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All in the Mind: A Farewell to God

All in the Mind: A Farewell to God - Ludovic Kennedy Sir Ludovic Kennedy was best known as a presenter of television programmes such as This Week, Panorama and Did You See? He also published a number of books dealing with causes célèbres - most famously Ten Rillington Place - the story of the murderer John Christie, and the wrongful hanging of simpleton Timothy Evans in his place, which was made into a film starring Richard Attenborough in 1971.In this book, written when he was eighty, Kennedy plucked up the courage to expostulate his 'belief' in atheism - or rather his non-belief in God. Explaining how, as a child, he was baffled by the inexplicable nonsense surrounding God and religion. However, unlike most people, who simply stop questioning and accept what they are told - presuming themselves to be inadequate, he stands by the evidence. Credibility rather than creed. There is no God, Theology is bunk. The emperor has no clothes.Admitting to being an atheist is a difficult thing to do. It is still a bit taboo. Even some scientists are still too superstitious to write off God altogether, or too wary of attack to do so publicly. Starting with examples of the brutality of the Old Testament - no longer relevant outside Judaism, (N.B. Troublesome teenagers today might be interested in the advice given to parents in Deuteronomy ch.21 v.18-21) Kennedy guides us through the history of mythologies from around the world concentrating on the history of the Christian faith he repudiates.His analysis of the veracity of the Gospels leads him to conclude that they are no more historically accurate than modern day docudramas. Hearsay, written with the benefit of hindsight and the desire to make the (greatest) story (ever told) fit Old Testament prophecies. He points to the ancient mistranslation which led to Mary being described as a virgin and how this is contradictory to the assertion that Jesus is descended from King David via his 'father' Joseph. Even in a world where the Church is in decline, and Humanism is making tentative progress, this is a brave tack to sail. There is no mention of (or comment from) Salman Rushdie in this book - and the hot potato of Islam is tactfully avoided most of the time. Although describing "Yahweh, Allah and the Christian God" as "the three greatest fictional charcters in history" will upset those who prefer irrational faith to logical investigation. Also, linking the Eucharist and Transubstantiation to ancient rites of sacrificial cannibalism will surely stick in the throats of Roman Catholics.He catalogues the slaughter of the Crusades warning the reader beforehand that "what follows may be found distressing". And that's before we get to the inquisition...details of which aren't pleasant either.The second half of the book charts the history of atheist thinkers from the rediscovery of the science of the ancient Greeks onwards, and the treatment they received from not-so-forgiving Christian authorities.For example, the hanging of Thomas Aikenhead, a 20-year-old Arts student at Edinburgh University, for ridiculing the holy scriptures in 1697; and the 1880's Liberal MP Charles Bradlaugh who was denied the right to affirm, rather than swearing an oath, and not allowed to take his seat in the House of Commons. Three times the electors of Northampton returned him, and eventually he opted to take the oath to end the farce.Famous atheists of their day include the poet Shelley, who was expelled from university for writing a pamphlet called "The Necessity of Atheism", and the Scottish philosopher David Hume who asked the $64,000 question: "if God was the cause and everything had to have a cause, what caused God?"A thorough, intelligent exposition of the facts, this makes surprisingly interesting reading. As a fellow infidel, I am proud of dear old Ludo for such a cogent rationalization of the subject.[This review is adapted from one I posted at ciao.co.uk in March 2001.]