entities for which the interested organisations have no evidence or argument.

It's great that folk like CJ, Robert M Price, Ophelia Benson, John Loftus, Hector Avalos and Richard Carrier (whose research along with many others is available on kindle) and Robert Spencer are devoting energies to uncover and analyse in appropriately informed context. Only by exposing ourselves to knowledge of those religions - that claim Truth yet underuse truth in discussions of their histories and supporting evidence - can we see them achieve the societal influence that they deserve, ie: so no legal or tax exemptions, no privileged access to our hospitals, military, homes of government, education, law enforcement or child welfare. No dimunition of animal welfare so that religious tradition can be satisfied by avoidable suffering prior to death.

Yes, please have a read of "Koran Curious" and enjoy it more by not setting your expectations too high. Searching for the facts? This book will help.

Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam's Obscure Origins
Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam's Obscure Origins
Price: 10.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars We need more books on religions' origins., 28 July 2014
I'm looking for evidence of these principal characters, like Muhammad, Jesus, Moses et al and nothing's surfaced to convince me either existed or merits their religions being respected, applauded, privileged in a caring society that seeks peace. That's why I bought this book and will continue to invest in others. The work of people like Spencer and others mentioned herein is important: it's somewhat disappointing that followers of these religions / sects / denominations / cults don't realise that honest endeavour to expose data and argument will certainly reveal any substance that is foundational to their belief. Or maybe psychology drives overreaction?

What would you expect of a barely literate culture that was host to a man-cum-conduit? I'd anticipate his fame and repute to be wide, that non-compliants and impersonators would be punished with vigour and publicity, that Muhammed (or any similarly "chosen one") would be equipped with an incorruptible means of replicating the message to be shared. But, if ...
To me - though I've not researched this history - it seems that a much abused, frequently belittled community found a huge and unlikely victory over the embers of once great empires: a victory so wide and long-lasting that the conquered peoples' culture was redrawn just as were the laws and borders.

Why would I, an antitheist, seek evidence of these figures in history?

At times, this book has a vague sense of being a contest between two progeny of Abrahamic religion. Spencer, irrespective of anyone's view of his motives, delivers a clear catalogue of today's claims of Islam measured against its footprints in history. Clearly, if his and other authors' data or analysis is in error, the perfect response would be evidence and argument (not 11 or 28 page rants, not baseless and silly accusations of bigotry). I've not found, but will continue to seek for, evidence that Muhammed was a real guy (unsavoury as my assessment of his character may be).
But there's an absense in all such pursuits for religions' validation: no line of footprints or reason from observing "the cosmic all" to any proposed deity being our species' architect - no chain of links missing or otherwise. So it's hardly surprising that investigating Muhammed or Jesus leads the enquirer to an Bronze or Dark Age arena of power-hungry and blood-soaked leaders seeking sponsorship of a religious heirarchy to complete the a-frame of their rightful place with god's protection from discontented subordinates and slaves.

Robert Spencer does a fine and underappreciated job in sharing his appraisal of Islam's character and intent from its origins to the present day and the threat it represents for the morrow.
However, methinks that were he to apply John Loftus' "outsider test for faith" (I recommend you read some of his collaborative works available on kindle and elswhere), Spencer's works would have less compassion for christianity's footprint, too.

Yes, please entertain and inform yourself with this book. Sorry if I've gone on a rant, but Spencer's contribution impresses me and should be both supported and emulated.

Arguments Of Celsus, Porphyry, And The Emperor Julian, Against The Christians Also Extracts from Diodorus Siculus, Josephus, and Tacitus, Relating to the Jews, Together with an Appendix
Arguments Of Celsus, Porphyry, And The Emperor Julian, Against The Christians Also Extracts from Diodorus Siculus, Josephus, and Tacitus, Relating to the Jews, Together with an Appendix
Price: 0.00

2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but far from an easy read., 24 July 2014
This publication is about two hundred years old and Taylor's writing style, where it appears, is haughty, superior and authoritarian without the benefit of being educational in its content. However, the ancient texts being quoted - though interrupted with misplaced footnotes - in translation, have the character of humour and insight despite the clear malice toward the christian beliefs and behaviours they criticise (opinions which are not far distant from my own almost two millennia later - there's every likelihood christianity's the fosil of a bronze age team building exercise).

After getting passed the one third distance, I confess to giving up on this poorly formatted document: paragraphs and pagination, chapters and headings are as populous as sincere developments in a papal reaction to child abuse discoveries.

If you've the patience (maybe printing it out instead of relying on the kindle screen?) perhaps you'll gain more from this inexpensive item that's been made availabe thanks to hard work of volunteers.
However please keep searching for old publications by 'scholars' and 'clerics' as well as historians: it's a trawl of data that's always netting surprises and insights. Thanks to all who've made them accessible.

Irish Witchcraft and Demonology
Irish Witchcraft and Demonology
Price: 0.37

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good source of chuckles and history of "witches.", 22 July 2014
Yes, I rather enjoyed this: more so for the first half and some irony in the conclusion which, written about a century ago (it's now 21/7/2014), sums up the defunct superstitions of witchcraft whilst asserting the existence of a deity.

Many of the tales are amusing and the death count is considerably lower than the rest of Europe's per-capita persecution of witches with flame and torture. I particulary enjoyed a few tales of the hugely powerful Satan (who kills 10 people in the bible while Jahwey polishes off 2.5 million [lol]) being outwitted by tricks school kids would chortle at.

A trial of 1661 particularly impressed me for the following off-topic reason: I've always thought that Florence Nightingale was the first person to have that given name (check Mark Bolstridge's excellent biography), but here I learn that Florence Newton was accused of being a witch almost two centuries before the famous nurse saved lives with her non-contiguous cartograms: strange how pub quiz facts can be corrected when least expected.

This is a wonderful little book whose final tales are from the era of my great grandmother's first husband's death aged 21 in 1881. His death certificate names the reason as "visitation of god," at a time that our nations are ending slavery and quitting witch trials. This is a book that's narrow mortar between the brickwork of history, and well worth reading if only for that reason.

On another minor point, though I need to check the date of authorship and Teddy Rosevelt's presidency: I thought the teddy bear was named after him? Perhaps not, google's going to be visited shortly.

I hope you enjoy "Irish Witchcraft And Demonology."

Sense and Goodness Without God
Sense and Goodness Without God
Price: 3.68

2.0 out of 5 stars Didn't hit the target for me., 19 July 2014
Either because he's talking about a conclusiom I reached long ago, or because of my current depressive state, this is the first time I've found little to entertain or educate im any of Carrier's works.

Is this merely evidence that we learn more by reading and viewing works that challenge our views and conjectures? Whay puzzles me most is how folk could have any sence of "goodness" when they're letting religious texts and agents poison the well from which they fuel their morality.

If you're still victim to religious indoctrination or have simpathy for the notion that Abrahamic derived texts are "moral", please rrad this and other works of the excellent Richard Carrier.

Bart Ehrman and the Quest of the Historical Jesus of Nazareth
Bart Ehrman and the Quest of the Historical Jesus of Nazareth
Price: 6.71

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyabl and infirmative. Well worth the time and effort., 18 July 2014
This "...Quest For The Historical Jesus," has left a lasting impression and fuelled lots of readng, too.
It's been a few weeks since I read this (and I have read about a dozen books on history and religion/mythology in the interval).

Let's face it; whether this fellow existed is of purely academic interest because those sufficiently well-groomed in childhood by the god industry will continue to permit the multi-national enterprises gain more tax efficient revenue and unwarranted influence than certain companies we're all too aware of [puts down coffee, glances around room full of caffeine addicts]. But this is a valuable endeavour because it exposes the character and methods of the buybull business: for that, I wish to thank and support the continued endeavours of all the scholars who've striven to bring understanding to us all.

I'm still musing as to whether Nazareth [though I enjoyed their chart topper in the 1970s] was contemporary to the generally accepted era of christianities' (yes: plural) early gestation. Jesus seems, thanks to the observations and criticisms wihin this book, increasingly likely to be a marketeers' manufacture that was sculpted and polished during the 2nd and 3rd centuries - though I'd love to know when he became caucasian. I'll soon start searching for evidence that Islam's favourite son existed.
To inform these conjectures I've read Josephus, Hammurabi, and other more recent works including Price and Carrier. The lasting impression I gleen from spending this cash on Amazon is that religions are not to be relied upon as authorities: especially when seeking knowledge of religions! How strange it is that instituting claiming "Truth" are so poor at dealing with "truth."

When asking clerics or TV historians about Jesus and Mohammed, they always say "the concensus of historians is that they most probably existed" yet no evidence or sustainable argument ever supports this. Methinks we are finally learning to investigate the sacred big human names of Abrahamic religions and books like this fine collection of essays are doing an excellent job. Thanks to all involved.

Yes yes, please read this book and any others that spark your interest within its pages. Bart Erhman deserves credit, too, not least for the fact that his work provoked a response from and introduced me to several fine scholars. Though Carrier continues to recommend a number of Prof Erhman's titles, his seemingly uppish reactions cited in these pages reduce the likelihood I'll be buying them from anywhere other than charity shops and libraries.

Hitler Homer Bible Christ: The Historical Papers of Richard Carrier 1995-2013
Hitler Homer Bible Christ: The Historical Papers of Richard Carrier 1995-2013
Price: 5.63

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History's no longer Christianity's puppet., 13 July 2014
Carrier reveals more than the specifics of those topics in this excellent volume. His approach and style easilly allow the reader to appreciate the bredth of endeavour required to unearth how ancient documents of all materials have been transmitted through many generations of scribes and their impliments, frailties, agendas and biases.
He's disarmingly open and clear: laying all sources and analyses for the reader to digest. There is no slight-of-hand in his work: a characteristic that seems certain to infuriate those who'd adhere to opinions debunked by his honest, scientifically historic approach to the likelihood for example that Nero even knew about christians, let alone persecuted them.

Over the last few years, I've become fascinated with history: ever since taking an interest in Francis Drake - and religion, after reading Hitchens' exposure of the "saint" Teresa of Calcuta.
The work of scholars like Richard Carrier, Robert M Price and others are of huge significance if we're to dismantle the falacies of apologists and liberate future generations from the disabling dogmas that empower mythology over the most potent application of the intellect: honest, tenacious, unrestricted enquiry.

We need more historians and scholars of ancient texts: for they help us learn about ourselves. Invariably, they're multi-lingual, rigorous and detailed: qualities that are fine examples for us to strive for and clearly hugely rewarding to acquire.

Please read their works and enjoy the eye-opening they encourage.

The Babylonian Legends of the Creation
The Babylonian Legends of the Creation
Price: 0.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Big thanks to all who make old texts e-available., 7 July 2014
Over 100 years ago, dedicated scholars of many nations were striving to understand the narratives and culture surrounding ancestor documents to the bible, koran, book of mormon and other religious marketing devices. Their efforts are foundation to modern scholars who continue applying a wide range of research skills that help us understand the earliest available tales.

We should thank all scholars, living and dead, together with the volunteers who make these e-documents available to the curious lay-person. The efforts to cross reference so many source scripts and frangments deliver a great service to those seeking history above mythology.

Recently, I've read "Popol Vuh", "Enuma Elish" and "The Hammurami Code" on kindle. This volume is another fine addition: thank you all.

The Code of Hammurabi
The Code of Hammurabi
Price: 1.02

4.0 out of 5 stars And I thought my ego needed controlling...., 6 July 2014
Read it. Read it. Read it. This is an eye-opening piece of nearly 4,000-year-old history.

Hammurabi introduces us to a host of hugely powerful and wise deities whose wisdom and power is demonstrated by their choice of Hammurabi as leader. All his conquests and controls, all the beneficies of his realm are born from his truly great kingship - the opening pages are almost a single sentence citing his achievements (as a result of all these imaginary friends' sponsorship).

Hammurabi then lists 281 presciptions of justice (numbered 1-282 but unlucky 13 isn't used) of typically theocratic thugish consequence (it's interesting to see oaths to gods being sufficient escape from a small number of prosecutions) ranging from being "thrown into water" to amputation of hands or breasts to a menu of death sentences (some by proxy - if you killed a pregnant woman, your daughter is sentenced to death!).

Hammurabi's not content with being the best thing since tools of warfare - his epilogue is a rant of curses and calls for deities' retribution on any subsequent leader who doesn't maintain unedited implimentation of his all-encompassing sagacity: his successors merit tremendous defeat and their subjects' abject misery if Big H's gift to the people isn't followed.

Yes, I thoroughly engrossed myself in this during just one reading. Though I find, as you can probably tell, Hammurabi unsavory and Hitleresque, this is certainly a well-presented piece from 3,794 years ago - pre-bible, predating even Akhenaten of Egypt (arguable the first monotheist recorded in hirstory [circa 1,440 BCE])

Worth spending a couple of hours reading!

The Enuma Elish: The Seven Tablets of Creation
The Enuma Elish: The Seven Tablets of Creation
Price: 1.21

3.0 out of 5 stars Informative on several levels., 6 July 2014
Written at the start of the last century, this is a scholary review of the available tablets for another of the pre-biblical creation myths. It's educational and entertaining on several levels.

Conjecture and analysis by professionals in an era before our huge resourse of communication and investigative tools reveals that 19th century scholars were determined to apply their intellects to documents (clay tablets that have barely survived the millennia) that clearly pre-date the texts so applauded by the institutions by whom they were employed.

It's rewarding to see a clear track of discussion about, for example, Tiamat a 350-mile-long creature's representation within the remants of tablets whose origins range from treasured ancient library items to students' practicing their scripting skills.

Another pleasure is the large number of deities and their variety of names (I particularly like Gaga, for some reason). That these gods demanded the creation of our species purely so we could worship them also fuels thoughts about the psychology of cultures (including our own) that would have a professional class making its living from propogation of these myths.

It's interesting that the English documents cited do not use "myth", but occasionally refer to pre-Genesis (the religious text, not the excellent prog-rock group) as "legends". However a number of the German papers clearly are not so reserved.

Yes, this is a worthwhile addition to the reading list of anyone interested in the precursors to those Abrahamic religions that continue to sponsor divisions amongst us: it's an example of scientists at work and being polite yet robust in their rebuttal of earleir works they're debunking - almost beautiful. I will revisit this book many times as I strive to grasp deeper insights into how deities have evolved along with societies' transmission of the ongoing myths.

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