Tom Stayer has gained a great deal of attention by spending 20 million dollars promoting the case for impeaching Donald Trump. It is not uncommon for the one percent class to spend big on passions they embrace. In 2016, donations from the top 50 wealthiest Americans totaled $50.7 billion. Alas, I am a few billion short of being in position to fund a campaign of any kind, but if this book review results in a windfall of epic proportions, I’ll devote a good percentage of my well-gotten gains sponsoring the distribution of “The Illusion of Certainty” to the nation’s fundamentalist Christians. It would do a world of good for America to rescue these otherwise decent people from their grotesque superstitions and, quite frankly, religion-inspired insanity.
One reviewer termed “The Illusion of Certainty” ((henceforth “The Illusion”) a “wicked book,” albeit “engagingly” so. I beg to differ with the wicked part. I believe biblical literalists and other fundamentalists married to the flaming nonsense of so many improbabilities (e.g., a young earth, a literal take on holy fairy tales, creationism and assorted mind-boggling absurdities like miracles, original sin, eternal torture, transubstantiation, saints, angels, devils, etc.) might have second thoughts about their faith, IF a way could be discovered to get “The Illusion” on their reading lists.
Shades of the Wizard of Oz
In Frank Baum’s classic tale, Dorothy scolded the Wizard of Oz with these words: “You are a very, very bad man.” These words came to mind when I encountered the reviewer’s reference to “The Illusion” as a wicked book. If the Wizard read the book and came upon such a review, I think he would defend it thusly: “No my dear. It’s a very good book. Christian fundamentalism is just a very bad religion.”
“The Illusion” is organized in five parts, divided into 40 short chapters over the course of 381 pages. This enables the reader to progress rapidly, with astonishment and bemused wonder at the gullibility of a large segment of our fellow men and women duped beyond belief by religion. Highlight chapters deal with the origins of religions in general and fundamentalist Christianity in particular, the delusion of creationism, how scriptures are mundane, flawed and unreliable, as well as arguments for an against gods and even a bit of prophesy on the bright side – that “this illusion has no future.” Much as I’d like to believe it, this was the only section of the book I found unconvincing. But, James Houk won’t be the first expert on Christianity to optimistically forecast its doom. Even Robert Green Ingersoll got that wrong.
Faith is the heart and soul, the foundation of all religions. It is built on hope alone – it requires and invites no proof, no evidence of any kind, no data, logic or reason. It is immune to objections based upon common sense. The author states that “faith is essentially unabashed optimism in the absence of evidential substantiation.”
A Little Perspective
There over 10,500 religions in the world today; probably an equal number of religions have come and gone over the 200,000-year span modern humans have been on the planet. Nobody has any idea how many religions might have been around for the approximate six million years that our non-modern ancestors moved among the trees and roamed about the plains. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if there had been more than a few ancient religions that made a lot more sense than contemporary Christianity, as interpreted by the fundies.
With so many choices, why do you suppose Americans are overwhelming (80%) Christian? They are largely Christian for the same reason 99% of those born in Turkey are Muslims, 81% of those born in Thailand are Buddhists – it’s what Houk calls “the Law of Geography.” It should not surprise anyone. Religion is an educational, cultural virus transmitted daily for nearly two decades. It’s a wonderment anyone ever breaks free, and an even greater wonderment that at least 25 percent of adults today claim to be free of religion, or “nones.”
Faith is a mental toxin that cripples logic, reason, science, data and common sense. And, it is the heart and “soul” (whatever that is), the foundation and the bastille that enables religion.
If you plan to get yourself born again, show up in Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, the Czech Republic, France, Australia or Iceland – among the least religious countries in the world and all doing relatively well in terms of democratic governments and high quality of life. Or, stay with the U.S., if that’s what you want to repeat. Just choose wisely – find parents supportive of reason, science, evidence, free thought and, for extra protection, members of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and/or the American Humanist Association. The chances you’ll be subjected to indoctrination in Christian or other forms of religious fundamentalist if you do that are as close to nil as you can get.
Five stars for “The Illusion of Certainty” by Frank Houk.