Religion has brought the world to the brink of meltdown.
That Old Devil Called God Again shows how defenceless we are from the invading power of religious indoctrination, to which Jesus fell victim. From childhood, like unprotected computers, the predatory viruses of other people’s beliefs and dogmas invade us until we emerge as adults unaware of how we have been infected.
The Rwandan genocide, Omagh, 9/11, suicide bombings, Westgate and the Syrian carnage join the indictments against 'God'. Religion stands charged with contaminating our cultural development and impeding our moral aspirations. This book gives us a chance to carry out a thorough virus scan, to discover who we really are, be given the chance to think anew and choose our beliefs. The toxic nature of religious teaching is exposed and our basic assumptions and ideas are challenged with fresh and radical thinking that empowers and liberates us to become more fully human.
While laying siege to religion, this book yet presents a passionate and positive call for a full and creative engagement with life and a vibrant spirituality.
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
That Old Devil Called God Again: The Scourge of Religion. Archbishop Jonathan serves up some common sense about the self-serving excesses and hypocracy of some Men-of-God who perport to bring us God's message. I did however, read his really interesting book with the knowledge that his opinion about the use of prayer is exectly the same as mine. This volume will be read by a few others who do not share our opinion. Be careful of them unless they have an open mind. This book will share space with his other book, "For God's Sake Don't Go To Church". Here is some honesty about the corrupt established church, the corrupt free churches and the corrupt church of Rome. This is a book that should be read by all real rebels of the so called Christian message. That message is nothing of the sort. Here is the message of Jesus; the radical revolutionary of the Jewish religious excesses, This is the true message of Jesus Christ. It should be compulsary reading for all Bishops,Priests, and Deacons, by all Pastors, Preachers and Missionaries. ~ AndyB, Amazon
This will raise more than a few hackles, its a searing attack on exoteric Christianity, exposing our vulnerability to religious indoctrination, and it deserves a wide readership in order that we are able to explore our own beliefs more fully.
Jonathan Blake is offering us a 'virus scan' to establish the true essence of our spirituality.
~ The Inner Light, Vol 35 No 1
It took me a llloooonnggg time to read this book. Occasionally a book comes along that is so powerful you cannot put it down, and then, once in a blue moon, one is published that has a text that blows your mind, and you are forced to walk away, only to be drawn back and not only continue to read, but RE-read what you think you previously saw.
I have never in my whole Christian life (56yrs to date) read anything so challenging.
Every single 'religious' thinking person needs to read, and digest this book.
One may not agree with everything written, Bishop Jonathan himself promotes everybody to think for themselves, BUT, this book tackles centuries of indoctrination and, like a sword, thrusts to the heart of faith. It re-emerges dripping with LOVE.
May Umm bless you Jonathan Blake ~ Revd Tim Hodge, Amazon
Bishop Jonathan is as controversial as ever in his newest publication. There are some challenging, thought provoking ideas that lead the reader to question and re think some of the traditional teachings of the church. There is plenty of tough talk, and bold statements on world issues, the bible, Jesus, Church, and of course God. At times it may seem that there is no room for God In today's secular society, or that there is any hope for faith in a dying man made institution that is the Church, yet Bishop Jonathan shows that there is hope for the world, not from a supernatural being that is a God made up to reflect and justify the actions of men, in the image of men, instead hope comes from Love. This is a powerful read, not for the faint hearted, but for people who want to push the boundaries of institutionalised religion, and break free, and explore a relationship with the world, and each other. ~ Bishop Lesley Dennis, Amazon
I loved this book as it gave me a lot of insight into how the religious groups like to control the individual and this is something that needs to change. One of my best quotes from the book which summarises how I feel is:
"It is only when we stop believing in God and stop thinking about God and stop praying to God and stop worshiping God and stop having anything to do with God or giving any thought to God that we can be true" ~ Nigel Dawson, Amazon
This book is not a presentation of orthodox Christian beliefs, nor does it claim to be. Archbishop Jonathan Blake warns that we should perhaps stop reading if we are nervous of being challenged and changed. He draws the distinction between feeling and intellect, leading him to reject the Biblical God and supernatural events. Liberated he is then able to construct an understanding based on enlightenment, reason and science.
However, in classic Archbishop Jonathan Blake style he shows the same scepticism for his liberal theology as he does the more conservative position he has rejected. Being perhaps a little mischievous he suggests that we should be in “awe and worship” of the modern day miracle of lunar landings, without reference to the fact many consider them to be a hoax.
This book is characteristic of a cleric who does not tell us what to believe, but instead, like the apostle Paul, he invites us to work out our own salvation in fear and trembling. ~ Revd Mike Sheridan, Amazon
It is difficult to decide for whom this interesting book was written. It is a fiery and much needed polemic against bible-based and institutionalised Christianity, but people in both those categories are usually so intransigently fixed in their beliefs that they will not change. Other interested readers will know all the arguments and facts presented here since they have been widely discussed over the past two centuries, and yet others - the majority – have no interest in these matters at all and so will not pick this book up despite its intriguing title.
The book is well written and drives the reader on throughout, with many interesting examples laid out. The last quarter of the book is about Archbishop Jonathan’s dealings with the dying Jade Goody, and his pleasing idiosyncratic ‘liturgies’ for various life stages, but does not really relate to the book’s main message.
Regrettably there is no offer of an alternative to the standardised Christian views he is attempting to demolish. Perhaps an alternative spirituality will come to light in a future book. ~ Bishop Roger Whatley
WARNING ! ! ! If you're religious beliefs are built on a House of Cards, then I strongly suggest that you find yourself a lighter read because you are not ready for this book. However, if you ARE ready to challenge your paradigm, strap yourself in and prepare to find out what your beliefs are made of. ~ Andy Cross, Amazon
Stephen Tyrwhitt writes:
Obviously you have "nailed" this text with characteristic verve and passion.
Part I serves to jolt people out of their easy composure and deliberate and chosen ignorance. They may not like it, but it sets them up for thinking and denies them easy or conventional answers to the problems raised. Well done!
Part II requires one to cross the line that divides those who hold firm to the belief in the scriptures as revealed truth, The Bible, in this case, is "the infallible and inerrant Word of God and wholly every jot and tittle the Word of God and it is God himself speaking directly from the pages of scripture whether preached or read" from those who, whilst valuing it as a profoundly influential book, indeed, in the King James translation, at the very heart of language and literature in English, believe it to be open to question and criticism. Of course, other religions such as Islam and Judaism, have their fundamentalists as well and worse! Obviously it is impossible to sit upon the fence that marks this dividing line. So I would have to ask you to whom are you speaking. The fundamentalists can't and won't budge. Those on the other side of the divide have already conceded the principle that the scriptures are man-made whether from historical or imaginary or mythical sources and, therefore, open to question and interpretation. And that's before we get to a discussion about the Apocrypha or the ins and significant outs of the Biblical canon! By extension, as you demonstrate, these questions attend the custom and practice and the rituals and laws of Christianity, just as they do in the orthodoxies of Judaism and Islam.
Part III raises important questions about leadership and authority and, by implication, dependency and I would certainly agree with you that the mature adult should be capable of independence of thought and judgement with regards to matters ethical and political. It reminded me as well how the drama of religion becomes lop-sided when Satan leaves the stage and there is no champion for Evil, since when we look around ourselves every week since the beginning of time, we find no shortage of illustration of this aspect of the human condition.
Part IV arrives at a position of having successfully rebelled against the tyranny of God and playfully, perhaps even fancifully, suggested ways of unlocking the mind so that the individual can assert the freedom of thought essential to originality of being and acting in good conscience. But there are still lingering traces of the old ways, whether of belief in a heaven and an afterlife, perhaps too tentative a willingness to radically reform the administration of the church and its hierarchies, a slowness in recognising the achievement of the Unitarians and the Humanists in inventing commemorations and celebrations of the rites of passage in our lives that meet our human need for a shared marking of these way stations, without the intrusion of hypocrisy and false notes. It seems to me it might be a good idea to reach across to others who are already "there", having found their own way, since it must be better surely to build upon the common ground rather than to insist upon our new-found difference and dangerous exclusivity.
Part VI and VII gave me a real pleasure to read because I could hear your voice coming through optimistic and honest. I admired your creative invention in giving people suggestions and ideas without for one moment intending to stifle their creativity and certainly not imposing a form of words or symbols in the cast-iron straitjacket of the Book of Common Prayer.
~ Stephen Tyrwhitt
Revd Fr Christopher Morgan is a parish priest and has been a psychiatric Chaplain. He writes:
Just finished reading this- amazing, challenging, hard hitting (occasionally I wanted to scream), but I persevered, and have found it the most inspirational piece of work I have ever read. ~ Reverend Fr Christopher Morgan
Jonathan's first book, For God's Sake, Don't go to Church was written with a vision, this book draws on that vision in action. I received my copy via Kindle as it was released and have devoted today to reading it. Don't expect an easy ride- it challenges to our very core, and it would be easy in the early chapters to give up on it finding Jonathan's reflections to be TOO much to bear. However, all that is needed is an open mind and Jonathan concludes his damning thesis on religion with a challenge to experience re birth. Far from dismantling my own belief system, Jonathan has enriched it through this book. It is both one of the most controversial but also the most inspirational works of the 21st century, a timely and urgent message for all. It is a must read for all. ~ Natasha Morgan, Amazon
Professor Neal Robinson has been the professor of Islamic Studies in Wales, Belgium, South Korea, Australia, Kazakhstan and Russia.
The crude self-hating proselytising faith that you so rightly reject is alive and well and I often hear it pedalled by street preachers in city centres.
Evolutionary biologists disagree as to why religion exists. However, I am convinced by the arguments (well put by Wilson in Darwin’s Cathedral) for thinking that it produces group cohesion and thereby increases a society’s chances of survival. The problem is that it does this by demonising outsiders.
This is something that we must now work to overcome. It will be very difficult.
All religious traditions revere a supernatural being or ancestor who ‘knows’ people’s thoughts. Statements such as ‘to whom all hearts are open, all desires known…’ merely reinforce the child’s sense of being watched.
Most young adults feel the unconscious need to identify with a heroic figure, in order to cope with their own sense of mortality.
I think the best we can do is to combat exclusivism.
Of course the Bible is toxic in the hands of fundamentalists.
I have no time for clerics who disguise their muddled thoughts by appealing to mystery.
I share your concern to reach out to those who cannot identify with tradition.
~ Professor Neal Robinson
Revd Dr Allan Winthrop is Director of the Doctorate in Counselling Psychology and the Clinical Director of the Psychological Therapies Clinic at Teeside University. He writes:
This book is indeed going to be very controversial. I very much liked the honesty of the book but I found myself wondering how much honesty can the majority of people bear ?
T.S. Elliott said "Mankind can bear very little reality." How much true questioning of their own lives and beliefs can people tolerate? As a psychologist, I come across this all the time. People won't make the changes they need to because they don't want the consequences and personal responsibilities they would bring. They prefer instead to blame their parents, partner, job, finances, government, God etc and keep on "suffering". They often persecute others from a victim position " Look what you've done to me" etc.
I fear that the first two parts of the book ('Tough Talk) may be such a jolt to some that they don't go on to read the rest. This would be such an enormous shame as I think in the latter parts of the book it is clear that love and compassion are present in all the alternative suggestions given.
I think many people may not be able to "cope" with the all out assault on the bible, Immaculate Conception, resurrection, transubstantiation etc.
I think the author has been incredibly courageous to write a book that is so directly challenging of religious beliefs as being the source of so much pain and bloodshed in the world.
I think the book will produce strongly polarised reactions. Some will really love the book and it's freshness and honesty. Others will I feel, hate and despise it. It is quite likely that as a result of people not wanting to hear and acknowledge certain things, they will blame the author for pointing them out. I think it is likely that he will receive abuse and vitriol as a result of him writing what many people may think in private.
When I started reading this book I found myself unsure as to the author's motivation. I was unsure whether this was someone who was launching a virulent attack and had lost all faith or was someone so incensed and disgusted at the death and destruction being caused in the name of religion. Therefore in an effort to "wake people up" and call "enough is enough" he was being confrontational by stripping away things that people have accepted for years. I was worried that he may have ended up throwing the baby out with the bath water. However, I think for those who do stick with it to the other parts of the book, they will be able to see love and compassion underlying its stance.
In the author's previous book "For God's Sake Don't Go To Church" (which I believe is a brilliant book) the reader is left in no doubt as to his motivations and struggles throughout and gets to know him as a person. In this book I don't think people will get to know him till later in the book and many may have stopped reading before then.
There is no soft and gentle way to suggest the things he is saying and them still have a strong impact so I don't know how he could have said it differently.
I think for those people who have what I would call " blind faith" they will be unable to question and review their faith and they will continue to believe in an unexamined faith, "because they do and always have done". This is exactly one of the points the author makes about our culture, upbringing, indoctrination etc
I think the author uses some sound psychological and anthropological concepts to help explain his viewpoint. I think logically and rationally there is little with which anyone can argue.
However in the same way we allow the Church of England exemption from employment law, we give religion and faith informal exemption from the laws of science and the social sciences. So I'm unsure how convincing people will find the points made, valid, as I believe them to be. I don't know if they will allow themselves to take hold of their beliefs and test and examine them. Instead clinging to a special exemption from thinking logically and scientifically about matters of faith.
I didn't fully understand why Jade featured in the book. The only thing I could think of was that it was a marketing strategy. I understood some of the points being made but didn't see how the addition of your work with Jade added to the book. The preface calling the author Jade Goody's Bishop and special additional features and the competition to me felt a bit tacky and book sales orientated.
It may well be that the decision to include Jade will indeed lead to more readers who engage with the book, I'm not sure. You can be sure though, that given today's society, the transubstantiation and resurrection issues will be glossed over, but Jades candlesticks and the competition will be a point highlighted strongly by any critics of your book. A bit like "We don't want to talk about that difficult stuff ... now here are some celebrity candlesticks." I'm sure people will even ask for photos of them.
I really admire the courage and strength of the author's convictions. I think that there may be "trouble ahead" because of the book. However, I am sure that there will be many who also would want to share a view of ministry as being all inclusive love and engagement with the world.
~ Revd Dr Allan Winthrop
This book is a must for everyone, even those ambivalent about religion. The subject matter and the way that Archbishop Jonathan Blake writes is quite tough to take in the first half of the book, a lot of truths about the dark side of mankind. It then mellows, and becomes a covert guide for making the world a better place for everyone. It will stay on your mind a long time after you've finished it, and is no doubt a perfect, controversial choice for anyone in a book club. ~ Rachel Kern, Amazon
A Dubious Disciple Book Review 4 Sep 2014
By Dubious Disciple - Published on Amazon.com
For an author who writes that he "intends [his] book to be positive and enlightening," this book is disturbingly negative. Its raw, take-no-prisoners tone dares you to knock the chip off Jonathan Blake's shoulder.
Blake is the Archbishop who isn't. He escaped from the Anglican Church and says he holds on to the title of Archbishop "only to provide a platform to ridicule its pretentiousness and to lay siege to the power systems it has spawned."
So you aren't going to get any inspirational Christian instruction in this book. What you'll get is a tirade against the "plastic, manipulated and processed Jesus of Christianity." Blake is more interested in the real Jesus, a man who succumbed to the same sort of irrational religious thinking that has blighted civilization throughout the ages, but whose intentions were at least good.
Now, the Bible isn't all bad, Blake insists. It might be worthwhile to extract the few decent parts of the Bible and preserve them, alongside a few nourishing morsels from other religions as well, so as to write a new holy book. But I don't think Blake is holding his breath for this to happen.
In the mean time, religion has to go. It may seem innocent on the surface, but it isn't. Religion stunts our growth or, worse, herds us back into infantile rhythms. The teaching of religion should be replaced by anthropology, psychology and sociology. We must protect young minds from being hijacked by religious thinking.
God has to go, too. It is only when we stop believing in God and stop thinking about God and stop praying to God and stop worshipping God and stop having anything to do with God or giving any thought to God that we can be true.
Near the end of the book Blake finally works his way back around to Jesus, who, though his misguided plan of self-sacrifice turned out to be a colossal mistake, still promoted a way of love. Blake grasps and endorses love as the meaning of life, and insists that when we outgrow religion, love will come easier.
In the end, Blake may be more right than wrong, but his tone and lack of supporting references ("evidence suggests" and "studies show" a lot of things in this book) left me shrugging my shoulders.
~ Dubious Disciple, Amazon