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on 15 November 2006
The book is essentially in two parts, which must be reviewed separately - part 1 succeeds brilliantly, part 2 can only be recommended for the reader unfamiliar with non-dual philosophy.

The first part systematically dismantles the literalist interpretations of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, showing how their original messages have become totally distorted by their politically motivated, power-seeking leaders over the centuries. The scriptures on which they are based are shown to be without historical foundation and quite likely the fabrication of extremists. As a result, their essential message has been lost and the metaphorical teachings are now taken as literal truths. It ought to be compulsory reading for the fundamentalists in all religions and recommended for the ordinary believer. The world might then be a much safer place!

Logically, the second part ought to reveal the non-dual origins of the three religions in Gnosticism, Kabbalah and Sufism. In fact, it only tackles the first of these. My own knowledge of this is limited to having read Osho's `Mustard Seed' commentary on the St. Thomas Gospel. However, non-dual is non-dual so that the essence of any such teaching must be the same. Although Freke & Gandy acknowledge this ("we are all one"), most of what is presented here is clearly dualistic. The message comes across as wanting to have one's cake and eat it, as the saying goes, i.e. to gain the knowledge, beauty and simplicity of the truth... but for oneself as an individual. Nevertheless, for the reader who has no prior knowledge of non-dual philosophies, part 2 can still be recommended since the subject is presented in an appealing light which might stimulate further reading. The book overall is well-written and extremely readable.

Dennis Waite, author of "Back to the Truth: 5000 Years of Advaita"
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on 1 July 2013
I enjoyed this book, especially the second part. First half did not hold much new information for me, but I understood the need for it and let's face it, gnostics still have an axe or two to grind with what they call "literalist" christians and admittedly, Time Freke uses the filet knife quite expertly and I always enjoy seeing a craftsman at work.
Strangely enough it's not what stayed with me after reading the book, and I suppose that was the intention as he would say, to remember the baby, not the bath water.
It was very nice to be reintroduced to the ideas and tradition of gnosticism that had interested me a long time ago but fell to the background.
This book, at least for now, had brought it back into my life again and I consider that a good thing, a chance to renew, rediscover which is a gift not as often appreciated as one might think.
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on 12 October 2007
The opening of 'The Laughing Jesus' is brilliant. Freke and Gandy manage to make a compelling case for an examination of the historical basis for a literal interpretation of scripture. They highlight recent events of 9/11 but also talk about the crusades and the role literal interpretation of religion has played throughout the ages. After this, however, things go pear shaped.

The authors declare boldly that what is needed in this current age and what they are going to do about the current crisis in the world:

"Our response is to mount a full-scale assault on the pernicious idea that God writes books."

And so the task begins. This is the 3rd Freke and Gandy book i am reading and its clear that they know what their 'trump card' is; it's their attack on the historical existence of Jesus. This is where they have been most successful and this is material highlighted by numerous other scholars. Thus we get a chapter that examines this, regurgitating the material of 'The Jesus Mysteries', entitled 'The Most Famous Man Who Never Lived'. This is their forte and they deliver their arguments in much the same style as in their previous books.

Either side of this chapter, however, are two chapters that sadly do not live up to the same standards as the other. I am aware that they are mounting their 'full scale assault' but this should not mean that their style of writing should suddenly become tabloid in nature. The quality drops dramatically. Provocative, and at times filthy language is used to insight reactions from those reading the text. The arguments given are very flimsy and easily countered in nearly all cases. Following this full on assault of Judaism and Islam we then enter in to the section of the book detailing Gnostism as they way forward.

Sadly Freke and Gandy have just over simplified things and selectively quoted just a bit too often for their thesis to hold any water at all. Only someone with a very poor understanding of the history of Judiasm, Christianity and Islam will be able to read the material and not question most statements.

They have just tried to do much. For instance in the space of just 5 pages they try to demonstrate that Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, and Solomon never existed. These figures stretch over a period of 1000 years, yet in 5 pages Freke and Gandy aim to show they never existed, and nor did any of the things they were supposed to have done. This section is woeful.

Their attack on Islam in Chapter 5 is equally over ambitious and naive. Here they concede Muhammad existed, and even admit that he brought positive rules and laws, for example stating:

"Women were amongst Muhammad's closest followers, they took part in public life, and even fought alongside men in battle. Muhammad forbade the killing of girl children, or regretting that they were not boys, and gave women legal rights of divorce and inheritance centuries before the West."

Unfortunately after acknowledging this they state that all this was due to Muhammad being influence by Gnostics.

"Muhammad originally followed the Gnostics' egalitarian example in his treatment of women".

Thus, according to them, any positive elements found in any religion are only there due to the fact that the really true parts are Gnosticism. This is the claim of Freke and Gandy. They are not subtle about this either stating in the opening of the book:

"Religion isn't all bad. It has answered the profound human yearning to understand the mysteries of life and death. It has inspired people of all cultrures and temples, transcendental music and songs. It has the power because at its heart is Gnostic spirituality"

I was very disappointed by the book in general. Having enjoyed their other books, this was a huge disappointment and perhaps showed me that these authors are not as knowledgeable as I may have thought from their other writings.

In conclusion I would say this book is actually quite dangerous. Its inflammatory, factually inaccurate in many places, heavily polemic towards a Gnostic view of the world and often crude and vulgar.

For anyone wanting a detailed, balanced and yet deeply comprehensive analysis of fundamentalism and trends in Judaism, Christianity and Islam I would recommend 'The Battle for God' by Karen Armstrong.
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on 10 August 2014
Chapter 3 is my favourite bit. It's where the meat is. The rest of the first half is okay if you're into books and the second half of the book went on about how to awaken yourself, which didn't fit the first Atheist part of the book.
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on 30 August 2012
A must read book for all interested in human development and spiritual awareness. An easy read and the place of organised religious in the development of our society becomes clearer. It will help those with blind faith to think and question their assumptions, whilst providing an historical context for those who are more discerning. A smashing book
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on 4 January 2016
Arrived very promptly, beautifully packed! Content looks to be up the Freke & Gandy's usual high quality arguments for questioning commonly accepted myths of literalist religion. Any of their books are recommended for the open-minded reader seeking beyond establishment dogma.
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on 19 January 2007
i have and am reading a lot of Timothy's work. I find this to be the culmination of his other books.Not only that -it is also the most readable.(though maybe that is because i initially struggled with "the Goddess" book but got there eventually.Yes much of the material is the same as in his other books---but i think that is a plus because he does build on it and i don't want to have to reference back to other books to understand it. It is there in fuller detail in the other books if required.
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on 11 September 2015
I've studied quite a lot of religion and this is one of the best books I've ever read, it is so well researched and really puts the whole notion of the manner in which religion becomes an institution easy to understand. This should be compulsory reading for everyone especially the people who claim to be religious as opposed to spiritual.
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on 30 March 2015
At first a bit caustic, and I think unnecessarily argumentative but makes its point clearly and the later chapters are wonderful. Be careful not to turn Gnosis into just another empty religious belief
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on 6 September 2015
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