An Atheist's History of Belief: Understanding Our Most by Matthew Kneale

By Matthew Kneale

What first triggered prehistoric guy, sheltering within the shadows of deep caves, to name upon the area of the spirits? And why has trust thrived because, shaping hundreds of thousands of generations of shamans, pharaohs, Aztec clergymen and Mayan rulers, Jews, Buddhists, Christians, Nazis, and Scientologists?

As our goals 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 used to be man's such a lot epic hard work of invention. it's been our closest significant other, and has mankind around the continents and during history.

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Sample text

The Seleucids were defeated. The book’s lasting influence was also helped by its language. Jewish prophets had long written using strange imagery and metaphors, but the Book of Daniel excelled in this field, employing a symbolism that, to this day, has a strangely hypnotic quality. Thus, the empires whose rise and fall Daniel foresaw were represented by beasts, of which the empire of the Seleucids was: . . 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.

Unfortunately this time the prediction proved too long: Antiochus died unexpectedly of sickness only a year later. Hence yet another chapter (9) was added, in which the Angel Gabriel helpfully introduced a complex means of recalculating the king’s death. This crude backtracking was easily spotted as forgery several centuries later by the pagan Roman critic Porphyry. Porphyry was unusual, however. Most of Daniel’s readers, first Jewish and later Christian, did not question the text. After all, it told contemporaries what they wanted to hear – that the Greeks and their culture would soon be defeated – while to later eyes the text had the aura of being mostly correct.

In 598 BC Judah was invaded by a Babylonian army under King Nebuchadnezzar. Judah’s ruler was deported to Babylonia together with several thousand members of his elite, where they doubtless encountered descendants of the Israelites deported over a century earlier. Eleven years later, in 587 BC, after further Jewish resistance, the Babylonians invaded Judah a second time, deported yet more people, and, for good measure, destroyed Jerusalem’s temple to Yahweh. As the kingdom of Israel had been struck, now was the kingdom of Judah, if on a less dramatic scale.

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