By Matthew Kneale
As our desires and nightmares have replaced over the millennia, so have our ideals. The gods we created have advanced and mutated with us via a story fraught with human sacrifice, political upheaval and bloody wars.
Belief was once man's such a lot epic hard work of invention. it's been our closest better half, and has mankind around the continents and during history.
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Extra info for An Atheist's History of Belief: Understanding Our Most Extraordinary Invention
When he arrived, Shaphan had quite a surprise. ’ And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. And Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king . . ’ And Shaphan read it before the king. And when the king heard the words of the book of the law, he rent his clothes. (2 Kings 22:8–11) The book did not merely contain Yahweh’s laws: they claimed to be Yahweh’s laws as told directly to Moses. And so the old Exodus story became merged with something quite new: the demand that Jews accept a single god and his laws.
We might wonder, was this inevitable? Why did people not opt, instead, for a happy afterlife for everyone, as was the case with the earlier, miserable afterlife? Why make gods supernatural snoops, endlessly judging humans’ moral behaviour? Why, for that matter, did the idea of a happy afterlife, which now seems so pivotal to religion, emerge only now and not much earlier? To answer such questions, it is useful to look at some other happy heavens, because paradise – like many other discoveries – was invented not once but many times, quite separately, in different parts of the world.
A fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it [was] diverse from all the beasts that [were] before it; and it had ten horns. (Daniel 7:7) The beast had an extra horn, which had eyes and spoke, and which represented King Antiochus IV himself. Thus, Daniel offered a series of symbolic puzzles to solve, which doubtless added to the text’s power to persuade. Once readers had successfully decoded it, and had gained a sense of satisfaction at their own cleverness, they would be far less likely to question the book’s predictions.
An Atheist's History of Belief: Understanding Our Most Extraordinary Invention by Matthew Kneale