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The God Delusion is a great read; funny and witty in places and deadly serious in others. The author, Richard Dawkins is a professor and a scholar of renown and of course the brilliant writer of several significant books.

The God Delusion is divided into chapters with the several headings within each chapter making the book easy to read.  Dawkins is an atheist who has written, and lectured on, a great deal about the harm religion does to children, by religious indoctrination, which he believes is a form of child abuse. This book was right up my alley, so to speak. Christianity, just as much as Islam, teaches  that unquestioned faith is a virtue.

Religion, whether either one or other of the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity or Islam, is full of contradictions…no wonder children are confused. And it’s not just Muslims who are inspired to become martyrs. I can remember as a child revering those Christian martyrs whose stories we heard every day from the pulpit or in catechism classes. These three monotheistic religions have engaged in extreme violence against their respective ‘infidels’ and apostates. One only has to read the Qur’an to know that Islam is not a religion of peace.  Dawkins quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson “ …the religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next”…Except, writes Dawkins, ‘we are not allowed to laugh at Islam, under threat of fatwas!’ And anyway, Dawkins comforts his fellow atheists by promising us that monotheism is doomed to subtract one more god and become atheism. It cannot come soon enough for me and the millions of other atheists around the world.

Another thing about monotheistic religions that has no place in 21st century in my view, is that they enjoy tax-free status and as Dawkins states: ‘… far better to abandon tax-free status for religions altogether… because it helps to promote them while allowing them to avoid the rigorous vetting imposed on secular charities.’  Dawkins has researched the huge amounts of money amassed by TV evangelists in USA unscrupulously ‘stolen’ from believers. And believe me, the amounts of tax-free ‘donations’ these religious thieves steal from the true believers are the only ‘awe’ inspiring thing about the capitalist religion of televangelists.

I was especially interested in the chapter in which the author, who is a biologist and supporter of the Darwinian theory of evolution, discusses his views on religion as a ‘by-product’ of something else. Once again evolution of the human species comes into play and indeed does make sense to me. A theory that posits a selective advantage to children’s brains that possess a  ‘rule of thumb’ in order to keep children safe and so preserve human life; e.g. the experience of previous generations. Obey your parents, obey your tribal elders, ‘especially when they adopt a solemn minatory tone.’ This makes perfect sense to me having been indoctrinated since infancy into Catholicism which ensures children do not question anything they are told, and never learn to think for themselves. It has perhaps allowed so many children to be sexually abused by clergy with impunity, for centuries. Believe, and obey without question!

I love Dawkins’ description: ‘The god of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant in all fiction: Jealous and proud of it, a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak. A vindictive, blood thirsty, ethnic cleanser. A misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully!’  What chance do children have when  they are inculcated from infancy, to believe in, and fear, this vile father figure of a god?

Many scholars, including the author, are of the view that it’s the very moderate inculcation of religious teachings that inspire suicide bombers, and Dawkins discusses this at length. He also enlightens the reader on the many arguments that arise between creationists and atheists, and this was intriguing and at times gobsmacking that creationists actually believe such pie in the sky fairy tales in the face of proven and widely accepted scientific research and findings.

Scientists posit that we humans have evolved and so are products of natural selection; so ‘we should ask what pressure or pressures exerted by natural selection originally favoured the impulse to religion’ and Dawkins gives us compelling answers. The roots of morality and why we are good is also a riveting chapter and I urge all those who believe that religion acts as humanity’s ‘moral compass’ to at least read this chapter. Morality was a factor in human existence long before religions came into being. Dawkins asks  if our moral sense has a Darwinian origin, and he suggests that readers will find no surprises in this chapter if they are well read and open minded, which of course those indoctrinated with religious dogma throughout their childhoods very likely won’t be! In any case, writes Dawkins, his purpose in analysing scriptures is to demonstrate  that most religious people who claim to derive their morals from scripture do not really do so in practice. But, he adds, ‘suicide bombers obviously do.’

As Dawkins states, the Bible and Qur’an are ‘plain weird…as you would expect of chaotically cobbled together anthologies of disjointed documents composed, revised, translated, distorted and improved by hundreds of different authors, writers, copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning several centuries.’  He also discusses at length the Old Testament stories taken from much older mythologies, which I found especially interesting.

One of the most ridiculous statements Dawkins elicited from an interview with a well-known televangelist, was that he blamed the disastrous flooding of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, on a lesbian who lived in the city at the time. And he recalls the statement by a certain Anglican bishop, ‘thank god Jesus spoke the Queen’s English.’  Historic Mecca, the cradle of Islam is being buried in an unprecedented onslaught by religious zealots, but as Dawkins avows, there isn’t an atheist in the world  who would want to bulldoze Mecca or the Buddhas of Bamiyan,in the mountains of Afghanistan, for example.

And of course we all know that scriptures are blatantly misogynist and the author highlights relevant, horrific passages, full of rapes incest, sodomy, which would have been enough to add to my childhood nightmares if I’d read them at that time. For instance, in one chapter, two male angels (whatever they are) were sent to Sodom to warn Abraham’s nephew, Lot,  to leave that city. Lot invited the angels into his house and when all the men of Sodom gathered around outside and demanded that Lot hand over the angels so they could sodomise them, Lot refused and instead offered his two daughters ‘which have not known men’ to do with whatever they wanted. However, he warned them to do nothing to the two men whom he was protecting under his roof! Eventually Lot’s wife is turned into a pillar of salt and Lot commits incest with his two daughters. Dawkins suggests here that parents do not use the bible to teach their children morality. It’s obvious that zealous protectors of the Bible and Qur’an cherry pick chapters pertaining to peace whenever it suits them, because neither of these books can support their claims  that their religion is a religion of peace and morality. Nothing could be further from the truth. And the latest ludicrous claim by some Muslim women that Islam is not only a religion of peace, but also a ‘feminist’ one, is laughable! And how does it help to engender equality of the sexes, when the men of Jewish faith pray and thank god every day, for not making them a woman?

Dawkins provides the reader with clear and concise reasons why he believes moderation in faith fosters fanaticism,  and I found his reasons for this perfectly feasible. He uses the phrase ‘moral zeitgeist’,  spirit of change, or ‘enlightened consensus’, of which the opposite is the dark side of religious absolutism or extremism. His point is, and this is important in 2017,  that even mild or moderate religion helps to provide the climate of faith in which extremism naturally flourishes. It goes without saying of course, that indoctrination begins in early childhood because parents inflict their religious beliefs onto their children.

In his book, Dawkins quotes respected journalist, Muriel Gray, writing in the Glasgow Herald, 24 July 2005, with reference to the London bombings: Everyone is being blamed, from the obvious villainous duo of George W Bush and Tony Blair, to the inaction of Muslim ‘communities’. But it has never been clearer that there is only one place to lay the blame and it has ever been thus. The cause of all this misery, mayhem, violence, terror and ignorance,  is of course religion itself, and it seems ludicrous to have to state such an obvious reality, the fact is that the government and the media are doing a pretty good job of pretending that it isn’t so.

Religious indoctrination and absolutism  has, in my humble opinion, allowed children of all Abrahamic religions to be sexually abused by their own paedophile clerical minders and others of their own faith. Dawkins writes: ‘More generally, (and  this applies to Christianity no less than to Islam), what is really pernicious is the practice of teaching children that faith itself is a virtue. Faith is an evil precisely because it requires no justification and brooks no argument. Teaching children that unquestioned  faith is a virtue primes them, given certain other ingredients that are not too hard to come by, to grow up into potentially lethal weapons for future jihads or crusades. Faith can be very dangerous, and  deliberately  to implant it into the vulnerable mind of an innocent child is a grievous wrong. It is purely and simply a violation of childhood by religion.’

Dawkins quotes another scholar, Patrick Sookhdeo, director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity: The mantra, ‘Islam is peace’ is almost 1,400 years out of date. It was only for about 13 years that Islam was peace and nothing but peace…For today’s radical Muslims – just as for the mediaeval jurists who developed classical Islam, it would be truer to say ‘Islam is war’. One of the most radical Islamic groups in Britain, al-Ghurabaa, stated in the wake of the two London bombings, ‘Any Muslim that denies that terror is a part of Islam is kafir.’ A kafir is an unbeliever ( i.e. a non-Muslim), a term of gross insult…Could it be that the young men who committed suicide were neither  on the fringes of Muslim society in Britain, nor following an eccentric or extremist interpretation of their faith, but rather that they came from the very core of the Muslim community and were motivated by a mainstream interpretation of Islam?

Food for thought: Is the reason Muslims murder and torture those who criticise or make fun of Islam and their prophet, because they know that if Islam endures the same scholarly scrutiny that Christianity and Judaism have in recent decades,  that it will be revealed as the sham that it really is? I urge readers to place their Bible, Qur’an or Torah in their home library on shelves alongside other great classics of  literary fiction.

The other night I watched a news item showing a Muslim child, barely five years old, at a kindergarten, dressed in a black hijab and full length black dress….while the other children around her were dressed in pretty, colourful clothing, their pretty hair tied up in dainty ribbons and bows  …how is this conducive to a small child feeling a part of the community she lives in? And why do Muslim women insist on wearing clothing that makes them stand out from the crowd and attract negative and sometimes abusive reaction from extremists of other religions? Surely religion is a private matter to be celebrated at home or in a church or mosque?

-Anne Frandi-Coory 20 June 2017

I’m Your Man; The Life Of Leonard Cohen

is an authorised biography by Sylvie Simmons published 2012, four years before Leonard Cohen’s death on 7 November 2016.

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I have just finished reading this wonderful book which I bought at the Clunes Book Fair earlier this year.

What a book, what a man Leonard Cohen was. Poet, philosopher, author, scholar of the Hebrew Bible and Jewish Kabbalah. Simmons, a renowned music journalist and award winning writer, has written the ultimate Leonard Cohen biography of  531 pages, incorporating his life, his music, poetry and prose, and his deep spirituality. She records word for word, many of the dialogues she had with him, which add to the intimacy of the book. He was a humble man who valued his solitude, a frugal way of life  hidden from the limelight, and of course, his love for women. A man with a magnetic personality, he had many lovers, most of whom he remained close friends with. He could not live too long in a relationship with a woman though, not even with Suzanne Elrod (not the Suzanne who inspired his most famous song), the mother of his two children. But she says that he was a devoted father, generous and loving, although there were recriminations, for a time, following the breakup of their relationship.

The leading rabbi of Montreal’s Jewish community who knew the Cohen family well, understood Cohen’s devotion to a Buddhist monk and to Buddhism, and believed that Cohen would’ve made a brilliant rabbi because of his poetical way with words and his authoritative knowledge of the Hebrew Bible. Cohen was a very disciplined man who also loved to fast. He enjoyed vegetarian food and was always very slim, of quite a slight build; ‘There’s no excess to him at all” observed Simmons.

This is a riveting read for Leonard Cohen fans and anyone who is interested in the music scene of the 1960s through to the 1990s. Such artists as Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, Jeff Buckley and various music entrepreneurs; people like Phil Spector, John Lissauer, Nick Cave, and background singers such as Jennifer Warnes, Sharon Robinson, the Webb sisters,  and Anjani Thomas to name a few. Cohen preferred subtle musical instrumentation to accompany his works, and many of his songs feature him playing his beloved synthesiser, and his Spanish guitar. He had a ‘good ear’ for the sound he wanted; simple, so that his voice, poetry/lyrics were enhanced, not drowned out.

When Cohen began recording an album with Phil Spector, it developed into a worst nightmare for him.  Simmons recorded a dialogue she had with Cohen:

There were lots of guns in the studio [during the recording of the album ‘Death of a Ladies’ Man 1977] and lots of liquor [and drugs]. It was a somewhat dangerous atmosphere…he liked guns. I liked guns too, but I generally don’t carry one. There was no firing but it’s hard to ignore a .45 lying on the console. The more people in the room the more wilder Phil would get. I couldn’t help but admire the extravagance of his performance. But my personal life [before he entered the monastery] was chaotic, I wasn’t in good shape at the time mentally, and I couldn’t really hold my own in there [the recording studio].

Almost without exception, people who came into contact with Cohen describe him as being very kind, a gentleman and very generous; a seductive man. His friends and family told his biographer that Cohen was constantly writing and sketching. Many of his books and album sleeves are enhanced with his sketches and paintings. Cohen was always beautifully dressed, and he loved wearing suits, with his shoes always highly polished. Cohen’s extended family were tailors and owned up-market clothing stores, and he worked in one or two stores for a short time, but he really hated being involved in the family business. He once said to his biographer, Simmons, “Darling, I was born in a suit”.  But Cohen was too trusting of others. He signed one his most famous songs, Suzanne  over to a record label, believing he was just signing a ‘normal’ recording contract and later in his career, his then manager stole all of his money (approx.7.5 million) while he was living in the Buddhist monastery after he had given her power of attorney over his affairs. He then had to go on tour, which he never enjoyed in the past, to earn money for his retirement years. He was at that stage, aged in his early seventies. The tour, with handpicked musicians and background singers he felt comfortable with, lasted over three years. He and his band played to packed global audiences and he made much more money than had been stolen from him. At that time he had a personal friend, Robert Kory, as his very competent tour manager, who understood Cohen’s shyness and his need for solitude. Only those who had to be backstage were allowed there, no interviews were arranged, and there were  plenty of breaks for Cohen to recharge his batteries somewhere in solitude.

A deeply spiritual man who was proud of his Jewish heritage, Cohen spent about five years  as a monk (he was ordained) in a Buddhist Monastery, and he felt that Buddhism and Judaism complimented each other. Cohen lost his lifelong depression after his sojourn in the  monastery, belatedly in his sixties. For years Cohen had used a variety of drugs like  maxiton/speed, LSD, Mandrax, acid, amphetamines to lift him out of his dark depression, and many of his poems/songs reflect his angst and those dark periods. Then there were his experiences in the famous Chelsea Hotel in New York City, his home away from home in the early years, and which could fill a book on their own. Simmons also explores this time with Cohen throughout the book.

Cohen’s father died when he was nine years old, and he didn’t believe that his father’s death had a profound effect on him, because he was often ill in hospital or away somewhere else. But after having read this book, I believe his father’s death did have a profound effect on his life, even though he had very strong male role models within his family and the Montreal Jewish community. He was very close to his mother, and was also surrounded by loving women, in his private life and later in his musical life.

Cohen liked to live in simple cottage-like homes, and he spent his last years living in Los Angeles in a small sparsely furnished duplex where he lived upstairs while his daughter, Lorca lived downstairs. He also owned a very small cottage on the Greek island, Hydra which he bought in his thirties with money left to him by a relative, and in which he wrote many of his works and spent many happy days with Marianne, his lifelong muse and one time lover.

Always nervous on stage, Cohen preferred to be supported by musicians he knew well and who understood his type of simple music; music that didn’t drown out the lyrical poetry of his songs. He won numerous global and Canadian awards during his lifetime, for literature, poetry and music albums. He didn’t always believe he deserved them. He has written 12 books of poetry and prose.

Something Leonard Cohen said stayed with me while I read his biography. He said he didn’t rebel when he was growing up because essentially he had a privileged life brought up as he was in a wealthy and close Jewish neighbourhood in Canada, and that he had nothing to rebel against. But maybe he was too much the dutiful son, and maybe if he had rebelled, he wouldn’t have spent most of his life taking all manner of drugs to get him through life, the desperate need to spend so much of his time alone, and his fearfulness of making any kind of commitment to another person.  He was too polite, too shy, too forgiving and far too hard on himself. But then we wouldn’t have his legacy of poetry and songs, would we?

-Anne Frandi-Coory 1 December 2016

 

The Atheist Manifesto

by Michel Onfray

Born to a family of Norman farmers, Michel Onfray was abandoned by his parents to a Catholic institution from age 10 to 14. Overcoming these early hardships, Onfray graduated with a PhD in philosophy. He has written over 80 books and teaches philosophy at a French university.

Michel Onfray portrait

Michel Onfray

A friend gave me The Atheist Manifesto not long after he had finished reading Whatever Happened To  Ishtar? which I had written in 2010, a book spawned of seventeen years of an indoctrinated childhood spent in various Catholic institutions.  ‘I know you will enjoy this book’, he told me, ‘but it’s a little too intellectual for me.’  He was right; I have since read it twice.

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Michel Onfray

Was Monotheism born of the sand? Two paragraphs in  Manifesto’s  preface attempt to partly answer this question:

Desert Memory: After a few hours on the trail in the Mauritanian desert, I saw an old herdsman traveling with his family. His young wife and his mother-in-law rode camels; his sons and daughters were on donkeys. The group carried with them everything essential to survival-and therefore to life. The sight of them gave me the impression that I had encountered a contemporary of Muhammad. Burning white sky, scattered, scorched trees, uprooted thorn bushes blown by the desert wind across unending vistas of orange sand…the spectacle evoked the geographical and psychological background of the Koran, in the turbulent period of camel caravans, nomad encampments, and clashing desert tribes.

I thought of the lands of Israel, Judaea, and Samaria, of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, of Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee. Places where the sun bakes men’s heads, desiccates their bodies, afflicts their souls with thirst. Places that generate a yearning for oases where water flows cool, clear and free, where the air is balmy and fragrant, where the food and drink are abundant. The afterlife suddenly struck me as a counter world invented by men exhausted and parched by their ceaseless wanderings across the dunes or up and down rocky trails baked to white heat. Monotheism was born of the sand.

Michel Onfray analyses the fanatical belief in the afterlife by followers of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The lives of these early followers of one God  were, every single day, a struggle for survival in a harsh and unforgiving climate, where death inflicted different kinds of terror in the living. Was the promise of an afterlife meant to alleviate that terror? For instance the Koran’s fantastic description of paradise: rivers of milk and wine, beautiful virgins, beds of luxurious cloth, celestial music and magnificent gardens? Why wouldn’t a man want to die and leave this endless struggle?

What better way to avoid looking at reality and inevitable death in the face, than to construct fantastical tales that the three religions are built on. And I love this from Onfray, so relevant to our 21st Century concerns over human-made Climate Change: The invention of an afterlife would not matter so much were it not purchased at so high a price: disregard of the real, hence wilful neglect of the only world there is. While religion is often at variance with immanence, with man’s inherent nature, atheism is in harmony with the earth – life’s other name.  For those of us who have given up on believing in the existence of God, saving planet earth is our passion, science our saviour.

The author tells us about the first tentative atheists, who weren’t really fully fledged atheists for one reason or another, which he outlines with some humour and sarcasm. And then along came Nietzsche! Onfray uses the sub-heading Philosophical Earthquake to describe this period  which is a perfect description of the upheaval this one man caused. But so much made sense to intelligent, thinking people!

Onfray goes on to ‘teach’ the case for atheism. He writes: Talmud and Torah, Bible and New Testament, Koran and the Hadith offer insufficient grounds for the philosopher to choose between Jewish, Christian or Muslim misogyny. Or to opt against pork and alcohol but in favour of the veil or the burka, to attend the synagogue, the temple, the church, or the mosque, all places where intelligence is ailing and where, for centuries, the faithful have practiced obedience to dogma and submission to the Law-and therefore obedience and submission to those who claim to be the elect, the envoys and the word of God. He suggests that instead of teaching monotheistic religions in schools we should be teaching atheism. He prefers the teachings of The Genealogy of Morals (1887) rather than the epistles to the Corinthians.  I happen to agree with him. Along with world conservation, less exploitation of this wonderful planet we live on!

In the chapter Towards an Atheology: Thirty centuries from the earliest texts of the Old Testament to the present day, teach us that the assertion of one God, violent , jealous, quarrelsome, intolerant and bellicose, has generated more hate, bloodshed, deaths, and brutality than it has peace…[for example] There is the Jewish fantasy of a chosen people, which vindicates colonialism, expropriation, hatred, animosity between peoples, and finally an authoritarian and armed theocracy.

The author pleads for the world to have an end to the linkage of the world’s woes to atheism:  God’s existence it seems to me, has historically generated in his name more battles, massacres, conflicts and wars than peace, serenity, brotherly love, forgiveness of sins, and tolerance. To my knowledge, no popes, princes, kings, caliphs, or emirs have excelled in the practice of virtue, so outstandingly did Moses, Paul, and Muhammad excel in murder, torture, and orgies of plunder-I call the biographies to witness. So many variations on the theme of loving one’s neighbour.

Onfray suggests that the times we live in are no longer atheist. We instead are in the midst of the era of  nihilism, which stems from the ‘turbulence of the transit zone between still very present Judeo-Christianity and timidly blooming post-Christianity…Jews, Christians and Muslims, construct for themselves, a made-to-measure morality. This implies selective borrowings (tailored to fit their needs) from their holy books in order to establish rules of play and participation by the community.’

Christians, particularly Catholics, know all too well, religious concepts of ‘purity’, and how it relates to sex, and we can mostly thank Paul of Tarsus/St Paul for that! The dichotomy of the female, whore/virgin, is still constantly preached as Canon Law by an ancient and all-male Vatican. The author delves into this topic with relish, and coming from a background of a childhood in Catholic institutions, I could relate to these chapters intimately.

Onfray explains that  Muslims share many of their fixations on purity with Jews; all food must be ritually prepared. Why the absolute prohibition of the consumption of pork, but not camel meat? Even on that matter, there is much disagreement. Some suggest the pig was emblematic of certain unpleasant memories of Roman legions, others believe it was the pig’s omnivorous diet, its consummation of public refuse. I have also read of another theory: the squeals of the pig as it was led to slaughter, was too reminiscent of the darkest days of sacrificial slaughtering of children in attempts to appease more ancient gods. The rituals connected to the cleansing of the body are rational, especially for life in the desert. The author explains in detail the similar ritualistic rules for respect of one’s body and bodily hygiene.

I found the chapter entitled Bonfires of the Intelligence; producing the holy books, particularly interesting. Onfray: The three monotheisms are seen as the religions of the book-but their three books are far from mutually supportive… Naturally they all preach brotherly love. Thus from the very start it seems to appear beyond reproach to our brethren of the Abrahamic religions. None of these books is a work of revelation. Who would have done the revealing? Their pages no more descend from heaven than those of Persian fables or Icelandic sagas.

The Torah is not as old as tradition claims; Moses is improbable. Yahweh dictated nothing-and in any case, Moses could not have written what Yahweh said unless he wrote in hieroglyphics, since the Hebrew script did not exist in the time of Moses. None of the evangelists personally knew Jesus. The testamental canon arose from later political decisions, particularly those reached when Eusebius of Caesarea, mandated by the emperor Constantine, assembled a corpus stitched together from twenty-seven versions of the New Testament in the first half of the fourth century. The apocryphal writings are more numerous than those that constitute the New Testament proper.

Muhammad did not write the Koran. Indeed, that book did not exist until twenty-five years after his death. The second source for Muslim authority, the Hadith, saw the light of day in the ninth century, two centuries after the Prophet’s death. Hence we must infer the very active presence of men in the shadows of these three Gods.

Science does not sit well within the three monotheistic religions, and the author discusses this at length and in detail. If they do embrace science, it is usually to enhance their dogma and this instrumentalisation of science  ‘subjects reason to domestic and theocratic uses’. For example, one Hadith indeed celebrates the quest for scientific knowledge as far afield as China, but always in the logic of its instrumentalisation via religion, never for the human ideal of social progress. The Catholic religion impeded the forward march of Western civilisation, inflicting on it, incalculable damage.

Then there is the female problem that the religions of the book have in common. Only mothers and wives are venerated. Judeo-Christianity promotes the idea that Eve was an afterthought, made from Adam’s rib; ‘an inferior cut off the prime beef, a humble spare rib‘.  She appears in the Koran as Adam’s wife but the fact that she is never named is revealing, because, as Onfray says, ‘the unnamed is unnameable.’

The ridiculous tenets of these three religions engender the worst kind of hypocrisy because we are all too human. The possibility of sex divorced from conception, and thus of sex alone, of pure sexuality-that is absolute evil. For the monotheist there can be no more hideous oxymoron than a barren, sterile woman! In the name of this same principle the three monotheisms condemn homosexuals to death…For his part, Paul of Tarsus saw in the solitary male the perils of lust, adultery and free sexuality. Hence given the impossibility of chastity, his endorsement of marriage –the least objectionable justification for the libido.

Onfray discusses at length the barbaric mutilation of female and male genitalia, practiced by monotheistic religions and their literature abounds in references to the extinction of libido and the destruction of desire. Onfray refers to them as ‘variations on the theme of castration’. From what I’ve read and seen on world news every day, none of these religions is achieving the total sexual control over their adherents that they initially set out to achieve. Catholic paedophile priests, Muslim child marriages, polygamy, Jewish paedophilia, to name a few.

All three religions have burnt books, whole libraries, whole towns, citizens, mosques, temples, churches, synagogues, slaughtered millions, and all for what or who? What God? There is no archaeological proof Jesus existed. The author covers this period in Christianity’s history in depth, with all of its subterfuges.

In the chapter headed Selective Exploitation of the Texts, Onfray writes:

Everyone knows of monotheism’s three books, but very few know their dates of origin, their authors, or the ups and downs attendant on establishing the three texts-the absolutely final, immutable texts. For the Torah, Old Testament, New Testament, and Koran took an unthinkably long time to emerge from history and claim that their texts issued from God alone, that they had no need to explain themselves to those who entered their prayer temples armed only with faith, unburdened of reason and intelligence. Considering Muhammad was illiterate it is ridiculous to believe that he wrote the Koran as God dictated it. And let’s be clear, there were several Korans from different periods which were merged into one, hundreds of years after Muhammad’s death!

We do not possess an official date of birth for the worship of one God…Jean Soler insists on the neighbourhood of the fourth and third century BCE-in other words very late…but the family line is very clear: the Jews invented it to ensure the coherence, cohesion and existence of their small, threatened people. The mythology they fashioned engendered belief in a warrior God, a fighter, blood thirsty, aggressive, a war leader highly effective at mobilising a people without a land. The myth of a chosen people thereafter blessed with a destiny.

Of that labour of invention, several thousand pages of canonical text survive-very few considering their worldwide influence over the course of more than twenty centuries. The Old Testament boasts a total of 3,500 pages, the New Testament 900 pages, the Koran 750, that is, little more than 5000 pages in which everything and its opposite is said once and for all. In each of these three founding texts, contradictions abound and Onfray gives us many examples of these.

Love of one’s neighbour as espoused by all three religions, was non-existent, and still does not exist in the 21st century! The Pauline texts, so useful in justifying submission to de facto authority, triggered results that went far beyond the legitimisation of wars and persecution. In the field of slavery, for example, which Christianity did no more than the other two monotheisms to deter. Indeed, in later centuries the small-scale slavery resulting from tribal raids evolved into the slave trade pure and simple, the sale and deportation of whole populations for use as chattels and beasts of burden.’

More than twenty centuries later has anything changed? Onfray:  ‘The commandments do not advocate any particular respect for one’s neighbour if he looks different, if he is not branded in the flesh by the rabbi’s knife. The non-Jew did not enjoy the same rights as members of the covenant. So that outside the confines of the book, the Other may be called on to account for himself, to be treated like an object, a thing: the goy by the Jew, the polytheist or animist by the Christian, the Christian by the Muslim, and the atheist, needless to say, by everyone.’ [My emphasis]

Onfray likens the three monotheisms to death cults. He asks ‘How can we escape the domination of [the death instinct] after so effectively killing off the life urge both within and outside of ourselves?’ Are we so terrified by the horror and void of death, that we believe in the ‘consoling fables and fictions that incite us to deny the use of our full powers?’ He posits that this ‘false world’ forces us to live in the here and now ‘buttressed by the hopes of a tinsel afterlife.’ Finally, he suggests that we are in the flux of a ‘post-Christian’ era, but that we must beware ‘religious secularism’ in which ‘the essential remains Judeo-Christian.’  He believes that the 21st Century has opened on a merciless war. On one side is a Judeo-Christian West, on the other side, a Muslim world. Monotheist religions are waging this war, and Onfray asks: Must we choose a side? There is much more to read in these chapters, but I will leave you to buy the book.

In the final chapter of MANIFESTO Onfray sums up where we are at in the fight for a genuine post-Christian secularism:

At this hour when the final battle –already lost-looms for the defence of the Enlightenment’s values against magical propositions, we must fight for a post-Christian secularism, that is to say, atheistic, militant and radically opposed to choosing between Western Judeo-Christianity and its Islamic adversary-neither Bible nor Koran. I persist in preferring philosophers to priests, imams, ayatollahs and mullahs. Rather than trust their theological hocus-pocus, I prefer to draw on alternatives to the dominant philosophical historiography: the laughers, materialists, radicals, cynics, hedonists, atheists, sensualists, voluptuaries. They know that there is only one world, and that promotion of an afterlife deprives us of the enjoyment and benefit of the only one there is. A genuinely mortal sin.

 

-Anne Frandi-Coory  18 August 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Book burning destroys more than books

Please let’s stop this burning of books now, regardless of who is doing it.  It is not just about paper and papyrus; it can begin a chain of unstoppable events including ethnic cleansing.

There is a long history of  Catholics  and Muslims burning books and indeed whole libraries have been destroyed in the past usually after invasions and by fanatics of opposing religions.  We have lost so much of our seminal cultural heritage and irreplaceable literature.  For instance,  the Library of Baghdad with its famous archives of translations  from Persian classics and Aristotle into Arabic.   The Library of Baghdad held so much of humanity’s early intellectual property such as Islamic science, mathematics, geography, medicine and chemistry, drawing on Pythagoras, Plato,  Hippocrates etc.  How much we  have all lost by acts of violence and sheer stupidity.

The Catholics burned ancient Maya Codices.  The Vatican held  (and still holds)  ‘Lists’ of books that they decided  the populace should not read,  and in the past have burned in bonfires (see… Islam, Christianity & The Vatican Library). In China,  Classics of Poetry and  History were burned by opposing dynasties.  The Nazis loved to burn books while destroying universities and libraries.   Sarajevo  was famous for its traditional religious diversity, with adherents of Catholicism, Judaism, Orthodoxy and Islam,  coexisting there for centuries.Due to this long and rich history of religious diversity and coexistence Sarajevo has often been called the “Jerusalem of Europe”.  However, during the Balkans war in the early 1990s,  the National Library of Sarajevo was destroyed.  What followed all of the above destruction is well documented; perhaps we need to remind ourselves of the old saying that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

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See More… Koran or Bible? Pastor Terry Jones

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What was left of the National Sarajevo Library after being targeted by the Serbs

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