When this book was first published, I couldn’t wait to read it. World religions and all the various creation myths fascinate me, which is surprising as I’m an atheist. (I grew up in a deeply religious home and traces of those old beliefs surface from time to time.) I had to read the book twice as I gobbled it up so quickly the first time and I have referred to it many times since. The first chapter is Rastafari and the book works it way around the continents and finishes with Christianity. There’s an index at the end which I always appreciate. Here is part of the introduction:
“However, writing this book did present me with one problem; particularly the ‘How they came about’ explanation for each belief. All religions, by definition, claim to have been divinely revealed by God; otherwise they wouldn’t be much of a religion. Depending on the religion in question, adherents can be horrified, and, yes, even offended by the suggestion that their belief was influenced by a pre-existing one.
Yet if you view religion from a solely historical point of view, this does seem to be the case. And not just for one or two.
Thus, for the purposes of this book I am, for the record, dealing with Religion, not Faith. Faith is belief in God and an after-life; religion is the all-too-human business of figuring out what God wants us to do, and organising the worship.
Not everyone will agree with this division, and it is far from perfect. But humans, unlike deities, are imperfect creatures.”
The author also says in the introduction that he does not want to cause offence to anyone and that he remains objective throughout. However, his cynicism, and amusement even, does show through now and again. I think the reader would be better served without this personal attitude. All the same, it’s a small enough fault in a very well researched and informative book.
Seán Moncrieff is an Irish journalist and has worked in many radio and television programmes. He has also published the book “Stark Raving Rulers”.