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on 18 June 2014
This book is simply a crushingly comprehensive hatchet job on the teachings of the Christian church. It demonstrates the complete lack of authority and legitimacy of the canonical texts and demolishes any notion that they somehow represent the word of God. Non-believers will find new stuff here which compliments their current understanding. Believers will find it an uncomfortable read at best, but better to understand the limitations of the biblical texts and other established church teachings (they aren't all in the bible!) and try to live by the best of the moral and ethical teachings that remain, than to have faith in (a state of) ignorance. Having been myself ignorant of most of the facts about the biblical texts throughout my childhood upbringing in the church, I am now amazed at just how effectively the theologians kept them out of sight of ordinary churchgoers.

Incidentally, as I recall, there are some reviewers on here who have tried to damn the book on the grounds that its formatting and editing are so poor as to make the work unreadable. Don't worry; it isn't!
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on 17 July 2014
An excellent book which should be on every school curriculum, I wish it had been available 60 years ago. It is true to say that history is written by the victors, and this applies in religion as in every other field. A shocking, though thoroughly enjoyable and immensely informative read. I was so engrossed that I barely noticed the appalling formatting, as commented on by other reviewers. Yes, it is a nuisance, but I was reading so fast and furiously that it did not detract from the whole. It will probably be more annoying when I go back to read it again a bit slower. I hope it will be corrected in future Kindle editions, as it does the author a great disservice.
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on 24 February 2015
This is a very angry book by James McDonald. But he has reason to be angry. Bible scholarship has shown time and again how the Bible was extensively modified. He shows how stories like the Nativity were just faked by Church fathers to make the birth of Jesus seem a portentous event and they added their fiction to the Gospels, the originals of which never contained the story of the Nativity. The origin of the Virgin Mary myth just comes from the insistence of the Church fathers of finding major events prophesied in the Old Testament; So they found Isaiah 7:14 which was mistranslated into the koine Greek Septuagint; a translation made some 200 years before the birth of Jesus. The correct translation refers to a young woman not a virgin. These are just two issues that press my buttons but in fact McDonald shows clearly that the whole edifice of Christian belief is just so much poppycock. Furthermore this poppycock has been a disaster for the western world where it held back scientific research for so long.
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on 28 January 2017
This book is an affront to Christian faith. It rides roughshod over the sensibilities of millions of believers who follow a two-thousand-year-old religion. Do they deserve to be treated thus just because they are oblivious to their own church’s role in inventing almost all the faith’s doctrines? Do they really need to be told the historical truth about their messiah? (That he wasn’t born in Jerusalem, that he didn’t perform miracles, that he didn’t rise from the dead, that his birth was unremarkable, that he wasn’t a messiah, that he wasn’t called Immanuel.) Do they really need to know that Jesus didn’t regard himself as divine, that his disciples didn’t, that his followers didn’t? That he was elevated from man to god by the early Church for political reasons? Shouldn't they be left in peaceful ignorance! Just because their religion is a dreadful and almost complete sham doesn’t make them bad people. Yes of course their church has been directly responsible for millions of deaths. And directly responsible for the promulgation of ignorance and superstition for millennia, for stifling rational thought and systematic investigation of the natural world and for impeding technological innovation. But can’t we keep some perspective?

Do we need to disabuse today’s Christians, who hardly know what it is that they believe now that almost all the Church’s teachings have been abandoned in the light of knowledge? Is the attack on the Bible relevant when anyone who believes in the modern version of a loving Christian God and in Jesus as divine saviour has either failed to read the New Testament, or more likely, been spoon fed a tiny sample of carefully selected non-representative passages? Even the editions approved by the major denominations with their historical accidents, disingenuous translations and blatant tampering, all well known to biblical scholarship, reveal a very different Jesus to the one taught at the pulpit. So what’s the point?
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on 20 March 2012
The subtitle of this book makes clear from the outset what its author thinks of Christianity and, one suspects, of all proselytising and institutional religions. But we need not expect bias from him. He builds his arguments on tireless research and scrupulous objectivity, sets them out in simple language we can all understand, and tempers the outrage and the shock with gentle irony and wit. He fearlessly demolishes great swathes of received wisdom and punctures holy bladders full of gas. But there is no roaring here, no spittle or nastiness, just admirable scholarship and a forensic handling of the corpse.

This is a big book dealing at times with quite obscure material. We learn for example of Pope Leo X calculating that a pious German who collected over 17,000 holy relics had saved himself 694,779,550.5 days in Purgatory. Where else could I have learned this? But the glorious obscurities are delivered in an easy flowing narrative. The author's love of history and scolarship propel us down the centuries and through the book to its very satisfying end.

Mr. McDonald may not have got out much in the last twenty years but his generosity has given us a unique, provocative and vastly informative book. I wonder if his favourite film is "Monty Python's Life of Brian"?
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on 6 March 2011
I found this a fascinating, thought-provoking, and thoroughly entertaining tome. It deals at length with such matters as the origins and authorship of various books of the Bible (not what you would imagine); the degree to which biblical texts can be considered free of editorial interference (not much it seems - people have been tampering and manipulating them from the start to fit with their own views); as well as such questions as who really founded christianity (includes some decidedly dodgy characters), the extent to which modern christian doctrines, teachings and attitudes are supported by what is actually said in the Bible (very little in many cases), the reasons why there are so many Christian denominations, the various areas of conflict between christianity and science, and a great deal else. This is a scholarly work and the author has obviously done a tremendous amount of research, but it is by no means dry and contains considerable doses of humour, as in the description of the astonishingly deviant careers of various popes. I'd thoroughly recommend it to anyone who like to delve a little into the true story of the development of christianity rather than the sanitised verson that Christian groups themselves prefer to present.
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on 19 June 2011
Beyond Belief in an impressively comprehensive, encyclopaedic survey of the history of Christianity and an examination of its key doctrines. Structured and written to be accessible to the layman, it also has over 400 references for those who want to go into the topics in more detail.

Many facts are presented which may surprise: the role of orthography in the development of orthodoxy; the fulfilment of revelation which was never revealed; the problems with popes (not just a little jobsharing with Avignon or a couple of bad Borgias).

The author takes an analytical approach to discussions of doctrine - the section on Transubstantiation is particularly good - and although we can see what his own viewpoint is, presents the facts and analysis to us clearly, then stands back to allow us to make up our own minds. Overall a fascinating book with an original approach.
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on 6 June 2014
A well researched and highly informative work. The book is a major contribution to the arguments for free and rational thought and shows the results throughout history where this has been denied. Highly recommended as both a straight read and valuable reference
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on 6 July 2013
I've ploughed through a great many Christian and atheist books during the last few years but this has to be the best so far (I'm only halfway through at present). It's a long book but the style is extremely readable, despite the approach to the subject matter being detailed and the text supported by lengthy footnotes. Many books of this type can be heavy going but if, like me, you're trying to make sense of religion and reality, this is essential reading.
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on 24 January 2014
Brilliant book and most enjoyable read, could hardly put it down. Would recommend this book to anyone who favours faith over reason
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