The Origins of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (ePub)
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There has never been a more important time for a study of the social, economic and political origins of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, three important world religions which share a common root. This book takes as its starting point the idea that gods, angels, miracles and other supernatural phenomena do not exist in the real world and therefore cannot explain the origins of these faiths. It looks instead at the material conditions at appropriate periods in antiquity and the social and economic forces at work, and it examines the historicity of key figures like Moses, Jesus and Mohammed.
This is a unique book which draws on the research, knowledge and expertise of hundreds of historians, archaeologists and scholars, to create a synthesis that is completely coherent and at the same time is based on real-world social conditions. It is a book by a non-believer for other non-believers, and it will be a revelatory read, even to those already of an atheist, agnostic or secularist persuasion.
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Jack Messer
The Origins of Judaism, Christianity and Islam by John Pickard is an excellent materialist history of the beginnings of these three major religions. I don't know whether this is an update and/or reprint of his Behind the Myths, I have not read that book, but this volume certainly draws much clearer lines around myth, fact, logical deduction from fact, and just plain religion-as-rationalization-for-bias.
Pickard states rather plainly that those who are devout followers of these religions and not open to considering other viewpoints may as well not read this. And he is correct, though if you fall into that ever growing group who say they believe but also wonder how much of what they believe is based on fact or "truth" I would suggest reading this anyway, you may change your viewpoint or you may find ways that no one has yet found to actually refute the arguments included. I am specifically talking about the arguments, not nit-picking minor word choices or even minor misunderstandings that don't affect the argument itself, those represent misdirecting rather than refuting.
I think what a reader should keep in mind is that a lot of history has been written from within the broad bubble of these religions, even when written by those who don't believe. These myths have become the default foundation for many historical threads which, if incorrect (as this book convincingly argues), makes the history that follows less than fully accurate.
Recent scholarship is cited here as well as a few of the controversies within various disciplines. These controversies are not dominant in the book simply because this is a history book, not a survey of recent scholarship. Surveys simply present while history tries to present a narrative. It is this need to present a narrative that has allowed the myths of these religions to permeate so much of society.
I would highly recommend this to those readers who are atheist but might be so for the simple reason that the stories in the holy books, while interesting and often containing valuable life lessons, make no rational sense whatsoever rather than an historical refutation of the books as fact.
I would perhaps less enthusiastically recommend this to believers who are questioning. If you are interested in adding more information to your decision-making, this will offer a lot to consider.