*This absolutely excellent work is a very precise deconstruction of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, charting the historic origins and evolution of these three closely related monotheisms.
*The original title in French is "Traite d'Atheologie", which accurately describes the contents. Here in Canada, the English translation's title ("In Defense of Atheism") 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
Michel Onfray's "Atheist Manifesto" is the latest of many recent books about religion, atheism and secularism. This book is not a scientific study or an attempt to disprove the religions, but a philosophical polemic against religions (an "Atheological treatise" as the original French title would translate) and a call for a post-Christian secularism.
Onfray is an atheist but he doesn't seem to be attempting to convert anyone to atheism, and indeed, his writing style is not likely to convert believers. Instead, the book is a polemic reflection about the effects of religion and a call to reason, probably aimed mostly at fellow atheists.
An interesting chapter of the book is spent deconstructing the myth of Jesus and how Christianity came to be the world's biggest religion and how some of it's teachings (especially those of Paul) may have come to be.
Another large portion of the book explains why religion has been the monotheistic teachings have caused so much evil. It's all very true but not exactly news.
The real purpose of the book comes in the last few pages, where he returns to something he wrote about in the beginning of the book. Here he says the choice is not between western Judeo-Christian values and Muslim values, but between religion and secularism. According to Onfray, much of the current secular values have their roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and he calls for a post-Christian secularism with post-Christian ethics.
Onfray is obviously a very knowledgeable philosopher and he makes many good points. The book is probably aimed at atheists and philosophers. It's not a book to start with for those new to atheism or those with only a sporadic interest in ahteism or religion, but at the same time, for the already-convinced atheist, such as myself, there's really not much new to be found in this book.
This is a good start. Yet it is not as comprehensive or conclusive as I expected it to be
Recently I ran across a book written by a man who spent a lifetime studying and participating in each of the world's major religions. Confessions of a Murdered Pope proves conclusively God--as defined by religion today--does not exist. No doubt about it. Best of all, it is an easy read.
In a wealth of fun and entertaining chats of a ten year old boy with his bewildered father, Confessions of a Murdered Pope traces the evolution of Christianity from the Neanderthals, to the Cro-Magnons, to the Egyptians, to the Hebrews, to the Grecians, to those who wrote of Jesus. Proves religion evolves just like any other social practice, each `prophet' building on the imagination of those who came before him.
Onfray shows through historical and philosophical examples how the myths of monotheism and later Christianity were created and how the whole story was trimmed to suit the people in power.
Constantine was the first roman emperor who converted to Christianity. He saw clearly how this new religion would help him to establish a totalitarian regime. For nearly two millennia others would follow and use a fairytale to gain power over large parts of the world and brutalize everyone who wouldn't comply.
The book puts into easy readable words what I thought for myself since I started to think at around 12 years of age. But I could never really articulate my thought about the subject very well. Onfray does this brilliantly.
Must read for everyone! This way of thinking should be taught in schools.
Michel Onfray shares a delightful, full bodied, mature philosophy in his excellent 'Atheist Manifesto'. It is a well balanced, robust and easily read vintage which goes down smoothly, satisfying parts of the brain that Christian apologetics never could. Michel gives an omniscient view over the history of religion and the various philosophical viewpoints it is possible to hold. In section 3 Michel looks at the historical progress in thought from judeo-christian epistemology up to Christian atheism and on to postmodern atheism. This is a book of calm and measured tone, a superb addition to the cellar of any discerning connoisseur of heresy but also recommended to those just venturing from the apron of monotheism. Some unaccoustomed to its bouquet may need a whole bottle of this whine before their palette appreciates it's subtle richness. Actually in a few places Michel lets some generalisations obscure his point. For instance on page 28 he quotes from 'The Deception Revealed' by Cristovao Ferreira who wrote that The Ten Commandments were impracticable lunacy. Well Christopher Hitchens gives a superb critique of the Ten Commandments on Youtube. While I agree with Ferreira that some of the Ten are indeed flawed and none are divinely inspired, I think it is a bit cynical to not give credit to the worthy points. Do not murder, do not steal, do not lie, don't cheat on your partner, respect your parents are good as basic default rules. Dan Barker in his good book 'Godless' explains the limitations of these rules but in broad brush terms they are good laws without which society would be anarchy. There are other points in the Bible which are interesting puzzles e.g love your enemy, a phrase which is simultaneously mad and sane, foolish and wise. Who or what is my enemy? Misleading/ false information? Sometimes the person who you might generally regard as an enemy is the one who doesn't fear to give some home truths. Maybe it meant that you should see if there are points in your enemy that you like or can agree with. For instance Christians would do well to read the History of Western civilization and higher Bible criticism then they might end up with a more balance view. Atheist Manifesto would be a good starting point for them. Isn't this the value of love your enemy? It helps to overcome tribal fundamentalism and racism and exaggerated propaganda. Get to know the detail of what the other person actually holds then sometimes you see the differences are not so great and you can hate each other a little less strongly. Even Zarathustra said,' A man of knowledge must be able to love his enemies'. In a war each side shows a sort of love for their enemy by studying each others tactics and technology and stealing the good/successful ideas off each other. The trouble with the phrase 'love your enemy', that makes it appear ridiculous, is that it is so vague and generalised; it really means 'love the good points & intelligent ideas wherever they appear.' The ideas in the Bible that are good are not divinely inspired, they existed in other cultures before the Bible but still 'The golden rule' is a valueable starting point.