A clinical assessment of the human origins of organized religion.
Khan’s nonfiction debut tackles the fundamentally mundane origins of the broad concept of invisible deities. He looks at sacred texts of the major modern monotheisms—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—and sets them in the broader historical context of the polytheism from which they sprang, leading to various structural and thematic similarities. The goal is to bring these and all faiths in the supernatural down to Earth, linking them with the power-related needs of human rulers and societies. “Mighty empires,” he writes, “propagated the myth of religion and mediator god-kings to keep a heavy-handed grip on innocent people.” In interpretive and rhetorical moves that will be familiar to readers of so-called New Atheist texts—e.g., Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and Sam Harris’ The End of Faith—Khan systematically picks apart the absurdities of major religions. “If God insists on proving His existence through angels,” he asks, “why not send angels that can be seen and heard on the witness stand?” Or: “What if an atheist hits the jackpot without any supplication to God?...Do we call it God’s mercy? No, we call it luck.” He looks at a wide spectrum of later, interpretive stories from the likes of Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, and various commentaries on the Quran. Khan’s tone throughout is calm and approachable, but his larger purpose is serious: while illuminating the arbitrary and man-made nature of organized religion, he simultaneously underscores the tremendous and often harmful power those organized religions still wield in the world, altering national policy and sometimes severely affecting daily lives (he points out, for example, that the constitutions of seven U.S. states forbid government office to atheists). Atheists will appreciate this unified, readable treatise on the choice to renounce religion, while religious readers with questions about the validity of their faiths will also find a great deal of thought-provoking material.
A bracing, comprehensive deconstruction.