Learning about and analyzing the prophets can be fun. After all, the men in earlier times who started or helped spread a major religion have a lot in common. Superhuman traits that show up at or before birth, writing a book with divine origins, the performing of miracles that only the most gullible should believe. And so on.
Those of us who don’t believe in the divinity or divine specialness of any of the so-called prophets may nonetheless disagree about their sincerity. Clearly, author Richard F. Wright believes they were just plain liars.
Wright’s new book, The World’s Seven Biggest Liars, is aimed, he says, at “those who already know that organized religion ruins everything and for those who already know there are no deities.”
Wright’s homespun, sometimes jokey, writing style didn’t pull me in immediately during the lengthy introduction. And then something happened. I grew accustomed to his personality—shown through his word choices, occasional hyperbole, and fearlessness in calling irrational silliness what it is—grew on me.
I can recommend his book for precisely those—and only those—who already agree with him. One more voice for atheism squeaking, mumbling, crying in the wilderness, against all those billions who figure we’re the crazy ones. True believers may find themselves very much offended at Wright’s analysis, comparisons, and conclusions.
The book is ostensibly a letter to Wright’s wife to reassure her that the conclusions she reached intuitively about religion are indeed backed up by his own long-evolving views and research (including a wide range of secondary sources).
Wright chose the world’s religions that are followed by the most people, and proceeds to take apart the alleged activities of their originators, their prophets, their holy books. I scanned the book in one evening, and that made it easy to recognize the similarities among all the religions, from those that began thousands of years ago to a couple that began not long ago at all.
I learned that, among the comments made by the original Buddha, is that you can only reach enlightenment as a man. If a woman wants to get there, she has to be reincarnated as a man. Adi Shankara (AD 788-820), a prolific Hindu writer, whom believers consider an incarnation of Shiva, allegedly placed lotus flowers in the river for a disciple to walk upon to reach him (among many other miracles). I hadn’t know that the Baha’i faith began only 160 years ago.
Wright’s chapters about Christianity, Judaism, and Islam offer a lot of eye-opening bits too, and are written with the same devil-may-care frankness as the rest. Nice job.